Collaborative Proposal: The Globalization of Engineering and Its Impact on Economic Development: A Study of Knowledge Transfer by Multinationals to Newly Industrializing Economies

Project Details


This collaborative research project examines globally distributed engineering in multinational enterprises (MNEs) and emerging/new industrializing economies (E/NIEs) and how this affects the technological and human capital capabilities of the E/NIEs. The proposed research addresses such questions as: What strategies guide MNEs in organizing their globally distributed engineering activities? How do the interactions between home and host country engineers reshape the organization of globally distributed engineering? How do cultural differences and perceptions of cultural differences affect strategies and internal dynamics of globally distributed engineering projects? What impacts do MNE globally distributed engineering activities have on local educational institutions? What, more generally, are the positive and negative spillovers in E/NIEs and in MNE home countries from globally distributed engineering?

These are important questions because multinational enterprises (MNEs) are increasingly locating key technology functions, including the development of new products and processes, outside their home countries. This change has significant implications for development strategies and opportunities in the E/NIEs. Globally distributed engineering can provide the opportunity for significant knowledge transfer. On the other hand, it can also be done in ways that result in a loss or waste of scarce high-level technical talent in the E/NIEs. Negative results could include 'brain drain' or an imbalance in the skill mixes universities deliver. Conversely, there could be a loss of highly skilled jobs in the MNE home country. Understanding positive and negative outcomes, for the MNE, its home country, and the E/NIE, can lead to higher payoffs for all parties.

This project addresses both NSF merit criteria. It extends several streams of research by focusing on engineering, on the extent of knowledge transfer to E/NIEs, and on the potential impact on development. It will broaden participation of engineers from newly industrializing nations (i.e., geographically underrepresented groups in the context of a global economy). The collaboration of an international research team from Germany, Korea, Japan, Mexico, India, and the U.S. provides this project an important means of identifying and addressing issues from multiple perspectives.

The investigation involves close examination of two MNEs, each of which has 2-3 sites in E/NIEs. Data will include documentary sources; interviews of engineering managers and engineers at MNE headquarters; interviews of engineers and engineering managers from both MNE home country and E/NIE host country; and interviews of educators and government officials in the E/NIEs. The collaboration and contacts developed in current and past research by the PIs provide high-level access to firms and government officials in the countries of study. The International Division of the National Science Foundation is also contributing to the support of this research.

Effective start/end date4/1/036/30/04


  • National Science Foundation: $115,220.00


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