Cirera, Xavier

Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice
Profile Picture
Author Name Variants
Fields of Specialization
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
External Links
Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice
Externally Hosted Work
Contact Information
Last updated: August 7, 2023
Xavier Cirera is a senior economist in the Finance, Competitiveness, and Innovation (FCI) Global Practice of the World Bank. His work focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship. He has led the evaluation of innovation policies, including through the development of public expenditure reviews in science, technology, and innovation implemented in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ukraine, and Vietnam. He is the coauthor of The Innovation Paradox: Developing-Country Capabilities and the Unrealized Promise of Technological Catch-Up and A Practitioner’s Guide to Innovation Policy: Instruments to Build Firm Capabilities and Accelerate Technological Catch-Up in Developing Countries. His most recent work focuses on the measurement and impact of technology adoption and diffusion. Before joining the World Bank, he served as a research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. He holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Sussex.
Citations 54 Scopus

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 10 of 27
  • Publication
    Technology Within and Across Firms
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-11) Cirera, Xavier; Cruz, Marcio
    This study collects data on the sophistication of technologies used at the business function level for a representative sample of firms in Vietnam, Senegal, and the Brazilian state of Ceara. The analysis finds a large variance in technology sophistication across the business functions of a firm. The within-firm variance in technology sophistication is greater than the variance in sophistication across firms, which in turn is greater than the variance in sophistication across regions or countries. The paper documents a stable cross-firm relationship between technology at the business function and firm levels, which it calls the technology curve. Significant heterogeneity is uncovered in the slopes of the technology curves across business functions, a finding that is consistent with non-homotheticities in firm-level technology aggregators. Firm productivity is positively associated with the within-firm variance and the average level of technology sophistication. Development accounting exercises show that cross-firm variation in technology accounts for one-third of cross-firm differences in productivity and one-fifth of the agricultural versus non-agricultural gap in cross-country differences in firm productivity.
  • Publication
    Firm-Level Technology Adoption in Vietnam
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-03) Cirera, Xavier; Cruz, Marcio; Soares Martins-Neto, Antonio
    This paper describes the results of a new firm survey to measure technology use and adoption implemented prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in Vietnam. It analyzes the use and adoption of technology among Vietnamese firms and identifies some of the key barriers to adoption and diffusion. The analysis offers new and important stylized facts on firm-level use of technologies. First, although access to the internet is almost universal in Vietnam, firms had low digital readiness to face the COVID-19 pandemic; and the share of establishments with their own website, social media, and cloud computing is still small. Second, the use of Industry 4.0 technologies is incipient. Third, the technology gap with the use of frontier technologies in some general business functions, such as quality control, production planning, sales, and sourcing and procurement, is large. Fourth, the manufacturing sector faces the largest technological gap, larger than services and agricultural firms. The analysis of the main barriers and drivers to technology adoption and use shows the importance of good management quality for technology adoption, and that there is a technology premium associated with exporting activities. Finally, the analysis also shows that firms are largely unaware of the available public policy support for technology upgrading.
  • Publication
    Firm-Level Technology Adoption in the State of Ceara in Brazil
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-03) Cirera, Xavier; Cruz, Marcio; Soares Martins-Neto, Antonio
    This paper uses a novel approach to measure technology adoption at the firm level and applies it to a representative sample of firms in the state of Ceará in Brazil. The paper develops a new measure of technology adoption at the firm level, which identifies the purpose for which technologies are used and the intensive and extensive uses. The survey allows for establishing several new stylized facts for Ceará. First, most firms still rely on pre-digital technologies to perform general business functions, such as business administration, marketing, sales and payments, or quality control. Second, these technology gaps are larger in smaller firms, in the manufacturing sector, with large gaps when it comes to Industry 3.0 and digitalization, and especially large in Industry 4.0 technologies. The paper also presents some evidence that the main challenge to accelerate technology adoption is lack of firm capabilities. Despite the availability of technology extension services in the state, firms are still unaware of the availability of support and unwilling to upgrade technologies.
