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Knowledge base, technology gap and technology development speed in technological catch-up: innovation choice for China's knowledge-intensive enterprises (KIEs)

Zhengyi Zhang (Nanjing University of Finance and Economics, Nanjing, China)
Jun Jin (Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China)
Ting Wen (Nanjing University of Finance and Economics, Nanjing, China)
Zan Chen (Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 16 June 2021

Abstract

Purpose

With the fierce competition in a knowledge economy, knowledge-intensive enterprises (KIEs) make technological progress in their catching-up processes through implementing product innovation and process innovation. In this study, the aim is to understand the determinants of enterprise innovation type in China's catch-up environment. Further, this paper intends to deal with two related questions. First, what effect does the internal knowledge base have on KIEs' technology innovation activities? Second, considering the technology gap and technology development speed, what are the different impacts of the knowledge base on the type of technology innovation activities?

Design/methodology/approach

This paper collected data from 212 KIEs in China through a two-stage questionnaire survey, combined with statistical data for research. The hypothesis was tested by regression analysis. Specifically, descriptive statistics and regression analysis are introduced to test the hypothetical relationship between the knowledge base and technology innovation. Meanwhile, multiple regression is used to test whether there is any difference in the influence of technology gap and technology development speed on enterprise knowledge base and technology innovation. Finally, the corresponding robustness tests are done.

Findings

This study finds that in a sample of Yangtze River Delta KIEs, firms' knowledge base influences innovation types. Specifically, the knowledge base width (KBW) and knowledge base depth (KBD) positively influence process innovation, and KBD positively affects product innovation. Regarding the effects of catch-up context factors on KIEs’ innovation choice, a wide technology gap tends to positively influence product innovation in industries with high levels of KBW. Moreover, when technology development speed is high, its potential positive influence on process innovation will be more significant for industries with deeper knowledge bases.

Originality/value

This paper fills the research gap that existing studies ignore the relationship between types of technology innovation and knowledge base dimensions, especially for KIEs. First, this paper deepens the understanding of the impact mechanism of KIEs' existing knowledge base on innovation activities; the unique use of resources by enterprises is the basis of enterprises' competitive advantage and will become enterprises' competitive advantage. Second, this study indicates that against different backdrops of technology gap and technology development speed, enterprises with different knowledge bases will adopt different types of technology innovation activities. Third, this paper shows that a wider technology gap provides broader innovation space, so the technology gap plays a pulling role in KBW and product innovation, thus pushing forward enterprises' technological catch-up.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

We wish to thank anonymous reviewers for their comments.

Disclosure statement: no potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Declaration of competing interest: the authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Citation

Zhang, Z., Jin, J., Wen, T. and Chen, Z. (2021), "Knowledge base, technology gap and technology development speed in technological catch-up: innovation choice for China's knowledge-intensive enterprises (KIEs)", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJIM-01-2021-0024

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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