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

45 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2018

See all articles by Lee Branstetter

Lee Branstetter

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Britta Glennon

Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

J. Bradford Jensen

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy; Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics

Date Written: March 2018

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

Branstetter, Lee and Glennon, Britta and Jensen, J. Bradford, Knowledge Transfer Abroad: The Role of U.S. Inventors within Global R&D Networks (March 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24453, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3154237

Lee Branstetter (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Britta Glennon

Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

3620 Locust Walk
SH-DH
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://brittaglennon.com

J. Bradford Jensen

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics ( email )

1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

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