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Origin Matters: The Differential Impact of Import Competition on Innovation

Geography, Location, and Strategy

ISBN: 978-1-78714-277-0, eISBN: 978-1-78714-276-3

Publication date: 19 April 2017


The impact of competition on innovation has been extensively studied, but with ambiguous findings. We study the impact of import competition on U.S. corporate innovation and present some new perspectives. We conjecture that U.S. firms view import competition from high-wage countries (HWCs) as “neck-and-neck” competition and will respond by intensifying innovation. In contrast, U.S. firms will reduce innovation in response to import competition from low-wage countries (LWCs), because such competition does not always increase the potential benefits from innovation. Our empirical results are supportive. We find that, when confronting HWC import competition, U.S. firms increase R&D spending while intensifying and improving innovation output (file more patents, receive more citations to their patents, and produce more breakthrough patents). Moreover, U.S. firms closest to the technological frontier – largest firms, firms with the largest stocks of knowledge, and most profitable firms – increase and improve their innovation the most in response to HWC competition. These results shed light on the relationship between product market competition and innovation, and point to the origin of import competition as a determinant of innovation decisions made by different U.S. companies.



Li, X. and Zhou, Y.M. (2017), "Origin Matters: The Differential Impact of Import Competition on Innovation", Geography, Location, and Strategy (Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 36), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 387-427.



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