Gustafsson, A., Stephan, A., Hallman, A., & Karlson, N. (in press). The “sugar rush” from innovation subsidies: a robust political economy perspective. Empirica. DOI: 10.1007/s10663-016-9350-6

Abstract: The governments of most advanced countries offer some type of financial subsidy to encourage firm innovation and productivity. This paper analyzes the effects of innovation subsidies using a unique Swedish database that contains firm level data for the period 1997–2011, specifically informa tion on firm subsidies over a broad range of programs. Applying causal treatment effect analysis based on matching and a diff-in-diff approach combined with a qualitative case study of Swedish innovation subsidy programs, we test whether such subsidies have positive effects on firm performance. Our results indicate a lack of positive performance effects in the long run for the majority of firms, albeit there are positive short-run effects on human capital investments and also positive short-term productivity effects for the smallest firms. These findings are interpreted from a robust political economy perspective that reveals that the problems of acquiring correct information and designing appropriate incentives are so complex that the absence of significant positive long-run effects on firm performance for the majority of firms is not surprising.

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