RADMA: celebrating 40 years – offshoring R&D to emerging countries
Social media leaves a trail and Dhruba Borah, of the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research and a RADMA scholar used the LinkedIn platform to identify collaborative R&D when investigating offshoring of R&D.
He comments: “My thesis uses a novel methodology of tracking the mobility of Indian inventors using their interactions on LinkedIn. Initially, LinkedIn was used to measure the inter-firm mobility of inventors, however, during the data collection phase, I also learned about a few other possible uses of LinkedIn in innovation research.
“While analysing the LinkedIn profiles of inventors, I observed cases of inventors working for organisations different to the patent applicant company in the patent application year, pointing towards R&D collaborations.”
“LinkedIn data can also contribute to the measurement of diversity in inventors’ groups. LinkedIn offers distinct and transparent data on explicit human capital indicators of diversity such as ethnicity, the position of employees, education qualification, and experience, etc. Also through profile matching, data could be extracted from other social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Quora, etc. to measure diversity in tacit dimensions such as political, linguistic and religious orientations, etc. I believe that innovation scholars will greatly benefit from using LinkedIn to extract and analyse micro and meso-level data.
Dhruba Borah, Manchester Institute of Innovation Research
How has support from RADMA helped you?
I received RADMA doctoral funding in 2015 which sponsored my Ph.D. programme fees for three years. This funding combined with the ‘Alliance Manchester Business School Ph.D. studentship’ (maintenance support for three years) allowed me to focus on my Ph.D. without having to worry about my finance.
Also, I was awarded RADMA postgraduate funding in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and conference awards in 2017 and 2019. The postgraduate awards helped me to organise fieldwork visits to India while the conference awards allowed me to present my papers at DRUID Conference in New York (2017) and EIBA Conference in Poznan, Poland (2019). Participation in these conferences provided me the opportunity to receive high-quality feedback on my work and to network with scholars from all around the globe.
During my fieldwork visit to India, I worked as a Research Intern at the United Nations Asian and Pacific Centre for Technology Transfer (UN APCTT) for three months, where I presented and submitted a technical report evaluating the government policies for promoting open innovation among small and medium enterprises in India.
Offshoring R&D to emerging countries
My PhD thesis, titled “Challenges and strategies for offshoring R&D to emerging countries: Evidence from foreign MNCs’ R&D subsidiaries in India”, studies two key challenges for offshoring Research & Development (R&D) activities to emerging countries in terms of recruiting, developing and retaining talent- low quality of fresh Engineering and Technology (E&T) graduates and high outward mobility of R&D employees (in particular, inventors).
My thesis has resulted in three research papers. I have presented these papers at key international conferences including the Strategic Management Annual Conference, DRUID, R&D Management, European International Business Academy (EIBA) and Triple Helix conference.
The first paper of my thesis has received ‘Revise and Resubmit’ offer from Research Policy Journal and the second paper is currently under review with the Journal of International Business Studies. Both are ABS 4* and FT top 50 journals.
The second paper of my thesis uses a novel methodology of tracking 1,421 Indian inventors’ mobility on LinkedIn. In innovation research (Belderbos et al., 2014; Kim and Song, 2007), joint patents had long been used as the proxy for R&D collaborations.
However, in industries other than the biotech, firms avoid joint patenting (Hagedoorn, 2003) which raises a methodological argument if joint patents adequately represent R&D collaborations. Therefore, I believe that innovation researchers could benefit greatly from notching inventors’ patent and LinkedIn profiles to determine R&D collaborations.
If someone wanted to learn more about offshoring what would you recommend, they read?
Offshoring of R&D to emerging countries has been extensively studied by innovation and international business scholars. Therefore, one could go the websites of Research Policy, R&D Management Journal and/or the Journal of International Business Studies to develop an understanding of R&D offshoring.
However, these studies have mostly focused on examining the location-specific advantages of conducting R&D in emerging countries. So far, limited attention has been paid to explore the challenges and strategies for offshoring R&D to emerging countries, in particular, the challenges regarding the recruitment, development, and retention of talent in R&D.
One could read Loyalka et al. (2014, published in Higher Education Journal) or technical reports (Farrell et al., 2005, a McKenzie report; Aspiring Minds, 2015) which suggest that talent recruitment for R&D is a major concern in emerging countries because almost 75% of the STEM graduates do not possess the type and level of skills needed for R&D.
On the other hand, a recent article (Lamin and Ramos, 2016; published in Strategic Management Journal) finds labour mobility rate in the knowledge-intensive industry in India to be extremely high (30-35%). However, none of these studies offer insights into how firms should/could address these issues in emerging countries.
What are you doing now and does this build on your knowledge of R&D Management?
I am currently working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Strategy, International Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Liverpool School of Management.
I am working on new projects on inventors’ mobility within and across MNC networks in collaboration with senior colleagues from the University of Liverpool, the University of Manchester and Politecnico di Milan. I am also involved in teaching and supervising UG and MSc students here.
What do you think RADMA offers the research community?
So far, RADMA has played a pivotal role in promoting teaching and research on R&D management issues through publishing papers, case studies, organising conferences, summer schools and providing financial support to postgraduate researchers.
The financial support that RADMA offers to Ph.D. candidates is invaluable. Also, R&D Management conferences have been very successful in bringing innovation scholars from all around the globe to one platform. The doctoral colloquium of the R&D Management Conference is the most well-structured doctoral workshop I have ever attended.
I am proud to be a RADMA scholar. I am and will always be grateful to RADMA for their financial support without which pursuing Ph.D. in the UK would have been impossible for me. I would like to take the opportunity to thank RADMA for their support and congratulate RADMA on the 40th birthday of the R&D Management Conference.