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The importance of internal and external R&D network linkages for R&D organisations: evidence from Singapore

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This paper examines the importance of internal and external R&D networks for R&D organisations of multinational firms (MNCs) in Singapore and investigates corresponding R&D management requirements in this context, namely a late-industrialising country in Asia. A unique feature of Singapore is its ability to attract ‘high quality’ foreign direct investment, involving activities of higher value added and more complex technology without having developed full-fledged R&D activities among its business organisations, thus creating a challenging situation for subsidiary R&D managers, both in the internal R&D organisation as well as in the external research environment. This paper analyses these issues.

Based on in-depth interviews with 53 R&D subsidiaries of MNCs operating in Singapore, this paper identifies internal and external R&D management needs. Through our analysis of data gleaned from these interviews, we found that subsidiary R&D managers need to increase and/or maintain the strategic importance of their R&D site internally within their global corporate R&D organisation. This requires constant upgrading of the technological level at the R&D subsidiary and intense communication with headquarters as well as other R&D subsidiaries. Furthermore, our findings indicate that in the external research environment, subsidiary R&D managers need to create an efficient local network of external players. If these internal and external issues are properly addressed, the R&D subsidiary can effectively contribute to the corporate R&D organisation and be a critical partner in the local research network. Lessons learned from the Singapore experience include the need to develop sufficient local expertise as well as to change the mindset of managers to focus on creativity rather than precise execution.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Asia Research Center, University of St. Gallen, Dufourstrasse 40a, CH-9000 St. Gallen, Switzerland

Publication date: 2004-11-01

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