The recent wave of acquisition activity may be damaging the innovative capabilities of American firms, thus making them less competitive in the global marketplace. In fact, acquisitions often serve as a substitute for innovation, which may cause further neglect of internal research and development (R&D) programs. Additionally, acquisitions often lead to increases in leverage, diversification, and absorb significant amounts of executive time, which may lead to reduced managerial commitment to innovation.

In this article, evidence is presented suggesting that acquisition activity may result in reductions in R&D inputs and outputs. On average, the 191 firms in the sample reduced their allocations to R&D relative to their competitors following acquisitions. Furthermore, the firms also experienced reductions in the number of patents.

Implications from this evidence are offered for executives and acquisition strategies. Specifically, based on our results, we propose that firms can compensate for the negative effects of acquisitions. Moreover, acquisitions, when properly planned and targeted, may enhance or complement a firm's innovation processes. Firms should search for acquisitions that complement R&D projects, facilitate product commercialization and/or enhance their core competences.

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Copyright © 1991 Academy of Management. This article first appeared in Academy of Management Perspectives 5:4 (1991), 22-34.

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