Collaborative research and development (R&D) may be seen as a response to shifting knowledge environments enabling firms to cope with technological challenges. As stressed by Jones (2008), innovation increases the stock of knowledge and hence the "educational burden" of future cohorts of innovators. One way to compensate this development may be specialization in expertise. However, narrowing expertise requires firms to seek complementary know-how elsewhere, for instance by collaborating in knowledge-intensive business areas like R&D.

While numerous previous studies found R&D alliances to be instruments used by firms to acquire new skills and to source specialized know-how (e.g. Hamel, 1991; Hagedoorn, 1993; Hagedoorn and Schakenraad, 1994; Powell et al., 1996), none of these studies paid attention to differences in the objective of the R&D collaboration and how these differences affect R&D productivity. Collaboration aiming at the joint generation of new knowledge, that is firms willing to undertake an R&D project jointly, may differ substantially from alliances aiming at the explicit exchange of already existing knowledge. This difference may translate into differences with respect to the alliances’ effects on R&D productivity and eventually innovation output. Furthermore, while previous empirical studies found evidence for a positive effect of collaborations on innovation output, often measured in the number of patents, the effects on the technological value of these patents has not been studied to the same extent.

Using count data models controlling for unobserved heterogeneity for R&D-active manufacturing firms in Flanders in the period 2000 to 2009, this study aims to fill these gaps. We study the effects of R&D collaboration on patent activity in terms of quantity as well as quality differentiating between collaborative agreements by their declared objectives. The results suggest that being engaged in knowledge exchange alliances leads to more patent applications filed by the firms involved. However, once patent quality – as measured by the number forwards citations received in a five-year-window of the application date - is considered, we find knowledge creation alliances to lead to more valuable patents. In line with recent literature on strategic patenting, these results may indicate that patenting of collaborating firms is not only used to protect intellectual property, but also as a strategic tool. In other words, joint R&D may provide incentives to file patents that are indeed aimed at protecting valuable inventions from imitation by others, while exchange alliances drive "portfolio patenting" which has been shown to result in fewer citations for the individual patent.

Hottenrott, Hanna and Cindy Lopes-Bento (2012), Quantity or Quality? Collaboration Strategies in Research and Development and Incentives to Patent, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 12-047, Mannheim, published in: Industrial and Corporate Change. Download


R&D Collaboration, Knowledge Exchange, Patents, Innovation, Count Data Models