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Analyzing Innovation Drivers in the German Laser Industry: the Role of Positioning in the Social and Geographical Space

Empirical and theoretical contributions provide strong evidence that firm-level performance outcomes in terms of innovativeness can either be determined by the firm’s position in the social space (network effects) or by the firm’s position in the geographical space (co-location effects). Even though we can observe quite recently first attempts in bringing together these traditionally distinct research streams (Whittington et al. 2009), research on interdependent network and geographical co-location effects is still rare. Consequently, we seek to answer the following research question: considering that the effects of social and geographic proximity on firm’s innovativeness can be interdependent, what are the distinct and combined effects of firm’s network and geographic position on firm-level innovation output? We analyze the innovative performance of German laser source manufacturers between 1995 and 2007. We use an official database on publicly funded R&D collaboration projects in order to construct yearly networks and analyze firm’s network positions. Based on information on population entries and exits we calculate various types of geographical proximity measures between private sector and public research organizations (PRO). We use patent grants as dependent variable in order to measure firm-level innovation output. Empirical results provide evidence for distinct effect of network degree centrality. Distinct effect of firm’s geographical co-location to laser-related public research organization promotes patenting activity. Results on combined network and co-location effects confirms partially the existence of in-terdependent proximity effects, even though a closer look at these effects reveals some ambiguous but quite interesting findings.

19. October 2010

Authors Muhamed Kudic Peter Bönisch Iciar Dominguez Lacasa

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