Advertisement

Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 1031–1049 | Cite as

Absorptive Capacity and Regional Innovation in China: an Analysis of Patent Applications, 2000–2015

  • Jingyuan Zeng
  • Ye LiuEmail author
  • Ruoyu Wang
  • Peiyu Zhan
Article

Abstract

Absorptive capacity is viewed as a critical “moderator” in the process of knowledge creation, while inadequate focus has yet been directed to systematically inspect the role of regional absorptive capacity in shaping the geography of innovation. By incorporating the conceptual framework of absorptive capacity into regional innovation studies, this paper moves a step forward by re-evaluating the determinants behind regional innovation in the context of China, especially focusing on the moderating effect of regional absorptive capacity and its heterogeneity across cities. Empirically, this study first traces the spatiotemporal dynamics of innovation in China from 2000 to 2015 with the aid of a multi-scalar Markov chain analysis. Next, it unveils the extent to which regional absorptive capacity moderates the relationships between regional innovation and its major determinants by running a set of panel quantile regressions. Results uncover that regional absorptive capacity - especially for industrial R&D, government support and FDI, also proved as the most critical factors that facilitate regional innovation in China - is revealed only in highly innovative cities but not in less innovative ones. In this light, regional absorptive capacity in China unexpectedly serves as a self-reinforcing mechanism solely for highly innovative cities, which further advances the current understanding of the rising regional inequality of innovation in China.

