Blending talents for innovation: Team composition for cross-border R&D collaboration within multinational corporations

Abstract

Despite the upsurge in cross-border R&D collaboration within multinational corporations (MNCs), firms often fail to realize the full potential of cross-border R&D teams. We examine under what conditions geographic diversity might lead to higher or lower innovation performance by focusing on the moderating roles of team composition. We first demonstrate that the geographic diversity of an MNC’s research team has a curvilinear (inverted U-shaped) relationship with the team’s innovation performance. Building upon group learning theory, we further claim that this non-linear relationship is strengthened by the technical experience heterogeneity of researchers but weakened by repeated collaboration among researchers. Our analyses on the top 25 multinational pharmaceutical companies and their 59,998 patents registered from 1981 to 2012 provide strong support for our hypotheses. When geographic diversity is relatively low, teams with different levels of technical experience and more fresh collaborators improve performance by amplifying the benefits of sourcing diverse knowledge. With high geographic dispersion, on the other hand, minimal experience heterogeneity and more instances of past collaboration lead to better performance by facilitating the integration of diverse knowledge. The results shed light on the importance of technical and social relationships among researchers in sourcing and integrating location-specific knowledge and ultimately enhancing team performance.

Résumé

Malgré la recrudescence des collaborations transfrontalières en matière de R&D au sein des entreprises multinationales (EMN), les firmes ne parviennent souvent pas à exploiter pleinement le potentiel des équipes transfrontalières de R&D. Nous étudions dans quelles conditions la diversité géographique pourrait conduire à des performances d’innovation plus ou moins élevées en nous concentrant sur les rôles modérateurs de la composition des équipes. Nous démontrons tout d’abord que la diversité géographique de l’équipe de recherche d’une EMN a une relation curviligne (en forme de U inversé) avec les performances d’innovation de l’équipe. En nous appuyant sur la théorie de l’apprentissage en groupe, nous affirmons ensuite que cette relation non linéaire est renforcée par l’expérience technique des chercheurs, mais affaiblie par la collaboration répétée entre les chercheurs. Nos analyses sur les 25 principales multinationales pharmaceutiques et leurs 59 998 brevets déposés entre 1981 et 2012 appuient fortement nos hypothèses. Lorsque la diversité géographique est relativement faible, les équipes ayant des niveaux d’expérience technique différents et des collaborateurs plus récents améliorent les performances en amplifiant les avantages de l’acquisition de connaissances diverses. En revanche, lorsque la dispersion géographique est élevée, une hétérogénéité minimale d’expériences et un plus grand nombre de collaborations antérieures permettent d’améliorer les performances en facilitant l’intégration de connaissances diverses. Les résultats mettent en lumière l’importance des relations techniques et sociales entre les chercheurs dans l’accès et l’intégration de connaissances spécifiques à un lieu et, en fin de compte, dans l’amélioration des performances des équipes.

Resumen

Pese al aumento de la colaboración transfronteriza en I + D en las corporaciones multinacionales (MNCs por sus iniciales en inglés), las empresas con frecuencia no se dan cuenta de todo el potencial de los equipos transfronterizos de I + D. Examinamos en qué condiciones la diversidad geográfica podría llevar a un mayor o menor rendimiento de innovación centrándonos en los papeles moderadores de la composición del equipo. Primero, demostramos que la diversidad geográfica del equipo de investigación de una corporación multinacional tiene una relación curvilínea (en forma de U invertida) con el rendimiento de innovación del equipo. Basándonos en la teoría del aprendizaje en grupo, afirmamos además que esta relación no lineal es fortalecida con la experiencia técnica de los investigadores, pero debilitada por la colaboración repetida entre los investigadores. Nuestros análisis sobre las 25 principales empresas farmacéuticas multinacionales y sus 59.998 patentes registradas entre 1981 y 2012 proporcionan un fuerte apoyo a nuestras hipótesis. Cuando la diversidad geográfica es relativamente baja, los equipos con diferentes niveles de experiencia técnica y colaboradores más nuevos mejoran el rendimiento al amplificar los beneficios de adquirir conocimientos diversos. Con una alta dispersión geográfica, por otro lado, la heterogeneidad de la experiencia mínima y más casos de colaboración pasada llevan a un mejor rendimiento al facilitar la integración de conocimientos diversos. Los resultados arrojan luz sobre la importancia de las relaciones técnicas y sociales entre los investigadores en la obtención e integración de conocimientos específicos de la ubicación y, en última instancia, en la mejora del rendimiento del equipo.

