Abandoning innovation projects, filing patent applications and receiving foreign direct investment in R&D

Rebecca Yu Li, Karena Ji Yan, Nengzhi Zhao, Kun Tian, Senmao Xia, Xiaohui Yang, Yu Xiong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


Foreign direct investment in R&D is one of the popular channels indigenous firms use to upgrade their technological capacities and improve market intelligence following innovation setbacks. Firms often employ various signals to secure higher levels of foreign direct investment in R&D. However, the majority of research on this topic focuses on the role of positive rather than negative signals. Firms are often conservative about communicating negative information regarding their innovation projects due to concerns around competition and managerial performance appraisal. Drawing on signaling theory, this study investigates the impact of a negatively valenced signal – the experience of abandoning innovation projects – on attracting foreign direct investment in R&D. Moreover, although firms are known to send multiple signals simultaneously, little is known about how the interactions between oppositely valenced signals (specifically, the experience of abandoning innovation projects, which is a negative signal, and the filing of patent applications, which is a positive signal) affect foreign direct investment in R&D. A study of 11,354 Spanish firms from the Spanish Technological Innovation Panel during the period 2008–2015 found that the experience of abandoning innovation projects has a positive effect on foreign direct investment in R&D. However, this positive effect is weakened by patent applications due to the signaling of conflicting messages. These results have important theoretical and practical implications for the advancement of signaling theory and the management of innovation setbacks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102435
Number of pages12
Early online date11 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2021, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders. This document is the author’s post-print version, incorporating any revisions agreed during the peer-review process. Some differences between the published version and this version may remain and you are advised to consult the published version if you wish to cite from it


This work is supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71804198 ), Human and Social Science Foundation of Ministry of Education of China ( 18YJC790149 ), and China-UK Innovation and Development Association (Grant No. RF350137 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Abandoned innovation
  • Foreign direct investment in R&D
  • Multiple signals
  • Negative signals
  • Patent applications
  • Signaling theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


Dive into the research topics of 'Abandoning innovation projects, filing patent applications and receiving foreign direct investment in R&D'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this