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Technological complexity and the evolving structure of MNC subsidiary knowledge accumulation


  • John Cantwell
  • Feng Zhang


The paper analyses the implications of increasing technological complexity and organizational restructuring for the knowledge accumulation activities of the subsidiaries of multinational corporations (MNCs). An analysis of foreign-owned subsidiaries in the German pharmaceutical industry in 1975-1995 indicates that the restructuring and intensification of knowledge exchange mechanisms in MNCs are an essential factor to enable subsidiaries to play a more creative role in knowledge generation. Although subsidiaries might use internal and external knowledge networks in their knowledge accumulation process in a complementary way, the purposes differ. In particular, the international internal knowledge networks of subsidiaries have been used increasingly for incremental knowledge building within the same field, whereas local external knowledge networks have been used far more for transferring more technologically complex knowledge.

Suggested Citation

  • John Cantwell & Feng Zhang, 2011. "Technological complexity and the evolving structure of MNC subsidiary knowledge accumulation," ECONOMIA E POLITICA INDUSTRIALE, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2011(4), pages 5-33.
  • Handle: RePEc:fan:polipo:v:html10.3280/poli2011-004001

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    Cited by:

    1. Zhang, Feng & Jiang, Guohua & Cantwell, John A., 2015. "Subsidiary exploration and the innovative performance of large multinational corporations," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 224-234.
    2. Mafini Dosso & Antonio Vezzani, 2015. "Top R&D investors and international knowledge seeking: the role of emerging technologies and technological proximity," JRC Working Papers on Corporate R&D and Innovation 2015-09, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).

    More about this item


    Accumulazione di conoscenza; complessità tecnologica; ristrutturazione delle reti di conoscenza; sussidiaria di una multinazionale;

    JEL classification:

    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business


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