Keywords

Regional innovation Absorptive capacity Human capital Panel quantile regression 

Notes

Funding

This work was supported by the National Natural Science (grant numbers 41871140 and 41501151) and the Program for Guangdong Introducing Innovative and Enterpreneurial Teams (grant number 2017ZT07X355).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Acs, Z. J., Audretsch, D. B., & Feldman, M. P. (1994). R&D spillovers and innovative activity. Managerial and Decision Economics, 15(2), 131–138.Google Scholar
  2. Acs, Z. J., Braunerhjelm, P., Audretsch, D. B., & Carlsson, B. (2009). The knowledge spillover theory of entrepreneurship. Small Business Economics, 32(1), 15–30.Google Scholar
  3. Aghion, P., & Howitt, P. (1992). A model of growth through creative destruction. Econometrica: journal of the Econometric Society, 60(2), 323–352.Google Scholar
  4. Audretsch, D. B., & Feldman, M. P. (1996). R&D spillovers and the geography of innovation and production. The American Economic Review, 86(3), 630–640.Google Scholar
  5. Azagra-Caro, J. M., Archontakis, F., Gutiérrez-Gracia, A., & Fernández-de-Lucio, I. (2006). Faculty support for the objectives of university–industry relations versus degree of R&D cooperation: the importance of regional absorptive capacity. Research Policy, 35(1), 37–55.Google Scholar
  6. Blomstrom, M., & Persson, H. (1983). Foreign investment and spillover efficiency in an underdeveloped economy: evidence from Mexican manufacturing industry. World Development, 11, 493–501.Google Scholar
  7. Borensztein, E., De Gregorio, J., & Lee, J. W. (1998). How does foreign direct investment affect economic growth? Journal of International Economics, 45(1), 115–135.Google Scholar
  8. Branstetter, L. G., & Sakakibara, M. (2002). When do research consortia work well and why? Evidence from Japanese panel data. American Economic Review, 92(1), 143–159.Google Scholar
  9. Braunerhjelm, P., Acs, Z. J., Audretsch, D. B., & Carlsson, B. (2010). The missing link: knowledge diffusion and entrepreneurship in endogenous growth. Small Business Economics, 34(2), 105–125.Google Scholar
  10. Camison, C., & Fores, B. (2010). Knowledge absorptive capacity: New insights for its conceptualization and measurement. Journal of Business Research, 63(7), 707–715.Google Scholar
  11. Caragliu, A., & Nijkamp, P. (2008). The impact of regional absorptive capacity on spatial knowledge spillovers. Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper.Google Scholar
  12. Caragliu, A., & Nijkamp, P. (2012). The impact of regional absorptive capacity on spatial knowledge spillovers: the Cohen and Levinthal model revisited. Applied Economics, 44(11), 1363–1374.Google Scholar
  13. Castaldi, C., Frenken, K., & Los, B. (2015). Related variety, unrelated variety and technological breakthroughs: an analysis of US state-level patenting. Regional Studies, 49(5), 767–781.Google Scholar
  14. Cohen, W. M., & Levinthal, D. A. (1990). Absorptive capacity: a new perspective on learning and innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35(1), 128–152.Google Scholar
  15. Czarnitzki, D., & Hussinger, K. (2004). The link between R&D subsidies, R&D spending and technological performance. ZEW - Centre for European Economic Research.Google Scholar
  16. Driffield, N., & Munday, M. (2001). Foreign manufacturing, regional agglomeration and technical efficiency in UK industries: a stochastic production frontier approach. Regional Studies, 35(5), 391–399.Google Scholar
  17. Fores, B., & Camison, C. (2011). The complementary effect of internal learning capacity and absorptive capacity on performance: the mediating role of innovation capacity. International Journal of Technology Management, 55(1/2), 56–81.Google Scholar
  18. Fu, X. (2008). Foreign direct investment, absorptive capacity and regional innovation capabilities: evidence from China. Oxford Development Studies, 36(1), 89–110.Google Scholar
  19. Gao, S., Xu, K., & Yang, J. (2008). Managerial ties, absorptive capacity, and innovation. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 25(3), 395–412.Google Scholar
  20. Giuliani, E. (2005). Cluster absorptive capacity - why do some clusters forge ahead and others lag behind? European Urban and Regional Studies, 12(3), 269–288.Google Scholar
  21. Glaeser, E. L., Kallal, H. D., Scheinkman, J. A., & Shleifer, A. (1992). Growth in cities. Journal of Political Economy, 100(6), 1126–1152.Google Scholar
  22. Grossman, G. M., & Helpman, E. (1991). Quality ladders in the theory of growth. The Review of Economic Studies, 58(1), 43–61.Google Scholar
  23. Guellec, D., & Van Pottelsberghe De La Potterie, B. (2003). The impact of public R&D expenditure on business R&D. Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 12(3), 225–243.Google Scholar
  24. Haddad, M., & Harrison, A. (1993). Are there positive spillovers from direct foreign investment?: evidence from panel data for Morocco. Journal of Development Economics, 42(1), 51–74.Google Scholar
  25. Harrison, A. (1999). Do domestic firms benefit from foreign direct investment? Evidence from Venezuela. American Economic Review, 89(3), 605–618..Google Scholar
  26. He, S., Fang, C., & Zhang, W. (2017). A geospatial analysis of multi-scalar regional inequality in China and in metropolitan regions. Applied Geography, 88, 199–212.Google Scholar
