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Knowledge transfer capacity and its implications for the theory of the multinational corporation


  • X Martin

    (Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands and Stern School of Business, New York University, New York, USA)

  • R Salomon

    (Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA)


This study updates and extends research on foreign entry modes by examining the impacts of knowledge transfer capacity and knowledge tacitness. Research on international corporate expansion has long emphasized that deploying intangible knowledge-based assets is required for successful international expansion. More recently, research from a ‘knowledge-based’ perspective has addressed the role of tacitness in constraining a firm's ability to transfer knowledge internationally. We combine these perspectives to describe how knowledge tacitness affects the relative suitability of four archetypal entry modes: exporting, licensing, establishing an alliance, and wholly owned entry. We then examine and develop conceptually a seldom-studied firm characteristic, knowledge transfer capacity. We offer predictions that describe the combined effects of knowledge tacitness and transfer capacity on entry mode choice. We distinguish between the transfer capacity of the organization that develops knowledge (source transfer capacity) and that of the organization that seeks to access that knowledge (recipient transfer capacity). The discussion addresses how our model generalizes to knowledge-seeking strategies and to the study of ongoing multinational networks. The study enriches and reconciles multiple theoretical perspectives on entry strategy. It brings together the study of knowledge characteristics and firm heterogeneity in the theory of the multinational corporation, and in international and strategic management more generally. Journal of International Business Studies (2003), 34, 356–373. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400037

Suggested Citation

  • X Martin & R Salomon, 2003. "Knowledge transfer capacity and its implications for the theory of the multinational corporation," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 34(4), pages 356-373, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:jintbs:v:34:y:2003:i:4:p:356-373

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