Knowledge Spillovers and Absorptive Capacity—Institutional Evidence from the “German Mittelstand”

  • Till Proeger


Recent extensions to the knowledge spillover theory of entrepreneurship (KSTE) show that the successful commercialization of new knowledge by incumbents depends on their absorptive capacities. For policy-makers focusing on increasing incumbents’ innovative performance, the systematic reduction of knowledge filter through improved absorptive capacities thus becomes a crucial goal. While the general working mechanisms of knowledge filter have been analyzed within the KSTE framework, few institutional solutions to increase absorptive capacities have been put forth. This study provides an initial case study explaining a specific institutional framework fostering the systematic penetration of knowledge filters by incumbent firms in the case of German SMEs. Using a set of 177 in-depth interviews with firm representatives, the system of interrelated organizations, institutional arrangements, shared values, and economic incentives associated with the institutional structures for knowledge spillovers for German SMEs are described. I identify institutional characteristics connected to the dual system of vocational training, regulatory measures, and economic incentives mutually enforcing and fostering broad knowledge spillovers. This exploratory approach enables deriving hypotheses for the further study of knowledge filters as well as policy implications for the design of institutions increasing incumbents’ absorptive capacities.


Entrepreneurship Knowledge filter Knowledge spillover theory of entrepreneurship Networks Small and medium enterprises 

JEL Classification

D21 D82 H41 K23 L14 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Economic Sciences, Chair of Economic Policy and SME ResearchUniversity of GoettingenGoettingenGermany

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