Small Business Economics

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 805–823 | Cite as

R&D subsidies and productivity in SMEs

  • Hannu KarhunenEmail author
  • Janne Huovari


This paper examines the effect of R&D subsidies on labour productivity. We use firm-level data on Finnish SMEs from 2000 to 2012 and apply a combined matching and difference-in-differences method to control for selection bias. We find no significant positive effect on labour productivity over the five-year period after a subsidy is granted. However, the results vary over time and indicate a 2–4 % negative effect on SMEs’ annual productivity growth one to 2 years after the subsidy year. Nevertheless, subsidies generate a positive employment effect and enhance firm survival. Additional scrutiny reveals that subsidies positively affect the human capital level of low-skill firms.


Productivity Subsidies R&D SMEs Industrial policy Conditional difference-in-differences 

JEL Classifications

D24 O25 O38 C21 L26 



We are grateful to Mika Haapanen, Mika Maliranta, Ari Hyytinen, Jaakko Pehkonen, Hannu Tervo, Petri Böckerman and Terhi Maczulskij for their helpful comments. We thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions, which helped us to improve the manuscript. We would also like to thank Tekes and Statistics Finland for their help with the data, which were made available through remote access. Karhunen gratefully acknowledges the financial support from the Alfred Kordelin Foundation, the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation (Grant number 6029) and the University of Jyväskylä. The usual disclaimer applies.

Supplementary material

11187_2015_9658_MOESM1_ESM.docx (570 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 570 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jyväskylä University School of Business and EconomicsUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland
  2. 2.Pellervo Economic Research PTTHelsinkiFinland

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