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Regional Learning in Multinational Companies

Prof. Dr. Martin Heidenreich
Jean Monnet Chair for European Studies in Social Sciences, University of Oldenburg

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Knut Koschatzky
Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI), Karlsruhe

Prof. Dr. Christoph Barmeyer
Chair for Intercultural Communication, University of Passau

Financing:

Bild  Programme "Innovation Processes in Economy and Society“

Duration:

01.05.2006 - 30.11.2009

Project Collaborators:

Jannika Mattes, University of Oldenburg

Elisabeth Baier, Dipl.-Volksw., Fraunhofer ISI Karlsruhe 

Katharina Krüth, Dipl.-Kulturwissenschaftlerin, University of Passau

Summary of project aims

The crucial actors of a global economy are multinational companies (MNC) which are on no account „footloose companies“. To a considerable extent they are dependent on an efficient institutional environment, since their competitive advantage in a world-wide competition depends also on the cross-border utilization of regional and national capabilities. Therefore, MNCs can be analyzed as international networks for the inner-organizational transfer of technological competences. Complementary to these transnational networks, the innovativeness of the economy is also based on regional innovation systems. Similar to MNCs, these innovation systems are also based on the existence of knowledge-based, learning networks. Multinational networks as well as regional networks can facilitate the emergence and utilization of innovations: The internationalization of companies facilitates cross-border processes of learning while the regional embeddedness of companies supports the emergence of close, trust-based relationships between different companies and between scientific, political and economic institutions.

In the project proposed here, the relationship between organizational, multinational and regional arenas of knowledge production and knowledge transfer will be examined taking the example of selected innovation projects in four French and four German subsidiaries of multinational enterprises. In order to analyze the interaction between organizational and regional arenas of knowledge creation, we will examine the regional economic and governance structures and regional cluster and network policies pursued in the home regions of these eight subsidiaries. In this way, the international and interdisciplinary project team will be able to analyze firstly the strategic utilization of regional institutions and networks by multinational companies, secondly the integration of multinational companies into regional networks and thirdly the effectiveness of political attempts to regionally embedding multinational companies. Complementary to these eight innovation, organizational, and regional case studies, fourthly the quantitative distribution of regional and organizational capabilities in Europe will be examined. Through the evaluation of selected records (REGIO, ISI-production-innovation enquiry, CIS3) the eight case studies are to be put into a wider framework.

Hereby, the following hypotheses should be checked:

  • Regional bases of organizational capabilities (H1): An important foundation for the innovative capability of multinational companies is the ability to exploit the specific advantages of regionally concentrated suppliers, customers, competitors and institutions and the proximity to strategic markets. These regional advantages can play an essential role in the company-wide negotiation and exchange relationships of MNCs.
  • Organizational bases of regional capabilities (H2): At the same time multinational enterprises can considerably enhance the knowledge base of regional innovation systems. Regional institutions and companies can profit from the efforts of multinational enterprises and their local subsidiaries in recruiting, procurement, research, development, and education.
  • Political initiatives to facilitate regional learning processes (H3): The reciprocal learning processes of regional companies, regional institutions and multinational enterprises can be supported to a certain extent by cluster policies, i.e. through the systematic development of regional networks. In this way, multinational enterprises can be integrated in regional institutions and networks.
  • Concentration of regional and organizational capabilities in Europe (H4): scientific, technological, organizational and regional capabilities in Europe are spatially concentrated to a considerable extent in the classical European core region, the city belt from Southern England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ile-de-France and Western Germany to Switzerland, Austria and Northern Italy.

The project will be carried out by an international and interdisciplinary team (Bamberg University, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research in Karlsruhe, University of Passau and Ecole de Management Strasbourg).

Publications:

  • forthcoming: Heidenreich, Martin / Barmeyer, Christoph / Koschatzky, Knut / Mattes, Jannika / Baier, Elisabeth / Krüth, Katharina: Multinational Enterprises and Innovation: Regional Learning in Networks. London/New York: Routledge. To be published in 2011. 
  • forthcoming: Heidenreich, Martin (ed.): "Institutional embeddedness of multinational companies“. Edward Elgar. To be published.
  • forthcoming: Mattes, Jannika: Dimensions of proximity and knowledge bases. Innovation between spatial and non-spatial factors. (Regional Studies, in print) - Download draft version
  • Mattes, Jannika, 2010: Innovation in multinational companies. Organisational, international and regional dilemmas. Frankfurt a.M. et al.: Peter Lang. ISBN 978-3-631-61021-3 Pick It! .
  • Heidenreich, Martin / Kirch, Brigitte / Mattes, Jannika, 2008: Die organisatorische Einbettung von Informationstechnologien in einem globalen Entwicklungsprojekt. In: Schulz-Schäffer, Ingo / Funken, Christiane: Digitalisierung der Arbeitswelt.
  • Heidenreich, Martin, 2006: Die Organisationen der Wissensgesellschaft. Zwischen regionalem und grenzüberschreitenden Lernen. In Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (Hrsg.): Konturen der Wissensgesellschaft
  • Mattes, Jannika, 2006: Innovation in multinational companies. An empirical analysis of innovation networks between globalisation and localisation. Bamberger Beiträge zur Europaforschung und zur internationalen Politik, Nr. 14/2006. ­
  • Research proposal: “Regional Learning in Multinational Companies”

Danksagung:

Wir bedanken uns ganz herzlich bei allen, die durch ihre tatkräftige Unterstützung die Durchführung des Projekts ermöglicht haben und ermöglichen. Dies gilt zunächst für die VolkswagenStiftung, die dieses Projekt finanziert und für die zahlreichen Kontaktpersonen und InterviewpartnerInnen in den Unternehmen und in den Regionen, die geduldig und hilfsbereit auf unsere Fragen geantwortet haben. Brigitte Kirch und Martin Wegele haben jeweils eine Fallstudie geschrieben und durch ihre engagierte Mitarbeit sehr zu deren Erfolg beigetragen. Außerdem wäre die Arbeit des Bamberger/Oldenburger Teams ohne die vielen Hilfskräfte nicht möglich gewesen, die sich viele Stunden lang mit der Transkription der Interviews und Recherchearbeiten beschäftigt haben:  Stefan Gruber, Lisa Geißler, Vanessa Hartlaub, Melanie Rottmüller, Christina Schubach und Ulrike Zier. Auch ihnen gilt an dieser Stelle ein herzliches Dankeschön!

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