  • Publication
    Catching Up to the Technological Frontier?: Understanding Firm-level Innovation and Productivity in Kenya
    (World Bank Group, Washington, DC, 2015-03-06) Cirera, Xavier
    Kenya s economy has undergone a significant process of structural transformation over the last decade. Since 2002, the economy has shown an accelerating trend with GDP growth increasing steadily from below 1 percent in 2002 to 7 percent in 2007. After a slowdown in GDP growth to 1.5 percent and 2.7 percent in 2008 and 2009 respectively, economic growth started to rebound in 2010. Amidst this positive growth context, in October 2013, the Kenyan Government launched the Second Medium-Term Plan (MTP-2) of the Vision 2030. The aim of Kenya s Vision 2030 is to create a globally competitive and prosperous country with a high quality of life by 2030 and to shift the country s status to upper-middle income level.
  • Publication
    Unmasking the Impact of COVID-19 on Businesses: Firm Level Evidence from Across the World
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-10) Apedo-Amah, Marie Christine; Avdiu, Besart; Cirera, Xavier; Cruz, Marcio; Davies, Elwyn; Grover, Arti; Iacovone, Leonardo; Kilinc, Umut; Medvedev, Denis; Maduko, Franklin Okechukwu; Poupakis, Stavros; Torres, Jesica; Tran, Trang Thu
    This paper provides a comprehensive assessment of the short-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses worldwide with a focus on developing countries. The results are based on a novel data set collected by the World Bank Group and several partner institutions in 51 countries covering more than 100,000 businesses. The paper provides several stylized facts. First, the COVID-19 shock has been severe and widespread across firms, with persistent negative impact on sales. Second, the employment adjustment has operated mostly along the intensive margin (that is leave of absence and reduction in hours), with a small share of firms laying off workers. Third, smaller firms are disproportionately facing greater financial constraints. Fourth, firms are increasingly relying on digital solutions as a response to the shock. Fifth, there is great uncertainty about the future, especially among firms that have experienced a larger drop in sales, which is associated with job losses. These findings provide a better understanding of the magnitude and distribution of the shock, the main channels affecting businesses, and how firms are adjusting. The paper concludes by discussing some avenues for future research.
  • Publication
    The Innovation Imperative for Developing East Asia
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-02-23) Cirera, Xavier; Mason, Andrew D.; Mare, Davide S.; Tran, Trang Thu; Mare, Davide S.
    After a half century of transformative economic progress that moved hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, countries in developing East Asia are facing an array of challenges to their future development. Slowed productivity growth, increased fragility of the global trading system, and rapid changes in technology are all threatening export-oriented, labor-intensive manufacturing—the region’s engine of growth. Significant global challenges—such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic—are exacerbating economic vulnerability. These developments raise questions about whether the region’s past model of development can continue to deliver rapid growth and poverty reduction. Against this background, The Innovation Imperative in Developing East Asia aims to deepen understanding of the role of innovation in future development. The report examines the state of innovation in the region and analyzes the main constraints that firms and countries face to innovating. It assesses current policies and institutions, and lays out an agenda for action to spur more innovation-led growth. A key finding of the report is that countries’ current innovation policies are not aligned with their capabilities and needs. Policies need to strengthen the capacity of firms to innovate and support technological diffusion rather than just invention. Policy makers also need to eliminate policy biases against innovation in services, a sector that is growing in economic importance. Moreover, countries need to strengthen key complementary factors for innovation, including firms’ managerial quality, workers’ skills, and finance for innovation. Countries in developing East Asia would also do well to deepen their tradition of international openness, which could foster openness in other parts of the world. Doing so would help sustain the flows of ideas, trade, investment, and people that facilitate the creation and diffusion of knowledge for innovation.
  • Publication
    Policies to Support Businesses through the COVID-19 Shock: A Firm Level Perspective
    (Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2021-02-18) Cirera, Xavier; Davies, Elwyn; Grover, Arti; Iacovone, Leonardo; Lopez Cordova, Jose Ernesto; Medvedev, Denis; Okechukwu Maduko, Franklin; Nayyar, Gaurav; Ortega, Santiago Reyes; Torres, Jesica
    Relying on a novel dataset covering more than 120,000 firms in 60 countries, this paper contributes to the debate about policies to support businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. While governments around the world have implemented a wide range of policy support measures, evidence on the reach of these policies, the alignment of measures with firm needs, and their targeting and effectiveness remains scarce. This paper provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of these issues, focusing primarily on developing economies. It shows that policy reach has been limited, especially for more vulnerable firms and countries, and identifies mismatches between policies provided and policies most sought. It also provides some indicative evidence regarding mistargeting of policies and their effectiveness in addressing liquidity constraints and preventing layoffs. This assessment provides some early guidance to policymakers on tailoring their COVID-19 business support packages and points to new directions in data and research efforts needed to guide policy responses to the current pandemic and future crises.
