- Organizing Global Technology Flows: Institutions, Actors, and Processes ed. by Pierre-Yves Donzé and Shigehiro Nishimura
Organizing Global Technology Flows: Institutions, Actors, and Processes
New York: Routledge, 2013. 266 pp. $148.00 hardcover.
Globalization is one of the most important phenomena of our times. Everything—be it economic, social, or cultural—is affected by it. Multinational enterprises (MNEs) have to operate their businesses across national borders in this globalizing world. Particularly, they have to manage the international transfer of technology and knowledge, because their competitive advantages tend to rest on these. However, managing this international transfer is a difficult task, because technology and knowledge are sometimes implicit and can be incomprehensible for those who don't share the same background. This book, edited by Pierre-Yves Donzé and Shigehiro Nishimura, demonstrates "how technology has been transferred through complex processes, involving a variety of actors from several countries" (1). It presents us with important factors or viewpoints from which to understand the international transfer of technology, and good examples of how it has been managed. In other words, it considers the history of globalization and global competitions from the viewpoint of international technology management.
Many historians of business have explored the history of globalization by focusing on the activities of MNEs, and especially on the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) (e.g., Jones 2005). Globalization, however, is not only based on capital flow; in business, other resources besides capital are equally important. In order to launch a new business abroad, MNEs need technology and knowledge adapted to local markets. Usually, these intangible resources are transferred from a parent company to local subsidiaries and modified in local markets to achieve competitive advantage. So we have to understand how to manage the flow of such resources between countries, and to establish and develop them in new places. The focus of this book on the processes and historical facts of international technology transfer and management distinguishes it from many others studying MNEs in a globalizing world. [End Page 555]
The book consists of an introduction, twelve substantive chapters, and an afterword. In order to develop a good understanding of the topic, every chapter uses a detailed case study, focusing on several MNEs and countries from interesting perspectives.
In its introduction, the editors set out the book's vantage points. In reviewing the idea of technology transfer in relation to MNEs, FDI, and historical research, they point out that the flows, methods, and actors of technology transfer can vary considerably. Flow is not only from developed countries to developing countries or from parent company to local subsidiary; reverse flows have also been observed. Interactions regarding technology between countries or between parent company and subsidiary are critical for developing new business across borders. The authors also argue for the importance of institutions: "Since the late 19th century, the spread of global norms and institutions has provided a new framework in which technology transfer occurs. . . . These institutions helped unify the diverse national economies in a global system and then facilitated exchanges" (7–8). They pick up on the international patent system as an example of such an institution. Finally, they stress the importance of paying attention to the actors—not only MNEs but also international cartels, governments, public bodies, and individuals.
The twelve chapters are relegated among four parts, which correspond to some of the points highlighted in the introduction. Part 1 deals with the international patent system. Looking at Germany (chapter 1), Spain (chapter 2) and Japan (chapter 3) from the nineteenth to the first half of the twentieth century, it clarifies the process and effectiveness of the use of the patent system by MNEs. The authors discuss the importance of technological upgrading in these countries by using patents from foreign MNEs. For example, in chapter 3, Shigehiro Nishimura "details how GE transferred its corporate patent management to its two affiliates in Japan" (16). This particular case shows how GE developed the patent management capability of its Japanese affiliated companies, and how the Japanese companies then successfully upgraded their technological capabilities and developed competitive advantages.
Part 2 analyzes the role of cartels...