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CEP discussion paper

Identifying Technology Spillovers and Product Market Rivalry

The impact of R&D on growth through spillovers has been a major topic of economic research over the last thirty years. A central problem in the literature is that firm performance is affected by two countervailing “spillovers”: a positive effect from technology (knowledge) spillovers and negative business stealing effects from product market rivals. We develop a general framework incorporating these two types of spillovers and implement this model using measures of a firm’s position in technology space and product market space. Using panel data on U.S. firms we show that technology spillovers quantitatively dominate, so that the gross social returns to R&D are at least twice as high as the private returns. We identify the causal effect of R&D spillovers by using changes in Federal and state tax incentives for R&D. We also find that smaller firms generate lower social returns to R&D because they operate more in technological niches. Finally, we detail the desirable properties of an ideal spillover measure and how existing approaches, including our new Mahalanobis measure, compare to these criteria.

Nicholas Bloom, Mark Schankerman and John Van Reenen

Revised December 2012     Paper Number CEPDP0675

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Growth programme.