  • Publication
    Firm Recovery during COVID-19: Six Stylized Facts
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-10) Cirera, Xavier; Cruz, Marcio; Grover, Arti; Iacovone, Leonardo; Medvedev, Denis
    Building on prior work that documented the impact of COVID-19 on firms in developing countries using the first wave of Business Pulse Surveys, this paper presents a new set of stylized facts on firm recovery, covering 65,000 observations in 38 countries. This paper suggests that: One, since the outset of the pandemic, some aspects of business performance such as sales show signs of partial recovery. Two, other aspects remain challenging, including persistently high uncertainty and financial fragility. Three, recovery is heterogeneous across firms and more sensitive to firm-level attributes such as size, sector, and initial productivity than to country-level differences in the severity of the initial shock. In particular, larger and more productive firms are recovering faster, with implications for competition policy and allocative efficiency. Four, the decline in jobs has been steeper during the initial shock than the expansion in employment during recovery, raising the risk of a "jobless" recovery pattern. Five, the diffusion of digital technology and product innovation accelerated during the pandemic but did so unevenly, further widening gaps between small and large firms. Six, businesses now have more access to policy support, but poorer countries continue to lag behind and appropriate targeting of firms remains a challenge.
  • Publication
    The Innovation Paradox: Developing-Country Capabilities and the Unrealized Promise of Technological Catch-Up
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2017-10-03) Cirera, Xavier; Maloney, William F.
    Since Schumpeter, economists have argued that vast productivity gains can be achieved by investing in innovation and technological catch-up. Yet, as this volume documents, developing country firms and governments invest little to realize this potential, which dwarfs international aid flows. Using new data and original analytics, the authors uncover the key to this innovation paradox in the lack of complementary physical and human capital factors, particularly firm managerial capabilities, that are needed to reap the returns to innovation investments. Hence, countries need to rebalance policy away from R&D-centered initiatives – which are likely to fail in the absence of sophisticated private sector partners – toward building firm capabilities, and embrace an expanded concept of the National Innovation System that incorporates a broader range of market and systemic failures. The authors offer guidance on how to navigate the resulting innovation policy dilemma: as the need to redress these additional failures increases with distance from the frontier, government capabilities to formulate and implement the policy mix become weaker. This book is the first volume of the World Bank Productivity Project, which seeks to bring frontier thinking on the measurement and determinants of productivity to global policy makers.
  • Publication
    Spurring Innovation-Led Growth in Argentina: Performance, Policy Response, and the Future
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-05-18) Gurcanlar, Tugba; Criscuolo, Alberto; Gomez Gaviria, Daniel; Cirera, Xavier
    A new, innovation-led growth model would enable Argentina to increase economic stability and achieve stronger shared prosperity. Argentina can escape boom-and-bust cycles and accelerate its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic with an innovation-driven economy that, in addition to factor accumulation, fuels higher productivity growth across all its sectors. Such a growth model should build on Argentina’s strengths in human capital, research, and firm-level capabilities, which would help diversify the economy and make it more inclusive and less susceptible to external shocks, providing the country with a stronger buffer at times of uncertainty. Despite the volatility of the past few decades, Argentina has been able to develop important pockets of success in high-end research and in frontier productive sectors such as biotechnology and knowledge economy. All of these should be better exploited and strengthened through public-private partnerships, targeted investments, and an enabling business environment to increase innovation’s contribution to economic growth. A resilient economic recovery will, in part, require a long-term vision and a policy framework that builds a sustainable national innovation system. To contribute to the strengthening of such a national innovation system, this report reviews holistically the innovation performance in Argentina, identifies some of the main gaps and strengths, and discusses appropriate policy responses. The report also examines regional differences in innovation performance and reviews the policy effectiveness of recent initiatives that have focused on industry and science linkages and knowledge-based entrepreneurship. The lessons from these impact evaluations and findings of the comparative evaluation of Argentina’s innovation landscape are intended to provide guidance in the design and strengthening of existing and future innovation policies in Argentina.