Intangible Capital and Productivity at the Firm Level: A Panel Data Assessment

M.E. Bontempi*, J. Mairesse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The econometric literature on measuring returns on intangible capital is vast, but we still know little about the effects on productivity of different types of intellectual capital (R&D and patents) and customer capital (trademarks and advertising). The aim of this paper is to estimate the marginal productivity of different types of intangibles by relying on the theoretical framework of the production function, which we apply to a large panel of Italian companies. To this end, the European accounting system makes it possible to compare the impact on productivity of intangibles measured from expenditures (as usual in Anglo-American studies) with the impact of intangible assets reported by companies in their balance sheets (a measure which is available in the Italian context, for example, but less common in the literature). Our results contribute two main findings to the literature. First, among the intangible components, the highest marginal productivity is that of intellectual capital, customer capital and intangible assets. Second, the use of accounting information on intangible investments is crucial to find high effects of intangible assets on productivity, while intangibles measured from expenses seem to play a more limited role. Preliminary results obtained from sub-samples mimicking the presence of spillovers deliver higher effects of intellectual capital on productivity, suggesting that intangibles’ social value is larger than the part we can estimate with individual firm data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-51
JournalEconomics of Innovation and New Technology
Issue number1/2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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