The purpose of this paper is to analyze the characteristics of knowledge creation in a key technology field, i.e. information and communication technology (ICT), to determine whether it is driven by domestic firms and inventors, or whether the traction is provided by international connections to global innovation networks. The authors argue that the geographical pattern of international connectivity is characterized by local concentration and strong connections to foreign multinational enterprises, for which a large number of inventors in Spain work.
The analysis was done using data from the United States Patent and Trademark Office database, covering almost 40 years, ranging from 1976 to 2014. The authors used patents in the ICT sector connected to either inventors or organizations located in Spain. The authors analyzed collaboration by the location of both inventors and assignees, and the connections established across borders. Second, the authors assessed the level of concentration and dispersion that characterizes these relationships.
First, the growth of the ICT sector in Spain is strongly driven by linkages with foreign companies, in particular those located in the USA. Second, the interaction of local and international clusters of knowledge generation is a key driver of the ICT sector, which is far from being global. Third, there is a geographic concentration of national/international knowledge sources, which is mediated by the technological strategies of internationalized firms. Therefore, the new information age seems to be highly dependent on the collaboration between individuals and companies through focal local points, and on the prevalence of co-developed international inventions.
Understanding the patterns of ICT-related knowledge creation and its geographical footprint is crucial to foster competitiveness in the digital age. The transition from a paradigm based on tangible assets to one where competitive advantage stems mainly from intangibles, has significant implications for both policy and practice. International collaboration presents opportunities to enhance competitiveness at various levels, be that organizations, regions or countries. To seize these opportunities, it is key to enhance the endogenous capabilities and absorptive capacity of the local players. While patent data captures the output of a national innovation system only partially, it is still a suitable indicator to capture international connectedness. More qualitative-oriented techniques, however, may allow for a better assessment of tacit knowledge flows.
The creation of knowledge in high-tech industries is a key aspect of competitiveness, and it is increasingly supported by collaboration that spans across borders. However, knowledge creation adopts different patterns, depending on the unique characteristics of the country. The authors analyze the case of Spain, a developed economy with pockets of innovation but also significant areas that can be considered “peripheral,” both economically and industrially, when compared to much of Western Europe. This study’s analysis captures the combination of concentration and dispersion in the process of knowledge generation that characterizes the ICT sector in intermediate countries.
Authors aknowledge comments and suggestions received from reviewers as well as at the IBEGIN-2019 Conference to previous versions of the paper.
Funding: Author acknowledges the support of Santander-UCM Project PR 75/18-21662.
Medina, L., Cano-Kollmann, M. and Alvarez, I. (2020), "International connectivity in the generation of information and communication technology (ICT) in Spain", Competitiveness Review: An International Business Journal , Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/CR-08-2019-0072Download as .RIS
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