Nanomaterials are seen as a key technology for the twenty-first century, and much is expected of them in terms of innovation and economic growth. They could open the way to many radically new applications, which would form the basis of innovative products. As nanomaterials are still in their infancy, universities, public research institutes and private businesses seem to play a vital role in the innovation process. Existing literature points to the importance of knowledge spillovers between these actors and suggests that the opportunities for these depend on proximity, with increasing distance being detrimental to the extent that spillovers can be realised. Due to the technological complexity, however, proximity could also be less important as relevant nanomaterials research is globally dispersed. Hence in this paper, we analyse the effects of co-location of R&D activities on nanomaterial patenting. Based on European Patent Office data at the German district level (NUTS-3), we estimate two negative binomial models in a knowledge production function framework and include a spatial filtering approach to adjust for spatial autocorrelation. Our results indicate that there is a significant positive effect of both public and private R&D on the production of nanomaterial patents. Moreover, we find a positive interaction between them which hints at the importance of their co-location for realising the full potential of an emerging technology like nanomaterials.
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