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Do Spillovers Stimulate Incremental or Drastic Product Innovations? Evidence from German Establishment Data


  • The authors thank the editor Jonathan Temple, the anonymous referees and seminar participants at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Leibniz University of Hannover for helpful comments.


Despite the generally recognized importance of knowledge spillovers, the empirical literature is essentially silent on the type of innovation stimulated by spillovers. We estimate the determinants of product innovations differing in their degree of newness to the adopting firm. Knowledge spillovers from rivals have a positive impact on incremental innovations. This impact is largely independent of participation in R&D cooperation. Spillovers exert no such independent influence on drastic innovation activities. The results support the hypothesis that establishments face difficulties in using knowledge that comes from areas they are not familiar with. Establishments exploit spillovers for incremental innovations rather than for drastic innovations. To some degree R&D cooperation can help to overcome the difficulties in using spillovers for drastic innovations. Furthermore, our estimates provide evidence that the firm's own R&D effort and the use of outside information are substitutes.