Resumo

Apesar do aumento da colaboração transfronteiriça em R&D entre empresas multinacionais (MNCs), as empresas geralmente não conseguem compreender todo o potencial de equipes de R&D transfronteiriças. Examinamos sob que condições a diversidade geográfica pode levar a um maior ou menor desempenho de inovação, concentrando-nos em papéis moderadores da composição da equipe. Primeiro, demonstramos que a diversidade geográfica de uma equipe de pesquisa de uma MNC tem uma relação curvilínea (em forma de U invertido) com o desempenho de inovação da equipe. Com base na teoria da aprendizagem em grupo, afirmamos ainda que esse relacionamento não linear é fortalecido pela experiência técnica de pesquisadores, mas enfraquecido pela repetida colaboração entre pesquisadores. Nossas análises nas 25 principais empresas farmacêuticas multinacionais e suas 59.998 patentes registradas de 1981 a 2012 fornecem forte suporte para nossas hipóteses. Quando a diversidade geográfica é relativamente baixa, equipes com diferentes níveis de experiência técnica e colaboradores mais novos aprimoram o desempenho pela ampliação dos benefícios da obtenção de conhecimentos variados. Com alta dispersão geográfica, por outro lado, mínima heterogeneidade da experiência e mais ocorrências de colaboração pregressa levam a um melhor desempenho pela facilitação da integração de conhecimentos variados. Os resultados lançam luz sobre a importância das relações técnicas e sociais entre pesquisadores na obtenção e integração de conhecimentos específicos do local e, finalmente, na melhoria do desempenho da equipe.

摘要

尽管跨国公司(MNC)中的跨境研发(R&D)合作激增, 企业仍经常无法充分获得跨境R&D团队的全部潜力。我们通过关注团队组成的调节作用, 研究了在什么条件下地理多样性可能导致更高或更低的创新绩效。我们首先证明,跨国公司研究团队的地域多样性与团队的创新绩效之间具有曲线(倒U形)关系。在团组学习理论的基础上, 我们进一步提出, 这种非线性关系因研究人员的技术经验而加强, 但因研究人员之间的从复合作而减弱。我们对1981-2012年间排名前25的跨国制药公司及其59,998项专利的分析为我们的假设提供了有力的支持。当地理多样性相对低时, 具有不同技术经验水平和更多新合作者的团队通过扩大获取各种知识的好处来改善绩效。另一方面, 由于高度的地理分散, 最小的经验异质性和较多的以往合作实例通过促进各种知识的集成而提高了绩效。研究结果揭示了研究人员之间的技术和社会关系在采购和整合特定于位置的知识并最终提高团队绩效方面的重要性。

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2016S1A5A2A01026323) and the Institute of Management Research, Seoul National University.

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Accepted by Mary Ann Von Glinow, Senior Editor, 13 April 2020. This article has been with the authors for three revisions.

Appendices

Appendix 1

See Table 7.

Table 7 Sensitivity tests with different year windows

Appendix 2

See Table 8.

Table 8 Regression analyses after excluding examiners’ citations

Appendix 3

See Table 9.

Table 9 Regression analyses after excluding self-citations

Appendix 4

See Table 10.

Table 10 Regression analyses without inventors with no patents

Appendix 5

See Table 11.

Table 11 Regression analyses after winsorizing extreme values

Appendix 6

See Table 12.

Table 12 Regression with assignee location fixed effects

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Seo, E., Kang, H. & Song, J. Blending talents for innovation: Team composition for cross-border R&D collaboration within multinational corporations. J Int Bus Stud 51, 851–885 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41267-020-00331-z

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Keywords

  • cross-border R&D collaboration
  • global innovation
  • multinational corporations
  • team composition
  • group learning theory
  • pharmaceutical industry