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Heterogeneity, multinational companies and innovation: stimulation of spillover effects through technology transfer

14th National Competition for Economic Research Grants

International economics

Senior Researcher : Ramón Núñez Sánchez

Research Centre or Institution : Universidad de Cantabria. Santander.


The economic crisis which began in 2008 has demonstrated that the Spanish economic growth model, based on the intensive use of production factors and low levels of productivity, is no longer viable. Other, alternative economic policies based on greater productivity and competitiveness place technological innovation at the centre of the academic and political debate. In fact, one of the proposals made by the academic community has been the introduction of a plan to attract multinational companies that are highly intensive in R&D because they can transfer knowledge and technology to companies through a spillover effect which is beneficial for their surroundings.

The role of multinational companies in the functioning of the world's economic system forms part of some of the most controversial and at the same time interesting debates in the realms of both academia and politics. From the academic point of view, until recently researchers only had aggregated data on foreign direct investment. However, in recent years disaggregated data sources have appeared, which has permitted the emergence of new focuses in which the unit of analysis is the company. Thus, there are a number of different and frequently overlapping currents in the literature: empirical new industrial economy, new international trade theories and spatial or urban economy. The effects of foreign direct investment on the countries of origin or destination can be transmitted through different channels which can be classified into three main groups: effects of products on the markets; effects of production factors on the markets; and, finally, spillover effects. In turn, the spillover effects can be classified into two groups: technological spillovers (those which arise from foreign direct investment but which are not directly transmitted through the markets) and pecuniary spillovers (effects transmitted through the markets but which generate additional positive externalities for some of the parties in the transaction).

In this context, this research project focuses on the spillover effects of knowledge generated by the subsidiaries of multinational companies in comparison to local companies in Spain. Specifically, this project seeks three main objectives. First of all, to analyse the evolution over time of the behaviour of multinational companies with regard to the different forms of technology transfer. For this, different sources of longitudinal data will be used so as to allow us to observe whether that behaviour changes as the multinational company settles down and accumulates experience in its surroundings, as well as the existence of specific features in relation to their response to the economic crisis. The second aim is to evaluate the impact of multinationals' strategies on economic results by means of the use of structural models. Finally, the third goal is to put forward recommendations for innovation policies that seek to foster the connections between the local agents of the innovation system and multinational companies so that the former can utilise the possible competitive advantages of the latter. In addition, we plan to study the existence of different perceptions of the possible barriers to innovation in multinational companies and local companies.

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