This paper investigates whether a green kind of design helps firms increase their capabilities for inventing in the environmental domain and whether it does so more than ‘standard’ design. It also investigates whether the effect of ‘green-matching’ between new design and technologies is conditional on firms’ innovative capabilities, as reflected by their R&D expenditure. We address these research questions with respect to the world’s top R&D investors, looking at their intellectual property rights at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and proposing an original textual identification of green designs and trademarks. We find that green design increases environmental inventions by top R&D investors, and to a greater extent than non-environmental ones. Standard design also stimulates environmental inventions, but to a lesser extent than green design. The ‘greenmatching’ actually helps, but internal innovative capabilities are required to make it effective: a green-tech ‘prize’ emerges from green design, but only once a minimum threshold of R&D expenditure has been reached.
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