Signalling, absorptive capacity and the geographic patterns of academic knowledge exchange

with Alan Hughes and Michael Kitson

Abstract: In this paper, we investigate the geographic distance in collaborations between academics and external organisations across different knowledge exchange channels. This analysis is based on a unique large sample of UK academics. We ask the following questions. First, how far does academic knowledge, explicit or tacit, travel? Second, which academics engage in which collaborations? Third, how does the type of knowledge transfer moderate the effect of individual and department-level absorptive capacity on geographic distance? Fourth, which quality signals or market characteristics affect the formation and distance of knowledge exchange collaborations? We find that the capacity to identify and absorb knowledge helps to explain the geographic distance in collaborations. In particular, age, academic seniority and specific types of professional experience are positively related to geographic distance in transfers of tacit knowledge. Strong common effects of seniority and research quality across channels suggest that the ability to signal the availability and quality of knowledge as a tradable asset dominates the explanatory power of absorptive capacity. The effects of support at the university level are weak, while regional concentration of business R&D expenditures increases collaboration distance.

Available here.

Latest version: March 2013