International R&D Spillovers and the Absorptive Capacity of Multinationals
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Original versionWorking Paper, NUPI nr. 628. NUPI, 2002
This paper studies R&D spillovers as a motive for firms to go multinational. The establishment of a foreign subsidiary may increase a firm’s ability to learn from foreign R&D activity since R&D spillovers between firms are moderated by geographical distance. As opposed to earlier studies on this subject, we also model the concept of absorptive capacity where spillovers are endogenised as a function of the firms’ own R&D investments. We employ a three-stage Cournot duopoly model to identify under what conditions a firm chooses to service a foreign market through exports or localised production (going multinational). With exogenous R&D investments, the absorptive capacity effect contributes to increase the gains from going multinational when the firm is a technology leader in terms of R&D. If R&D investments are endogenous, only medium-sized absorptive capacity effects will result in firms going multinational. Also, higher spillover rates do not necessarily drive down R&D and profits for the multinational firm. This stands in contrast to models that ignore the aspect of absorptive capacity.