The crucial actors of a global knowledge-based economy are multinational companies (MNC). MNC turn into essential protagonists of international innovation processes and organise their Research and Development (R&D) increasingly internationally. They provide important channels for the transfer of technological knowledge across national as well as cultural and institutional borders. Hence, MNCs can be analyzed as international networks for the inner-organisational transfer of technological competences. At the same time, the headquarters of the companies and the competences in the country of origin still play a crucial role for the localisation of R&D. Therefore, the question emerges how MNCs deal with the challenges of internationally distributed innovation processes and to what extent and why they rely on domestic competences and R&D facilities: How can the observed internationalisation of R&D be reconciled with the crucial role of domestic locations and competences? To what extent do MNCs rely on dispersed forms of knowledge production and application and how are distributed innovation processes conceived, coordinated and organised? What are the organisational and institutional conditions which facilitate cross-border innovation projects within the same company and with external partners?
Besides this internal challenge of coping with corporate innovation processes, MNCs are no closed containers of knowledge production, but interact with their environment. To a considerable extent, they depend on the embeddedness in an institutional framework, since their competitive advantage in a world-wide competition also depends on the cross-border utilisation of regional and national capabilities. Complementary to transnational networks, the innovativeness of a company may be based on regional and national innovation systems. Not only the organisational coordination of internationally distributed innovation processes, but also the capability of a company to tap into regional contexts may support the innovativeness of a company: While the internationalisation of a company facilitates cross-border processes of learning, its regional embeddedness fosters the exploitation of sticky, tacit knowledge. The choice between these opposed strategic orientations m also be influenced by political attempts to include MNCs in regional networks and clusters and by the existence or the creation of trust-based relationships between different companies and between scientific, political and economic institutions.
To reconcile the two introduced perspectives on MNCs, the planned conference focuses on two issues: First, on the cross-border organisation of distributed innovation processes and on the strategic choice between distributed and territorially concentrated innovation processes within MNCs; and secondly, on the relationship between organisational and regional arenas of knowledge production and knowledge transfer. In order to enhance the understanding of organisational choices between spatially concentrated and distributed innovation processes and between regionally embedded and disembedded innovation processes, we want to bring together leading academic experts of the debates on MNCs and regional innovation systems.