Globalization of R&D: recent Changes in the Management of Innovation in Transnational Corporation
Large multinational firms are the drivers for the globalization of R&D and innovation activities. There was a strong movement to establish a transnational configuration of R&D between 1985 and 1995. In recent years, however, R&D strategies and international location decisions have changed substantially. This paper is based on an in-depth analysis of R&D internationalization in 21 large corporations in Europe, Japan and the US. Our findings suggest that transnational corporations have tended to consolidate and streamline their organizations since the mid-1990s. Distributed R&D activities and globally-dispersed innovation processes have resulted in overly complex and unmanageable organizational architectures. This has induced firms to search for 'leaner' and more effective types of managing their international portfolio of innovation activities. We learned that the spatial distribution of learning and R&D performing activities is something different than the spatial distribution of coordination and control. Many companies in our sample have adapted a strategy of multiple centers of learning with one dominant center of coordination. A framework is developed to serve as a basis for analyzing different patterns of internationalization of R&D and innovation, and for assessing the appropriate mechanisms to coordinate and control an international network of technological competence centers.