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The effects of privatization on corporate R&D units: evidence from Italy and France

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Abstract:

Over the last two decades privatization programmes in a variety of different countries have radically reduced the role of the state as a major owner of productive assets. While there is empirical evidence to show that the switch in ownership generally improves productive efficiency and profitability at company level, its effects on research and development (R&D) activities, which can impact strongly on long–term performance, have been largely ignored in the literature.

In this paper we address this issue by analyzing seven cases of privatization that have recently occurred in Italy and France in order to gauge how R&D activities may be affected by privatization in terms of objectives and organization. The organizations studied show that R&D units within privatized companies are subject to profound restructuring actions, generally designed to boost efficiency and to strengthen integration with the goals of the business units and of the final customers. A new role for R&D thus emerges: the aim is no longer to generate new knowledge in the broad national interest, but rather more directly to create value for the company and its clients, by emphasizing the assessment and integration of external knowledge.

Document Type: Original Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9310.00255

Affiliations: Department of Management, University of Bologna, Italy munari@dea.unibo.it

Publication date: June 1, 2002

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