Reverse knowledge transfer and its implications for European policy

Rajneesh Narula & Julie Michel


There is a growing international dispersion of R&D activities by MNEs for the purposes of maintaining and augmenting their knowledge assets. Firms need to tap into alternative knowledge sources , as home countries are rarely able to meet all their technological needs. However, accessing to foreign knowledge implies integration with the host country innovation system that requires considerable time and resources. Although asset-augmenting activities are seen as primarily benefitting the MNE, we argue that home country innovation systems can also benefit from reverse knowledge transfer. Policy makers need to promote these linkages and flows, rather than seeing R&D internationalisation as a threat to the home economy. New knowledge developed abroad by firms can and should be encouraged to be transferred to the rest of the firm and to the local environment of the home country.

Keywords: reverse knowledge transfer, R&D, innovation policy, EU

JEL codes F23, O32, L22

UNU-MERIT Working Papers ISSN 1871-9872