Economic downturns significantly impact on industry and firm dynamics. During a slowdown, increased competitive pressure makes less efficient firms more likely to exit (the cleansing hypothesis). However, evidence on Italian manufacturing firms during the Great Recession contrasts with this view. In fact, a not negligible subset of firms grew considerably during the crisis, increasing intra-industry heterogeneity. In this paper, we study these swimming upstream firms (SUFs) and we obtain two results. First, SUFs exhibit a high capability accumulation profile (innovation, intangibles investments and internationalization). Second, the impact of endogenous capability accumulation does not vanish after controlling for exogenous factors.
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