  27. Jacobs, J. (1969). The economy of cities. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  28. Jung, J., & Lopez-Bazo, E. (2017). Factor accumulation, externalities, and absorptive capacity in regional growth: evidence from Europe. Journal of Regional Science, 57(2), 266–289.Google Scholar
  29. Kallio, A., Harmaakorpi, V., & Pihkala, T. (2010). Absorptive capacity and social Capital in Regional Innovation Systems: The case of the Lahti region in Finland. Urban Studies, 47(2), 303–319.Google Scholar
  30. Keller, W. (1996). Absorptive capacity: on the creation and acquisition of technology in development. Journal of Development Economics, 49(1), 199–227.Google Scholar
  31. Knockaert, M., Spithoven, A., & Clarysse, B. (2014). The impact of technology intermediaries on firm cognitive capacity additionality. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 81, 376–387.Google Scholar
  32. Koenker, R. (2004). Quantile regression for longitudinal data. Journal of Multivariate Analysis, 91(1), 74–89.Google Scholar
  33. Koenker, R., & Bassett, G., Jr. (1978). Regression quantiles. Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society, 46, 33–50.Google Scholar
  34. Koenker, R., & Hallock, K. F. (2001). Quantile regression. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 15(4), 143–156.Google Scholar
  35. Lane, P. J., & Lubatkin, M. (1998). Relative absorptive capacity and interorganizational learning. Strategic Management Journal, 19(5), 461–477.Google Scholar
  36. Liao, F. H. F., & Wei, Y. D. (2012). Dynamics, space, and regional inequality in provincial China: a case study of Guangdong province. Applied Geography, 35(1), 71–83.Google Scholar
  37. Lichtenberg, F. R. (1984). The relationship between Federal Contract R&D and Company R&D. The American Economic Review, 74(2), 73–78.Google Scholar
  38. Liu, Y., & Shen, J. (2017). Modelling skilled and less-skilled interregional migrations in China, 2000–2005. Population, Space and Place, 23(4), e2027.Google Scholar
  39. Liu, X., & White, R. S. (1997). The relative contributions of foreign technology and domestic inputs to innovation in Chinese manufacturing industries. Technovation, 17(3), 119–125.Google Scholar
  40. Liu, Y., Shen, J., Xu, W., & Wang, G. (2017). From school to university to work: migration of highly educated youths in China. [journal article. The Annals of Regional Science, 59(3), 651–676.Google Scholar
  41. Lund Vinding, A. (2006). Absorptive capacity and innovative performance: a human capital approach. Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 15(4–5), 507–517.Google Scholar
  42. Mowery, D. C., & Oxley, J. E. (1995). Inward technology transfer and competitiveness: the role of national innovation systems. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 19(1), 67–93.Google Scholar
  43. Muscio, A. (2007). The impact of absorptive capacity on SMEs' collaboration. Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 16(8), 653–668.Google Scholar
  44. Pred, A. (1977). City systems in advanced economies. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  45. Qian, H. F., & Acs, Z. J. (2013). An absorptive capacity theory of knowledge spillover entrepreneurship. Small Business Economics, 40(2), 185–197.Google Scholar
  46. Qian, H. F., & Jung, H. J. (2017). Solving the knowledge filter puzzle: absorptive capacity, entrepreneurship and regional development. Small Business Economics, 48(1), 99–114.Google Scholar
  47. Roper, S., & Love, J. H. (2006). Innovation and regional absorptive capacity: the labour market dimension. Annals of Regional Science, 40(2), 437–447.Google Scholar
  48. Saito, H., & Gopinath, M. (2011). Knowledge spillovers, absorptive capacity, and skill intensity of Chilean manufacturing plants. Journal of Regional Science, 51(1), 83–101.Google Scholar
  49. Spithoven, A., Clarysse, B., & Knockaert, M. (2010). Building absorptive capacity to organise inbound open innovation in traditional industries. Technovation, 30(2), 130–141.Google Scholar
  50. Sun, Y. (2000). Spatial distribution of patents in China. Regional Studies, 34(5), 441–454.Google Scholar
  51. UNESCO. (2018). How much does your country invest in R&D? UNESCO Institute for Statistics. (2018). http://uis.unesco.org/apps/visualisations/research-and-development-spending/. Accessed 15 July 2018.
  52. Veugelers, R. (1997). Internal R&D expenditures and external technology sourcing. Research Policy, 26(3), 303–315.Google Scholar
  53. Wallsten, S. J. (2000). The effects of government-industry R&D programs on private R&D: the case of the Small Business Innovation Research program. The Rand Journal of Economics, 31, 82–100.Google Scholar
  54. Wei, Y. D., Yuan, F., & Liao, H. (2013). Spatial mismatch and determinants of foreign and domestic information and communication technology firms in urban China. The Professional Geographer, 65(2), 247–264.Google Scholar
  55. Yang, C. H., & Lin, H. L. (2012). Openness, absorptive capacity, and regional innovation in China. Environment and Planning A, 44(2), 333–355.Google Scholar
  56. Zahra, S. A., & George, G. (2002). Absorptive capacity: a review, reconceptualization, and extension. Academy of Management Review, 27(2), 185–203.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geography and PlanningSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Guangdong Key Laboratory for Urbanization and Geo-simulationGuangzhouChina

Personalised recommendations