Innovation dynamics and productivity: Evidence for Latin America

Gustavo A. Crespi, Ezequiel Tacsir & Fernando Vargas

#2014-092

Innovation is fundamental for economic catching-up and raising living standards. Evidence demonstrate a virtuous circle in which R&D spending, innovation, productivity, and per capita income mutually reinforce each other and lead to long-term, sustained growth rates and may foster job creation. Previous evidence highlights that Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has great potential to benefit from investment and policies that foster innovation. However, one important limitation of previous research on innovation in LAC is the absence of harmonised and comparable indicators across the different countries. This seriously limits the possibility to infer policy conclusions that are not affected by country specificities with respect to data quality and coverage. Also, most of this research is focused on estimating firm level correlations without attempting to identify market failures or other limitations which harm innovation investment or which could guide policy. In this paper, a wide range of innovation indicators are analysed in order to describe the innovation behaviour of manufacturing firms in LAC using the Enterprise Survey (ES) database. Our objective is to understand the main characteristics of innovative firms in LAC and to gather new evidence with regard to the nature of the innovation process in the region. In this paper we apply a structural model based on Crepon, Duget and Mairesse (1998), to estimate the determinants of innovation (R&D) and its impact on total factor productivity. We pay special attention to whether there is heterogeneity in the effects of investments in innovation on productivity and whether there is any evidence of spillovers that could guide policy design. We found strong evidence concerning the relationships between innovation input and output, and innovation output and productivity. We found that private returns to innovation depend on the type of innovation, being larger for product than process innovation. Furthermore, we found some evidence that spillovers are stronger in the case of product than process innovation. It was also found that innovation returns are higher for the most productive firms. This increasing relationship between returns and productivity is not consistent with an interpretation that financial constraints cause more harm to low productivity firms. However, it is consistent with alternative interpretations about the lack of innovation opportunities in the case of low productivity firms or that low private returns are the results of poor appropriability.

Keywords: Innovation, productivity, developing countries, Latin America, innovation surveys

JEL Classification: O12, O14, O31, O33, 040

  


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