The Virtuous Cycle of Innovation and Capital Flows
Does local innovation attract venture capital? Using a regime change in the commercialization of university innovation in 1980 that strongly increased university incentives to patent and license discoveries, we document the complement to Kortum and Lerner (2000)’s finding that financing leads to future innovation. Because universities have different technological strengths, each local area surrounding a university experienced an increase in innovation relevant to particular sets of industries after 1980—industries that differ widely across university counties. Comparing industries within a county that were more versus less related to the local university’s innovative strengths, we show that venture capital dollars after 1980 flowed systematically towards geographic areas and industries with the greatest sudden influx of innovation from universities. In contrast, the geographic and industry distribution of corporate patenting and prior venture financing in the pre-period does not predict a differential increase in future venture financing, suggesting that our findings are not solely driven by the 1979 pension fund reform that increased financing available to VCs across the board. The results support the notion of a “virtuous cycle” wherein innovation serves to draw capital investment that then funds future innovation.