Are Constraints the Mother of Innovation? Innovation Effects of the Global Financial Crisis

How do financial constraints during crises affect firms’ R&D and innovation? Utilizing a novel dataset of financials, patents and trademarks matched to a broad survey of European firms during the global financial crisis, and a post-matching difference-in-difference estimation, I find that the crisis-era constraints hampered firms' R&D expenditures of firms and this relationship crucially depends on firm size. Patenting rates of firms remained unchanged, however surprisingly, crisis-era financial constraints increased patenting impact and breadth, and firm trademarking. This is strongest among R&D-intensive firms and firms doing R&D internally. Exploring the mechanisms, I find support for crisis-era constraints enhancing innovation via stimulating social and cognitive creative processes within R&D teams. The study highlights socio-cognitive creativity-boosting effects of crises and implies that managers can help their firms thrive in crises by internalizing R&D, crisis leadership and harnessing bounded creativity.

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