Academic journal article Management International Review

Knowledge Mobility in Cross-Border Buyer-Supplier Relationships

Academic journal article Management International Review

Knowledge Mobility in Cross-Border Buyer-Supplier Relationships

Article excerpt


* This paper contributes to the debate on the influence of knowledge sourcing in emerging markets by multinational enterprises. The study builds on transaction cost theory, organizational learning theory and the knowledge-based view to examine the determinants and consequences of knowledge mobility in cross-border buyer-supplier relationships.

* I hypothesize that protection and knowledge attributes influence knowledge acquisition from international strategic alliances and that knowledge mobility enhances local suppliers' innovation capabilities.

* Using survey data of 160 firms in the information technology (IT) sector and a structural equation methodology, the empirical results indicate the positive impact that knowledge attributes have on protection. Furthermore, knowledge mobility in cross-border relationships positively affects the development of firms' innovation capabilities. The implications are discussed at the end of the paper.

Keywords: Protection * Knowledge attributes * Knowledge mobility * Innovation capability


In recent years, outsourcing has evolved from low-cost manufacturing activities to high-value-adding activities (Hutzschenreuter et al. 2011). Many MNCs are increasingly restructuring their knowledge-intensive processes worldwide. The impacts of the growth in outsourcing innovation to emerging markets (EMs) remain to be understood either conceptually or empirically and are a particular locus of this paper. Furthermore, the drivers and consequences of this important phenomenon have been less systematically studied from the perspective of local suppliers in resource-limited countries (Jean et al. 2010a).

The co-evolution of inter-organizational and international knowledge linkages is enabling local suppliers to upgrade from low-tech assemblers to sophisticated product designers (Ernst 2000; Schmitz 2004). The IT industry in Taiwan has achieved great success and has played a difficult-to-replace role in the global digital economy in recent years (Ernst 2000; Jean et al. 2010a). The Taiwanese IT companies have gradually developed strong capabilities in original design and climbed the technology chain towards key categories, such as notebook PCs and chip foundry services (Kishimoto 2004; Trindade 2005). This research focuses on examining how these Taiwanese IT suppliers have enhanced their overall capabilities through cooperating with MNC buyers.

As Leonard (1995, p. 135) states, "very few, if any, companies can build core capabilities without importing some knowledge from beyond their boundaries". This is confirmed by the explosive growth in the literature dealing with organizational learning in international strategic alliances (ISAs). As recognized by Crossan and Inkpen (1994, p. 271), 'while much of the research has dealt with static theories of the firm and investigations of structural questions, very little research has devolved into the process of knowledge transfer and the barriers to successful intraorganizationl learning'. The main objective of this paper is to extend and enrich the existing knowledge base on alliance learning (Kale and Singh 2007; Lancioni and Chandran 2009) by examining the following issues that have not received significant attention in the existing literature.

Firstly, most of the studies that focus on learning and knowledge transfer look at the role of firm-specific variables, such as intent (Tsang 2002) or partner selection (Dong and Glaister 2006), or relationship variables, such as trust (Cavusgil et al. 2004), but fall short of linking the nature of knowledge to the barriers to transferability. Drawing on the previous literature on alliances, the knowledge-based view, organizational learning and transaction cost theory, I develop an integrated model which identifies various determinants of alliance learning.

Secondly, despite the wealth of interorganizational learning, i. …

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