Deutsch Intern
Chair for Human Resource Management and Organisation

DFG Research Project Clean-Technology Innovation

DFG Research Project (German Research Foundation)

Clean technology innovations in Germany: Human capital accumulation under heterogeneous knowledge inputs

The project investigates the human capital needs of high technology firms when employing innovators. Apart from knowledge, abilities and professional experiences, interests as well as cognitive, social and personal prerequisites - in particular with respect to knowledge use and networking - may drive the development of technological novelties. In this context, the project particularly focuses on the accumulation processes of human capital relevant for innovation.

In more detail, the research project concentrates on educational and career paths as well as on cognitive dispositions and personality traits of inventors who have been assigned one or more patents for their technological novelties at the European Patent Office.

As a central research question, the project investigates whether under different regimes of technology development, inventors’ human capital endowment drive development and the success of technological novelties. We suggest for example that broad knowledge inputs and inventor networks beyond their main technology field fosters inventive productivity if heterogeneous knowledge inputs matter for technology development. Differently, in fields with homogeneous knowledge inputs, practical and theoretical expert knowledge in the narrow field should be the main source of inventive productivity. For this part of the project almost 2000 inventors from clean technology, nanotechnology and mechanical elements have been surveyed. The survey evidence was linked with patent based performance indicators.

Another focus of the project is the identification of human capital needs of high technology firms for the development of technological inventions especially in the areas clean technology and mechanical elements. Wide-spread selection and hiring practices for the attraction of skilled employees in research and development are analysed. More specifically, on the basis of a conjoint experiment, human capital components are identified that human resource managers associate with a high inventive and productivity potential. In this empirical study conducted in the year 2014, 194 human resource managers and 94 technology experts participated.

The project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG, GZ: ZW 172/2-1, duration of the project: 2012-2014)

Project team

Prof. Dr. Katharina Frosch

Prof. Dr. Karin Hoisl, MBR

Dipl.-Kfm. Christian Steinle


Heads of project


Prof. Dr. Thomas Zwick

Prof. Dietmar Harhoff, PhD

Project results

Data and methodology report "Clean Technology Innovations in Germany: Human Capital Accumulation under Heterogeneous Knowledge Inputs"

Katharina Frosch, Dietmar Harhoff, Karin Hoisl, Christian Steinle and Thomas Zwick (2015), Individual Determinants of Inventor Productivity: Report and Preliminary Results with Evidence from Linked Human Capital and Patent Data, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 15-001, Mannheim. Download

Katharina Frosch, Dietmar Harhoff, Karin Hoisl, Christian Steinle and Thomas Zwick (2015), Candidate Screening for the Recruitment of Critical Research and Development Workers? A Report and Preliminary Results with Evidence from Experimental Data from German High-Tech Firms, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 15-002. Download

Thomas Zwick, Katharina Frosch, Karin Hoisl, and Dietmar Harhoff: The Power of Individual-Level Drivers of Inventive Performance ZEW Discussion  Paper  No.  15-080. Download


Thomas Zwick, Katharina Frosch (2016): Attenuation Bias when Measuring Inventive Performance, Economics of Innovation and New Technology, forthcoming, Link
ZEW Discussion Paper 16-014 Download

International workshop

On July 16th, 2015 we organised an international workshop focusing on human capital and innovation at the University of Applied Sciences Brandenburg. The programme is here.

Contact person

For questions regarding the project and project results, feel free to contact Prof. Dr. Katharina Frosch.