Category: Policy

Mobility of Researchers

Under the headline of Two Sides of Brain-Circulation the role of researcher intersectoral and international mobility is discussed today in a conference organized by the EC and by the Austrian BMWFW.

The literature has shown that labor mobility is a determinant of firm performance (Boschma, Eriksson, & Lindgren, 2009; Balsvik 2012) and of innovation in particular (Herstad, Sandven, & Ebersberger, 2015). Additionally the a recent study commissioned by the EC has highlighted that there is considerable room for increasing researchers’ mobility:

  • 14 % – 18 % of EU HEI researchers of have been internationally mobile during their PhD
  • 30 % of EU HEI researchers were mobile (> 3 months) in the last 10 years after PhD
  • 31 % of EU HEI researchers have NEVER been internationally mobile post PhD
  • 23 % of EU researchers currently outside of EU consider returning to EU
  • 72 % of non-EU researchers formerly in EU would have liked to stay
  • 77 % of EU HEI researchers collaborate internationally
    • more with academic partners than with industry
    • collaboration happens more frequently in later career stages
    • previous mobility and collaboration correlate
  • Virtual collaboration technology is important for international collaboration / partially substitutes travel
  • 30 % of EU HEI researchers have been inter-sectorally mobile
    • 12 % industry
    • 7 % private / non-profit
    • 15 % government

The literature also highlights that mobility might not be so bad for the countries or the firms the mobility originates from. Considerable spillovers back to the origin are to be expected (Agrawal, Cockburn, & McHale, 2006; Oettl & Agrawal, 2008). The transmission mechanism is the social ties developed on a workplace that last longer than the contractual arrangements.

Gone but not forgotten. 



Agrawal, A., Cockburn, I. & McHale, J. (2006). Gone but not forgotten: knowledge flows, labor mobility, and enduring social relationships. Journal of Economic Geography, 6 (5), 571–591. doi:10.1093/jeg/lbl016.

Balsvik, R. (2011). Is labor mobility a chanell for spillovers from multinationals? Evidence from norwegian manufacturing. Review of Economics and Statistics, 93 (1), 285–297.

Boschma, R., Eriksson, R. & Lindgren, U. (2009. How does labour mobility affect the performance of plants? The importance of relatedness and geographical proximity. Journal of Economic Geography, 9 (2), 169–190. doi:10.1093/jeg/lbn041.

Boschma, R.A. (2005). Proximity and Innovation: A Critical Assessment. Regional Studies, 39 (1), 61–74. doi:10.1080/0034340052000320887.

Herstad, S.J., Sandven, T. & Ebersberger, B. (2015). Recruitment, knowledge integration and modes of innovation. Research Policy, forthc. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2014.06.007.

Oettl, A. & Agrawal, A. (2008). International labor mobility and knowledge flow externalities. Journal of International Business Studies, 39 (8), 1242–1260. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400358.

University Business Cooperation in Austria

Is there a lot and systematic bridging activities between universities and businesses in Austria? Well, from an innovation systems point of view one would expect that there is. At least from a normative point of view there should be. Knowledge exchange between business and university does not only increase the economies innovation capabilities, it also helps universities to define their role and to fulfill their third mission. But the reality is somewhat more sobering.

The report on “the State of University-Business Cooperation in Austria“, which I had the pleasure to contribute to, has be release recently. In particular the study finds that there is a lack of commitment to university-business cooperation in Austria. The most developed form of university-busines interaction is collaboration and commercialization of R&D. University management and academics perceive the barriers to cooperation between universities and industry differently. Both believe to extract rather low benefits from university-industry cooperation.

The state of affairs in other European countries is well documented here.

International innovation collaboration, intramural R&D and innovation performance

Sverre J. Herstad’s and my short piece on the “The relationship between international innovation collaboration, intramural R&D and SMEs’ innovation performance: A quantile regression approach” is now published by Applied Economics Letters

We argue that in the current global economic landscape it is virtually impossible for any single firm to stay abreast of all relevant technological advances. Therefore integration in global innovation networks is crucial for innovation-based competitiveness. This is particularly so for SMEs due to their more narrow internal knowledge bases. However, the fact that international collaboration is organizationally demanding raises important questions about the relative importance of international collaboration and intramural R&D for innovation performance, and how they interact in determining it. We investigate these questions using Norwegian innovation survey data and quantile regression. The results show that firms in the upper quantile of the innovation performance distribution face a trade-off between engaging in global innovation collaboration, and engaging in systematic R&D, where both individually have a positive effect. This is consistent with baseline OLS findings. By contrast, firms in the lower quantiles of the distribution are found to strengthen their performance by means of R&D only. Consequently, the baseline OLS regression results fail to capture the determinants of innovation performance for the population of SMEs which are not already strong innovation performers. This leads to a risk of excessive SME innovation policy emphasis on inducing international collaboration.