DP14399 The cost of weak institutions for innovation in China
Does the variation in the quality of local government institutions affect the capacity of firms to innovate? This paper uses a unique dataset that combines the specific features of 2,700 firms with the institutional and socioeconomic characteristics of the 25 cities in China where they operate, in order to assess the extent to which institutional quality – measured across four dimensions: rule of law, government effectiveness, corruption, and regulatory quality – affects both the innovation probability and intensity of firms. The results of the econometric analysis show that poor institutional quality in urban China is an important barrier for firm-level innovation. In particular, a deficient rule of law, high corruption, and a weak regulatory quality strongly undermine firm-level innovation. The role of these factors is far more limited in the case of innovation intensity. Better institutions also reduce the amount of time firms spend dealing with government regulations in order to facilitate innovation. The results also indicate that the cost of weak institutions for innovation is higher for private than for state-owned firms, at least in the early stages of innovation. In general, differences in institutional quality generate local urban ecosystems that impinge on the propensity of firms to innovate.