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Foreign Workers Are Associated with Innovation, But Why? International Networks as a Mechanism

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  • Marte C. W. Solheim
  • Rune Dahl Fitjar

Abstract

While there is a wealth of empirical research examining the potential relations and effects of foreign workers, immigration and cultural diversity on wages, employment, economic growth, and—in recent years—innovation, very little of this research has provided a convincing empirical demonstration of the mechanisms through which foreign workers would affect innovation. Most accounts hypothesize that foreign workers provide a different perspective that contributes to a diversity of ideas in the firm, while some also add the idea that foreign workers might help a firm build international networks. Nonetheless, these mechanisms have for the most part remained entirely theoretical, with few attempts being made at uncovering the intermediary relationships. This article contributes to filling this gap by focusing on the second of these mechanisms, asking whether firms that employ foreign workers also have broader international networks and whether this may, in turn, promote innovation through access to new knowledge. This article builds on survey data from approximately 500 firms in Norway, with more than ten employees, covering all sectors and regions. We find evidence that firms with highly educated foreign workers collaborate more frequently with international partners and that there is a positive relation between having a variety of international partners and the probability of product innovation and new-to-market product innovation.

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  • Marte C. W. Solheim & Rune Dahl Fitjar, 2018. "Foreign Workers Are Associated with Innovation, But Why? International Networks as a Mechanism," International Regional Science Review, , vol. 41(3), pages 311-334, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:inrsre:v:41:y:2018:i:3:p:311-334
    DOI: 10.1177/0160017615626217
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

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    2. Ferrucci, Edoardo & Lissoni, Francesco, 2019. "Foreign inventors in Europe and the United States: Diversity and Patent Quality," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(9), pages 1-1.
    3. Zhenshan Yang & Yinghao Pan & Dongqi Sun & Li Ma, 2022. "Human Capital and International Capital Flows: Evidence from China," International Regional Science Review, , vol. 45(1), pages 74-107, January.
    4. Yuefang Si & Yi Zhang & Tangwei Teng, 2021. "R&D internationalization and innovation performance of Chinese enterprises: The mediating role of returnees and foreign professionals," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(4), pages 2194-2212, December.
    5. Marino, Alba & Mudambi, Ram & Perri, Alessandra & Scalera, Vittoria G., 2020. "Ties that bind: Ethnic inventors in multinational enterprises’ knowledge integration and exploitation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(9).
    6. Grillitsch, Markus & Martynovich, Mikhail & Dahl Fitjar, Rune & Haus-Reve, Silje, 2019. "Why bother about region-specific growth patterns and how to identify them?," Papers in Innovation Studies 2019/10, Lund University, CIRCLE - Centre for Innovation Research.
    7. Markus Grillitsch & Mikhail Martynovich & Rune Dahl Fitjar & Silje Haus-Reve, 2021. "The black box of regional growth," Journal of Geographical Systems, Springer, vol. 23(3), pages 425-464, July.
    8. Castellani, Davide & Perri, Alessandra & Scalera, Vittoria G., 2022. "Knowledge integration in multinational enterprises: The role of inventors crossing national and organizational boundaries," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 57(3).
    9. Martin, Roman & Wiig Aslesen, Heidi & Grillitsch, Markus & Herstad, Sverre, 2017. "Regional Innovation Systems and Global Flows of Knowledge," Papers in Innovation Studies 2017/7, Lund University, CIRCLE - Centre for Innovation Research.
    10. Andrés Rodríguez‐Pose & Daniel Hardy, 2021. "Reversal of economic fortunes: Institutions and the changing ascendancy of Barcelona and Madrid as economic hubs," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(1), pages 48-70, March.

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