Multinationals and the Canadian Innovation Process - ARCHIVED

Articles and reports: 11F0019M2000151


This paper examines whether new views of the multinational that see these firms as decentralizing research and development (R&D) activities abroad to exploit local competencies accord with the activities of multinationals in Canada. The paper describes the innovation regime of multinational firms in Canada by examining the differences between foreign- and domestically owned firms. It focuses on the extent to which R&D is used; the type of R&D activity; the importance of R&D relative to other sources of innovative ideas; whether the use of these other ideas indicates that multinationals are closely tied into local innovation networks; the intensity of innovation; and the use that is made of intellectual property rights to protect innovations from being copied by others.

We find that, far from being passively dependent on R&D from their parents, foreign-owned firms in Canada are more active in R&D than the population of Canadian-owned firms. They are also more often involved in R&D collaboration projects both abroad and in Canada. As expected, foreign subsidiaries enjoy the advantage of accessing technology from their parent and sister companies. While multinationals are more closely tied into a network of related firms for innovative ideas than are domestically owned firms, their local R&D unit is a more important source of information for innovation than are these inter-firm links. Surprisingly, foreign subsidiaries also more frequently report that they are using technology from unrelated firms. Moreover, the multinational is just as likely to develop links into a local university and other local innovation consortia as are domestically owned firms. This evidence indicates that multinationals in Canada are not, on the whole, operating subsidiaries whose scientific development capabilities are truncated - at least not in comparison to domestically owned firms.

A comparison of the extent and impact of innovation activity of domestically and foreign-owned firms shows that foreign-owned firms innovate in all sectors more frequently than Canadian-owned companies in almost all size categories. They are also more likely to introduce world-first rather than more imitative innovations. Their superiority is most pronounced in the consumer goods sector. Finally, foreign-owned firms are more likely to protect their innovations with patent protection.

The paper also compares foreign subsidiaries to Canadian corporations that have an international orientation. These additional comparisons show that the two groups of multinationals are quite similar, both with regards to the likelihood that they conduct some form of R&D and that they introduce innovations. These results indicate that it is as much the degree of globalization that the nationality of ownership that affects the degree of innovativeness.

Overall, the survey results suggest that foreign-owned firms make a significant contribution to technological progress and innovation in Canadian industry.

Issue Number: 2000151
Author(s): Baldwin, John; Hanel, Peter
FormatRelease dateMore information
PDFJune 27, 2000

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