Are firms withdrawing from basic research?
An analysis of firm-level publication behaviour in Germany
Previous research has expressed concerns about firms engaging less in basic research. We contribute to this debate by studying trends in the scientific publishing activities of firms located in Germany. Our results do not confirm a declining trend in raw numbers with numbers indicating that firms' aggregate volume of scientific publications stayed constant between 2008 and 2016. However, the number of publishing firms declined, in particular in high-tech and knowledge-intensive industries. Beyond that, we observe positive trends in publishing in basic research journals compared to journals focused on applied research, and publishing in collaboration with academic partners compared to publishing alone. Thus, our results paint an ambiguous picture. While they do not confirm a decrease in firms' basic research engagement in the aggregate, the figures document a concentration of publishing activities on fewer firms. We argue that this concentration of basic research activities in firms may pose a threat to the longer term innovativeness of the German economy.