Do Capabilities Reside in Firms or in Regions? Analysis of Related Diversification in Chinese Knowledge Production

Authors: Yiou Zhang*, University of California, Los Angeles, David Rigby, Universtiy of California, Los Angeles
Topics: Economic Geography, China, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: Related diversification; Patents; Capabilities; China
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 33
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Do capabilities reside in firms, in regions, or in both? Most models of related diversification, building on the early work of Hidalgo et al. (2007), examine how the structure of economic activity within a region conditions the trajectory of diversification. Inter-regional flows are sometimes added to these models. The logic here, mostly implicit, is that the capabilities that count are largely built-up within regions and sometimes shared between them. We challenge that logic, exploring whether capabilities are more likely to be built within the firm and to flow across spatial boundaries than they are to be built within the region flowing across firm boundaries. Analysis focuses on Chinese patent data spanning 286 cities over the period 1991 to 2015. We develop standard models of related diversification before examining how the branches of multi-locational firms diversify their knowledge portfolios. Evidence shows that the knowledge structure of firms is more important than the knowledge structure of regions in shaping branch diversification. We show that the influence of the firm and the region on diversification vary significantly between headquarters (HQ) branches and non-HQ branches of firms, and between the non-HQ branches of firms that are located in core and peripheral cities of China.

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