Determinants of R&D cooperation. Differences across partners and sectors

Which type of partners do Spanish firms cooperate with?

Using information from the Technological Innovation Panel (PITEC) for Spanish firms we observe that Spanish firms tended to choose simultaneously several types of partners to carry out their innovation activities: customers and suppliers (vertical cooperation), competitors (horizontal competition) and institutions and research centres. Around 48% of the enterprises that decided to cooperate did so with at least two types of partners, and almost 14% cooperated with the three types of partners at a time.

R&D cooperation strategies among Spanish innovative firms
I V H Strategies Firms %
0 0 0 Non-cooperation 4842 65.8
1 Only Horizontal 80 3.2
1 0 Only Vertical 436 17.3
1 Vertical + Horizontal 50 2.0
1 0 0 Only Institutional 788 31.3
1 Institutional + Horizontal 132 5.2
1 0 Institutional + Vertical 683 27.1
1 All strategies 351 13.9
Total innovative firms with at least a cooperative agreement 2520 34.2
Horizontal R&D cooperation (H)* 613 24.3
Vertical R&D cooperation (V)* 1520 60.3
Institutional R&D cooperation (I)* 1954 77.5
* H: Competitors; V: Suppliers and/or Customers; I: Consultants, commercial labs or private R&D institutes; universities; government or public research institutes; technological centres. 0 indicates NO and 1 indicates YES.

Note: Except for the 2 values in bold, the rest of % are computed over the total number of firms cooperating.

Which are the main determinants of cooperation?

Related to the drives of R&D cooperation we confirmed that, in the case of Spanish firms, incoming spillovers were an important determinant of the choice of cooperating with any type of partner, regardless of the sector, but this impact was significantly higher in the case of partnerships with research institutions and universities. This result is consistent with the notion that firms which are able to get more benefits from external knowledge might be more likely to engage in cooperation agreements with the research base or, at least, with firms outside their own industry. Similarly, public funding also played a key role in the firms’ decisions to cooperate, especially when the partners are research institutions. This may be related to the fact that much of the public funding for innovation aims to encourage and promote knowledge transfer from research institutions to companies. Results also show that large firms are more likely to cooperate with all types of partner than small firms, highlighting the fact that large firms are more likely to face the commitment required in partnerships and better reap the returns of cooperation agreements.

Are there relevant differences in the patterns of cooperation in manufactures and services?

The differences found among the main determinants of R&D cooperation across sectors are also of great interest. In the case of Spanish firms, there was a greater propensity to cooperate in the service sector (40%) than in manufactures (31%). Additionally, this lower probability of R&D cooperation for manufactures was more pronounced in the case of horizontal cooperation (with competitors). This can be related with previous findings suggesting that in the manufacturing sector, for which legal protection methods are in general more important than for the service sector, cooperation may act as a substitute to legal protection through patenting. Also, the results point to the fact that firms in the service sector see cooperation agreements as an effective way to enhance and complement their human resources for carrying out R&D activities. These differences are presumably due to sectoral differences in the orientation of innovations in industrial and services firms, since, for instance, innovation is more closely involved with worker skills in the services sector than in manufactures, where machine and equipment play a more important role in the innovation process.

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