Title : Foreign direct R&D investment in Central Europe: where do we stand?
Author(s) : Eric Rugraff
Abstract : This article questions the nature of the foreign direct R&D investments in Central Europe. Do the affiliates of the multinationals still undertake adaptive R&D? Have they recently engaged in innovative R&D activities in their Central European affiliates? We assess the nature of the R&D activities of the multinationals in Central Europe in three steps. In a first step we use the OECD database on foreign direct R&D expenditure and personnel to compare the foreign affiliates’ R&D intensity with the indigenous firms’ R&D intensity. We find few differences between the two families of firms. In a second step we use patents granted to foreigners in Central Europe as a variable proxy to assess the evolution of innovative R&D activities in Central Europe. We find that the patenting activities of foreigners rose with the increase of their R&D investments in Central Europe. We also suggest that the Central European affiliates still have a marginal position in the patenting strategy of the multinationals. In a third step we focus on the patent data of the foreign affiliates in the Czech Republic – the Central European leader as regards of foreign direct R&D investments –, in the major foreign direct R&D sectors – electronics, electrical equipment, machinery and motor vehicles –. We build a sample made of the ten multinationals representing the most active R&D investors in the country and assess the recent evolution of their patenting activity. We suggest that, (a) even these major R&D investors still only marginally apply for patents in their Czech affiliates; (b) there is no under-evaluation of the innovation activity of the Czech affiliates due to a geographical separation of inventions – in the Czech Republic – and patent location – in Western Europe; (c) the researchers working in the Czech affiliates are still not sufficiently oriented towards innovation activities to be integrated in the patenting-oriented international teams built by the multinationals. Foreign direct R&D investments in Central Europe remain mostly production supportive and associated with the international exploitation of technology produced in the Western headquarters and affiliates. Despite the strong engagement of the Czech government towards foreign direct R&D, real innovative R&D increases very slowly.
Key-words : business R&D, multinationals, Central Europe, innovative R&D, patents.
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