Subsidized to change? The impact of R&D policy on regional technological diversification

Mewes, L., Broekel, T. Subsidized to change? The impact of R&D policy on regional technological diversification. Ann Reg Sci (2020).

Previous research shows ample evidence that regional diversification is strongly path dependent, as regions are more likely to diversify into related than unrelated activities. In this paper, we ask whether contemporary innovation policy in form of R&D subsidies intervenes in the process of regional diversification. We focus on R&D subsidies and assess whether they cement existing path dependent developments, or whether they help in breaking these by facilitating unrelated diversification. To investigate the role of R&D policy in the process of regional technological diversification, we link information on R&D subsidies with patent data and analyze the diversification of 141 German labor-market regions into new technology classes between 1991 and 2010. Our findings suggest that R&D subsidies positively influence regional technological diversification. In addition, we find significant differences between types of subsidy. Subsidized joint R&D projects have a larger effect on the entry probabilities of technologies than subsidized R&D projects conducted by single organizations. To some extent, collaborative R&D can even compensate for missing relatedness by facilitating diversification into unrelated technologies.