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Knowledge Transfer Abroad: The Role of U.S. Inventors within Global R&D Networks

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  • Lee Branstetter
  • Britta Glennon
  • J. Bradford Jensen

Abstract

The location of US multinational foreign R&D has shifted significantly to include emerging markets in addition to traditional Western R&D hubs, resulting in two challenges for multinationals: (1) how to transfer knowledge across geographic distances, and (2) how to facilitate learning when local knowledge sources in given technological areas are inadequate. This paper argues that to overcome these challenges, multinationals utilize home country inventors on foreign affiliate inventor teams – and in particular on teams in locations with insufficiently specialized local knowledge stocks – to facilitate knowledge transfer. Empirical analysis of a comprehensive dataset of US multinational R&D and patenting activity provides robust support for this argument. The findings have important implications for understanding how countries can gain expertise in technical areas and how poor countries can escape the knowledge trap, and they provide insight into management of increasingly dispersed multinational global R&D networks, particularly in locations with relatively unspecialized local inventors.

Suggested Citation

  • Lee Branstetter & Britta Glennon & J. Bradford Jensen, 2018. "Knowledge Transfer Abroad: The Role of U.S. Inventors within Global R&D Networks," NBER Working Papers 24453, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24453
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Adam B. Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg & Rebecca Henderson, 1993. "Geographic Localization of Knowledge Spillovers as Evidenced by Patent Citations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 577-598.
    2. Linda Argote & Bill McEvily & Ray Reagans, 2003. "Managing Knowledge in Organizations: An Integrative Framework and Review of Emerging Themes," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(4), pages 571-582, April.
    3. Pari Patel & Keith Pavitt, 1991. "Large Firms in the Production of the World’s Technology: An Important Case of “Non-Globalisation”," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 22(1), pages 1-21, March.
    4. Witold J. Henisz & Jeffrey T. Macher, 2004. "Firm- and Country-Level Trade-offs and Contingencies in the Evaluation of Foreign Investment: The Semiconductor Industry, 1994–2002," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 15(5), pages 537-554, October.
    5. Wilbur Chung & Juan Alcácer, 2002. "Knowledge Seeking and Location Choice of Foreign Direct Investment in the United States," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(12), pages 1534-1554, December.
    6. Lori Rosenkopf & Paul Almeida, 2003. "Overcoming Local Search Through Alliances and Mobility," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(6), pages 751-766, June.
    7. MacGarvie, Megan, 2005. "The determinants of international knowledge diffusion as measured by patent citations," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 121-126, April.
    8. Audretsch, David B, 1998. "Agglomeration and the Location of Innovative Activity," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 18-29, Summer.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lee G. Branstetter & Britta Glennon & J. Bradford Jensen, 2019. "The IT Revolution and the Globalization of R&D," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 1-37.
    2. Kevin H. O’Rourke & Ahmed S. Rahman & Alan M. Taylor, 2012. "Trade, Technology and the Great Divergence," Departmental Working Papers 35, United States Naval Academy Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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