Ethnic Diversity, Recombinant Capabilities and the Generation of Green Technologies


Ethnic Diversity, Recombinant Capabilities and the Generation of Green Technologies

Alba Marino - Francesco Quatraro

We draw upon the micro-foundation of recombinant knowledge in green technologies, the international business literature on the firms’ strategies for external knowledge sourcing and migration studies in the innovation field to explore the role of ethnic migrants in leveraging recombinant creation dynamics and increasing the probability of successful green innovations. Our main argument is that the involvement of ethnic inventors increases the likelihood to successfully generate green inventions, due to their inherent experiences and enabled knowledge recombination capabilities (Franzoni et al., 2014; Kerr et al., 2016; Choudhury and Kim, 2019). We rely on data drawn from the ethnic patenting database, which covers harmonized USPTO patent records granted to US-based MNEs over the period 1980-2009 (Kerr and Kerr, 2018) merged with information on the career of each inventor in the sample derived from the Harvard Patent Dataverse database (Lai et al., 2011). We find that teams composed of inventors with wider recombinant capabilities also tend to have a higher propensity of developing new green technologies. Also, a higher level of ethnic diversity among the US-based inventors correlates with a higher probability of patenting GTs, but the relationship follows a non-linear pattern along ethnic diversity. Finally, we find that patents developed by R&D teams involving a higher degree of ethnic diversity among their domestic inventors are more likely to combine technological knowledge in a novel way to develop GTs. Our results bring implications for the strategic management of inventors’ teams by multinationals willing to run the green patent race and for policy-makers facing the climate change challenges.

Objectives. The increasing awareness about the dramatic effects of climate change has brought environmental protection to the core of the policy, academic and managerial debate. A wide body of literature has stressed the role of green innovation[1] as a key driver of the decoupling of economic growth from environmental degradation (Porter and van der Linde, 1995). Accordingly, theoretical and empirical studies have investigated the factors contributing to the generation and adoption of new green technologies (GTs), as well as their impacts on economic and environmental performances – see Barbieri et al. (2016) for a survey -. Most of the existing studies have enquired into the nexus between ecological innovation and regulation, focusing on firm-, region- and country-level dynamics. Yet, despite the importance of eco-innovation for the environment, only a few studies have articulated analyses of the “antecedents of green innovation”, i.e., the very search dynamics leading to their discovery and generation (del Rio Gonzalez, 2009). Understanding the mechanisms behind green inventions is paramount both from a strategic and a policy viewpoint. On the one hand, firms willing to run the green technologies race might want to design appropriate strategies to increase their ability to successfully explore and exploit this technological domain (Orsatti et al., 2020). On the other hand, policy-makers may obtain useful indications to increase the overall level of locally available green technologies to meet more stringent environmental targets (Orsatti et al., 2021).

[1]     Through the paper, we use the terms “green technologies”, “green innovation”, “green inventions”,”eco-innovation” interchangeably.

#ethnic diversity #green technologies #recombinant capabilities