IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Lost in Translation - Empirical Evidence for Liability of Foreignness as Barriers to Knowledge Spillovers

  • Tobias Schmidt

    (ZEW Mannheim)

  • Wolfgang Sofka

    (ZEW Mannheim)

Entering host country networks of knowledge flows (new competencies, innovative technologies, and lead-market knowledge) is a major rationale of multinational firms for investing abroad. Foreign firms find it difficult to overcome cultural and social barriers which make their foreign engagements more strenuous and error prone (liability of foreignness). In our analysis we break down the complex mechanisms behind knowledge spillovers and identify conceptual links with liability of foreignness. We hypothesise that liability of foreignness acts as a filter for foreign firms, restricting their access to host country knowledge. We use a broad sample of roughly 1,000 firms in Germany to empirically test the existence of liabilities of foreignness in leveraging knowledge spillovers. Our particular setting allows us to distinguish between upstream (suppliers, academia) and downstream (customers) liabilities of foreignness. We find that multinational firms can compete on an equal footing with host country rivals when it comes to generating impulses for innovations from suppliers and academia. They are significantly challenged by liabilities of foreignness, though, where customers are involved. We suggest that the frictional losses from a lack of social and cultural embeddedness (liability of foreignness) in the host country are especially relevant when promising lead customers have to be identified and their tacit and often unarticulated impulses have to be transferred, understood and prioritised.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Industrial Organization with number 0512012.

in new window

Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: 21 Dec 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpio:0512012
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 28
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Harabi, N., 1995. "Channels of R & D Spillovers: An Empirical Investigation," Papers 37, Universitat Zurich - Wirtschaftswissenschaftliches Institut.
  2. Hajivassiliou, Vassilis & McFadden, Daniel & Ruud, Paul, 1996. "Simulation of multivariate normal rectangle probabilities and their derivatives theoretical and computational results," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 72(1-2), pages 85-134.
  3. Bonte, Werner & Keilbach, Max, 2005. "Concubinage or marriage? Informal and formal cooperations for innovation," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(3-4), pages 279-302, April.
  4. Tobias Schmidt, 2005. "Absorptive Capacity – One Size Fits All? A Firm-level Analysis of Absorptive Capacity for Different Kinds of Knowledge," Industrial Organization 0510010, EconWPA.
  5. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S71-102, October.
  6. Warren J Bilkey & Erik Nes, 1982. "Country-of-Origin Effects on Product Evaluations," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 13(1), pages 89-100, March.
  7. Robin Cowan & Paul A. David & Dominique Foray, 1999. "The Explicit Economics of Knowledge Codification and Tacitness," Working Papers 99027, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  8. Hennart, Jean-François & Roehl, Thomas & Zeng, Ming, 2002. "Do exits proxy a liability of foreignness?: The case of Japanese exits from the US," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 241-264.
  9. Jaideep Anand & Bruce Kogut, 1997. "Technological Capabilities of Countries, Firm Rivalry and Foreign Direct Investments," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 28(3), pages 445-465, September.
  10. Mike Bartholomaei, 2005. "To Know is to Be: Three Perspectives on the Codification of Knowledge," SPRU Working Paper Series 131, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
  11. Sofka, Wolfgang & Schmidt, Tobias, 2004. "I Like The Way You Move: An Empirical Investigation into the Mechanisms Behind First Mover and Follower Strategies," ZEW Discussion Papers 04-87, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  12. Miller, Stewart R. & Richards, Malika, 2002. "Liability of foreignness and membership in a regional economic group: Analysis of the European Union," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 323-337.
  13. Adam B. Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg, 1998. "International Knowledge Flows: Evidence from Patent Citations," NBER Working Papers 6507, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Caves, Richard E, 1971. "International Corporations: The Industrial Economics of Foreign Investment," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 38(149), pages 1-27, February.
  15. James Adams, 2006. "Learning, internal research, and spillovers," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(1), pages 5-36.
  16. Irwin, Douglas A & Klenow, Peter J, 1994. "Learning-by-Doing Spillovers in the Semiconductor Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1200-1227, December.
  17. Lenn Gomes & Kannan Ramaswamy, 1999. "An Empirical Examination of the Form of the Relationship Between Multinationality and Performance," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 30(1), pages 173-187, March.
  18. Zvi Griliches, 1990. "Patent Statistics as Economic Indicators: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 3301, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Jaffe, Adam B, 1986. "Technological Opportunity and Spillovers of R&D: Evidence from Firms' Patents, Profits, and Market Value," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 984-1001, December.
  20. Michael D Lord & Annette L Ranft, 2000. "Organizational Learning About New International Markets: Exploring the Internal Transfer of Local Market Knowledge," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 31(4), pages 573-589, December.
  21. Nadiri, M.I., 1993. "Innovations and Technological Spillovers," Working Papers 93-31, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  22. Alan M. Rugman & Alain Verbeke, 2004. "A Perspective on Regional and Global Strategies of Multinational Enterprises," Working Papers 2004-19, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
  23. Ron Boschma, 2005. "Proximity and Innovation: A Critical Assessment," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(1), pages 61-74.
  24. Bruno Cassiman & Reinhilde Veugelers, 2002. "R&D Cooperation and Spillovers: Some Empirical Evidence from Belgium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1169-1184, September.
  25. Hagedoorn, John, 2002. "Inter-firm R&D partnerships: an overview of major trends and patterns since 1960," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 477-492, May.
  26. DeYoung, Robert & Nolle, Daniel E, 1996. "Foreign-Owned Banks in the United States: Earning Market Share or Buying It?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 28(4), pages 622-36, November.
  27. repec:fth:harver:1473 is not listed on IDEAS
  28. M. Ishaq Nadiri, 1993. "Innovations and Technological Spillovers," NBER Working Papers 4423, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  29. Petersen, Bent & Pedersen, Torben, 2002. "Coping with liability of foreignness: Different learning engagements of entrant firms," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 339-350.
  30. Walter Kuemmerle, 1999. "The Drivers of Foreign Direct Investment into Research and Development: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 30(1), pages 1-24, March.
  31. Yves Doz & C K Prahalad, 1984. "Patterns of Strategic Control Within Multinational Corporations," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 15(2), pages 55-72, June.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpio:0512012. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (EconWPA)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.