The report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China emphasized that innovation is the first driving force and innovation-driven development strategy must be implemented. As the most important subject in innovation activities, innovation capability is related to the core competitiveness of enterprises. And as the basis of innovation activities, R&D investment has an important impact on the development of innovation activities and the improvement of innovation capability. However, due to the strong uncertainty, long cycle, and large capital demand of innovation activities, the innovation investment efficiency of Chinese enterprises is generally low, and a large number of enterprises have innovation difficulties. How to overcome the financing constraints of innovation investment and improve the efficiency of innovation investment has increasingly become an important problem faced by domestic enterprises. As a financial resource for integrating and optimizing customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders, supply chain finance can provide financing for enterprises in the supply chain, reduce supply chain risks, and form a benign industrial ecology of mutual benefit for core enterprises, upstream and downstream enterprises, and the funding side. Therefore, this paper attempts to answer whether and why supply chain finance will enhance the innovation input of core enterprises. Based on the network theory, the empirical test of 528 non-financial A-share listed companies from 2016 to 2020 shows that supply chain finance can promote enterprise innovation investment. In addition, compared with traditional supply chain finance, supply chain finance supported by digital finance has a stronger positive impact on enterprise innovation investment. Furthermore, this paper also analyzes the mechanism of supply chain finance to promote innovation investment, and finds that supply chain finance activities increase innovation investment by improving the quality of supply chain relationships. It is helpful to study the antecedents of enterprise innovation and reveal the mechanism and theoretical boundary of “supply chain finance – enterprise innovation”.
The contributions of this paper are as follows: (1) Based on the relationship attribute of supply chain rather than the financing effect of finance, it mines the impact on the innovation of core enterprises in the supply chain, and reveals the internal mechanism of innovation driven by supply chain finance, which enriches and deepens the related research on supply chain finance and enterprise innovation. (2) Using the network theory, it discusses the role of supply chain relationship quality in the relationship of “supply chain finance innovation”, and analyzes the key role of financial factors in inducing supply chain relationship quality in enterprise innovation. (3) It also studies the regulatory impact of supply chain finance with digital characteristics on the innovation input of core enterprises, which provides a theoretical reference for accelerating the technology and mode innovation of supply chain finance under the digital background.