Firms, Technology and Trade

Doctoral thesis OPEN
Caldera Sanchez, Aida (2010)
  • Publisher: Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels
  • Subject: Sciences sociales | Innovation | Technology transfer -- Spain | Transfert de technologie -- Espagne | International investment | Knowledge spillovers | Firm heterogeneity | Economie | Investissements étrangers -- Espagne | Science-industry relations | Investments, Foreign -- Spain

This doctoral dissertation studies the effect of economic integration on the performance of firms. The ongoing process of global economic integration has been characterized by dismantling of trade barriers and openness to foreign direct investments (FDI). These changes have not only brought opportunities to firms in terms of market access and the possibility to learn about foreign technologies brought in by foreign counterparts. The new economic environment has also posed new challenges through a greater competitive pressure urging firms to continuously align their production patterns to more efficient business practices. The agility of firms to adjust to external shocks, and hence the potential of countries to benefit from economic integration, does presumably not only depend on the internal assets of firms but may also be influenced by government policies and national institutional settings. This conceptual background constitutes the storyline of the doctoral dissertation.<p><p>Chapter 1 of the dissertation is a step forward in understanding the externalities of foreign direct investments on the economic performance of domestic firms. During the late eighties and early nineties, Spain saw an upswing in foreign direct investments that placed the economic at the top of FDI recipients in Europe. To provide fresh insights into the firm-levels responses to FDI, Chapter 1 investigates the effects of foreign direct investment on the productivity of domestic firms within the same sector of activity as foreign firms, and whether FDI externalities differed depending on their level of technology. The empirical results show that foreign presence had an overall positive effect on the productivity growth of domestic firms. The gains were not, however, evenly distributed across firms. Firms closer to the frontier benefited more from FDI than firms far from the technology frontier. <p><p>A further integration of the world economy with new economic actors, like China and India, has highlighted the need for European firms to climb the quality ladder and shift towards high value added products and greater flexibility in delivering new products in order to survive new competitive threats. Chapter 2 is a theoretical and empirical examination of the role of innovation for the export activities of firms. The intuition is that firms through innovation enhance their access to foreign markets by improving cost competitiveness and the quality of products. The Chapter builds on previous literature to develop a trade model in which firms differ in their propensity to innovate and export based on their underlying productivity. The empirical results, in line with the theoretical model, suggest a positive effect of innovation on the probability of participation in export markets.<p><p>The innovative activities of firms may not only depend on their internal assets, but presumably also on their relations with other actors in the national innovation systems. To understand better the role of firms’ relations with the science sector, Chapter 3 turns to one of the major producers of knowledge –universities- and investigates the factors that contribute to the successful transfer of knowledge from universities to the market. The results from Chapter 3 show that universities with established technology transfer policies, procedures, and large and experienced technology transfer offices perform better. <p><p>Previous chapters demonstrate that innovation gives a competitive edge to firms exploring foreign markets. Chapter 4, which is joint work with economists from France’s central bank, investigates how credit market imperfections affect the expansion and survival of firms in foreign markets, which is essential for the design of policies stimulating aggregate trade and competitiveness. Chapter 4 develops a theoretical model to study the impact of credit constraints on the number of newly served export destinations by firms and their exits from the export market and tests it using French firm-level data. The results show that credit constraints negatively affect the number of newly created export relations and have a negative effect on the probability of exit from the export market.<p>
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