The evolution of absorptive capacity in the scientific literature: a bibliometric analysis focused on innovation

Tainá Alves Townsend, Cristiane Drebes Pedron, Marcos Rogério Mazzieri


Objective of the study: This study aims to analyze scientific production about absorptive capacity and innovation in such a way as to make it possible to identify study trends and the theoretical bases on which they are based.

Methodology / Approach: We performed bibliographic coupling, co-citation, and social network analysis on a sample of 3,698 articles, considering 2,778 articles from Web of Science and 920 articles from Scopus.

Originality / Relevance: In a preliminary search, only two bibliometric works were identified that focused on absorptive capacity and innovation. However, since 2015, more than 1,500 articles have been published, with new perspectives, advancing studies on this topic.

Main results: The coupling analysis resulted in six factors showing the trends of future studies. The co-citation analysis presented three factors, representing the intellectual structure arising from the coupling analysis. The network analysis provided insight into how these studies connect. The results point to trends in future studies that can fill the research gaps on absorptive capacity and innovation. In addition, we also indicate the theoretical fronts that can be used to explore these trends. Finally, we present a model that summarizes our findings and shows how they can contribute to the advancement of research based on the seminal model of Zahra and George (2002).

Theoretical / Methodological contributions: We present a mapping of the theme that provides a clearer view of which seminal works are used to approach each theme to be explored in future studies, associating the results of the bibliometric techniques used.


Absorptive capacity. Innovation. Bibliometrics. Co-citation analysis. Coupling bibliographic.


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