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Looking into the Innovation Process: How International is Innovation in Multinational Companies?


  • Jannika Mattes

    () (University of Oldenburg & ZenTra)


This paper claims that internationalisation of innovation and the involved dispersal of activities in multinational companies needs to be reassessed. It is rarely a uniform phenomenon, but instead selective, sequential and temporal. The paper derives five ideal types of organising innovation in multinational companies: complete concentration, core-periphery concentration, sequential dispersal, modularised dispersal and inclusive dispersal. Empirical case studies illustrate that these different types do not only vary between projects, but are even applied selectively in different functional arenas of one and the same innovation project. This also shows that innovation is organised in a dynamic way and involves constant shifts and re-adjustments. Some general traits of different functional arenas are being derived. One of the core conclusions is that dispersed and internationalised constellations of organising innovation are applied in a far more cautious and less encompassing fashion than commonly expected. Instead, elements of control usually remain concentrated, and even seemingly dispersed settings do not imply extensive interaction and integration between the involved sites. A further result is that the organisation of innovation is not only a strategic phenomenon, but remains subject to emergent, path dependent constellations.

Suggested Citation

  • Jannika Mattes, 2012. "Looking into the Innovation Process: How International is Innovation in Multinational Companies?," ZenTra Working Papers in Transnational Studies 05 / 2012, ZenTra - Center for Transnational Studies, revised Nov 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:zen:wpaper:05

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    More about this item


    innovation; multinational companies; internationalisation; organisation; micro-level; innovation project; innovation process;

    JEL classification:

    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D

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