Firm Heterogeneity and Learning by Technology In-Licensing: Empirical Evidence from China

  • Yuandi Wang
  • Xin Pan
  • Jiashun Huang
  • Xuanjin Chen
  • Nadine Roijakkers
  • Wim Vanhaverbeke
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering book series (LNEE, volume 242)


In explaining variation in innovative performance of firms the resourcebased view of the firm draws on the concept of firm heterogeneity. We contribute to this stream of research by introducing technology in-licensing as a learning mechanism and by highlighting the joint effect of five aspects of firm heterogeneity. Moreover, we provide empirical evidence that licensing experience together with other sources of firm heterogeneity lead to substantial differences in innovative performance of firms. We argue that the age and size, technological strength, experience of licensing agreements (integrative capability), and orientation towards foreign knowledge sourcing are factors that determine which firms are better positioned for learning through technology in-licensing - and so achieve superior innovative performances. This is illustrated by an empirical study based on a unique dataset that is owned by the Chinese government.


Firm heterogeneity Technological learning Innovative performance Technology in-licensing China 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Balasubramanian N, Lieberman MB (2010) Industry learning environments and the heterogeneity of firm performance. Strategic Management Journal 31:390–412Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Drnevich PL, Kriauciunas AP (2011) Clarifying the conditions and limits of the contributions of ordinary and dynamic capabilities to relative firm performance. Strategic Management Journal 32:254–279Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Zollo M, Winter SG (2002) Deliberate learning and the evolution of dynamic capabilities. Organization Science 13:339–351Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cohen WM, Levinthal DA (1990) Absorptive capacity: A new perspective on learning and innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly 35:128–152Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Simon HA (1991) Bounded rationality and organizational learning. Organization Science 2:125–134Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Ahuja G, Katila R (2001) Technological acquisitions and the innovation performance of acquiring firms: A longitudinal study. Strategic Management Journal 22:197–220Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Laursen K, Leone MI, Torrisi S (2010) Technological exploration through licensing: New insights from the licensee’s point of view. Industrial and Corporate Change 19:871–897Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Dodgson M (1993) Organizational learning: A review of some literatures. Organization Studies 14:375–394Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Todorova G, Durisin B (2007) Absorptive capacity: Valuing a reconecptualization. Academy of Management Review 32:774–786Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Zahra SA, George G (2002) Absorptive capacity: A review, reconceptualization, and extension. Academy of Management Review 27:185–203Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Nelson RR, Winter SG (1982) An evolutionary theory of economic change. Belknap PressGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Cummings JL, Teng B (2003) Transferring R&D knowledge: The key factors affecting knowledge transfer success. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management 20:39–68Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Lyles MA, Salk JE (2006) Knowledge acquisition from foreign parents in international joint ventures: An empirical examination in the Hungarian context. Journal of International Business Studies 38:3–18Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Argote L, Ingram P, Levine JM et al (2000) Knowledge transfer in organizations: Learning from the experience of others. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 82:1–8Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Horwitz E (2007) Patent and technology licensing. Computer and Internet Lawyer 24:28Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kim Y, Vonortas NS (2006) Determinants of technology licensing: The case of licensors. Managerial and Decision Economics 27:235–249Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Szulanski G (1996) Exploring internal stickiness: Impediments to the transfer of best practice within the firm. Strategic Management Journal 17:27–43Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Cockburn IM, Henderson RM (1998) Absorptive capacity, coauthoring behavior, and the organization of research in drug discovery. The Journal of Industrial Economics 46:157–182Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Schumpeter JA (2012) Capitalism, socialism and democracy. RoutledgeGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Lee K, Lim C (2001) Technological regimes, catching-up and leapfrogging: Findings from the Korean industries. Research Policy 30:459–483Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Hippel EV (1986) Lead users: A source of novel product concepts. Management Science 32:791–805Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Almeida P, Phene A (2004) Subsidiaries and knowledge creation: The influence of the MNC and host country on innovation. Strategic Management Journal 25:847–864Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Shefer D, Frenkel A (2005) R&D, firm size and innovation: An empirical analysis. Technovation 25:25–32Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Katrak H (1990) Imports of technology and the technological effort of Indian enterprises. World Development 18:371–381Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Johnson DK (2002) “Learning-by-Licensing”: R&D and Technology Licensing in Brazilian Invention. Economics of Innovation and New Technology 11:163–177Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Hall BH, Griliches Z, Hausman JA (1986) Patents and R&D: Is there a lag? National Bureau of Economic Research Cambridge, Mass., USAGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuandi Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xin Pan
    • 3
  • Jiashun Huang
    • 1
  • Xuanjin Chen
    • 3
  • Nadine Roijakkers
    • 4
  • Wim Vanhaverbeke
    • 5
  1. 1.Business SchoolSichuan UniversityChengduPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research InstituteSichuan UniversityChengduPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.School of Public AdministrationSichuan UniversityChengduPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Department of Economics and BusinessHasselt UniversityDiepenbeek BelgiumBelgium
  5. 5.Esade Business SchoolBarcelonaSpain

Personalised recommendations