University-industry interaction and product innovation performance of Guangdong manufacturing firms: the roles of regional proximity and research quality of universities

  • Yongli Tang
  • Kazuyuki Motohashi
  • Xinyue HuEmail author
  • Angeles Montoro-Sanchez


This study aims to investigate the direct relationships of university proximity and research quality with the product innovation performance of Chinese firms engaging in diverse university interaction channels. We collected data on the extent to which a sample of 166 Guangdong manufacturing firms draw from the intra-regional and cross-regional universities, as well as high-quality and average-quality universities. Our results revealed that: (1) interaction with intra-regional universities is more strongly associated with incremental product innovations, whereas interaction with cross-regional universities is more strongly associated with radical product innovations; (2) average-quality university linkages have a stronger relationship with incremental product innovations, while high-quality university linkages have a stronger relationship with radical product innovations; (3) interaction with cross-regional high-quality universities is more strongly associated with radical product innovations, but interaction with intra-regional average-universities is more strongly associated with incremental product innovations. These results furthered our understanding on how firms’ product innovations are related to university linkages of different degrees of regional proximity and research quality, and bear direct practical implications for firm strategy and governmental policy.


University-industry interaction Knowledge transfer Product innovation Proximity University research quality China 

JEL Classification

O32 O38 



This work was support by National Natural Science Foundation of China [Grant Numbers 71571088, 71401063], Guangdong Provincial Department of Science and Technology [Grant Numbers 2017A070706013, 2018A070712023].

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

We have no conflicts of interest to disclose. We also assure that the article is the authors’ original work, hasn’t received prior publication and isn’t under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ManagementJinan UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Technology Management for Innovation (TMI), School of EngineeringUniversity of TokyoTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Complutense Institute for International StudiesUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain

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