Internationalization of Technological Activities and Developing Countries: An Analysis Based on Patent Data

Friday, 3 July 2015: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
CLM.B.05 (Clement House)
Pedro Miranda, Institute for Applied Economic Research - IPEA, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In the last decades of the 20th century, the transformations in the international macroeconomic landscape and the increased competition at a global scale were joined by new strategies implemented by major corporations to maintain and strengthen their competitive advantages, including organizational change. In the manufacturing sector, it resulted in the creation of international production networks with a high geographical dispersion of their activities.

Such changes, however, were not limited to production activities. In the 1990s, the internationalization of technological activities was intensified, achieving an increased geographic dispersion and encompassing activities of higher complexity. The foreign subsidiaries of transnational corporations (TNCs) not only did transfer technologies originated by their parent companies, but also began themselves to create new capabilities by virtue of the absorption of local knowledge. However, this process still remains extremely concentrated in the region formed by the triad United States–Western Europe–Japan, especially in the field of research. In view of this, emerges a debate on whether there is an undergoing tiered selection process of the international dispersion of technological activities, or rather a movement towards a “technoglobalism.”

This article aims at moving forward in the debate regarding the profile of insertion of developing countries (DCs) in such a process. The question is whether, with the strengthening of DCs in certain technological domains in recent years, there have been shifts in both the magnitude of their participation as host countries as well as in the type of activities involved.

In view of this question, it is assumed that the internationalization process of technological activities is being intensified and opening the way for the insertion of other countries. However, since this is a tiered selection process, the DCs must present distinct insertion profiles, determined by the interaction between the strategies adopted by the TNCs and national development policies.

The characterization of the insertion profile of each country was carried out by drawing a comparison between the importance of international activities in each technology domain and the pattern of national technological specialization, determined by revealed technological advantage index. The analysis was based on data of patents filed at the European Patent Office, in the period ranging from 1980 to 2012. The analyzed sample encompasses activities performed in all technological domains, by companies from 40 countries.

The results point to the existence of an asymmetry, with a prominent position occupied by Asian countries, especially China and India among the host countries. The differences found in the magnitude and importance, the type of activity, which indicates that the internationalization process of technological activities has a strong selective and hierarchical character. Hence they reaffirm that the contribution made by transnational corporations for the technological development of DCs is rather limited and complementary, and public policies play a major role in this matter.