Standard innovation surveys do not consider incoming spillovers for non-innovative firms. As a consequence, usual empirical works may overestimate the absorptive capacity effect, particularly among competitors. The Swiss innovation surveys presented here measure the importance of knowledge for both innovating and non-innovating firms. This original feature enables us to show that knowledge from rivals actually deters manufacturing firms from engaging in R&D activities. We therefore provide stronger evidence that the efficiency effect due to intra-industry spillovers is larger than that generally estimated by data from standard surveys. The R&D based absorptive capacity is weaker than expected and non-innovative firms as well as non-R&D firms heavily rely on their rivals’ knowledge to maintain their technological capacities.