Technology-Driven FDI: A Survey of the Literature

CIRCLE WP, 17, Lund University, Lund.

With A. Amighini, C. Cozza, E. Giuliani and V. Scalera

In the past century we have witnessed worldwide a growing flow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), which have attracted the attention of economists, international business and development scholars. In this scenario, two trends have recently gained momentum: the increasing relevance of Technology- driven FDI (TFDI) and the upsurge of Emerging Economies’ Multinational Enterprises (EMNEs) investing in advanced countries.
In this paper, we present a survey of the relevant literature on TFDI, with a focus on both AMNEs and EMNEs. After presenting the different phases of TFDI from Advanced Economy Multinational Enterprises (AMNEs), we focus on EMNEs and discuss the usefulness and limitations of the existing theoretical frameworks to interpret this new phenomenon. Next, the paper reviews the literature on EMNEs’ sources of competitive advantages and their main motivations for investing abroad. Finally, the paper explores the peculiarities of TFDI from emerging economies.


China’s outward FDI: An industry-level analysis of host-country determinants

Frontiers of Economics in China, 8 (3), 903-936

The article is co-authored with Alessia Amighini and Marco Sanfilippo.

We empirically analyse the host country determinants of Chinese outward foreign direct investments (FDI) for the years 2003 to 2011, using disaggregated data by country and industry. Our results suggest that the host-country determinants of Chinese FDI differ between high- and low-income countries. While all Chinese FDI are invariably market seeking, other motivations stand out for different groups of sectors in specific country groups. The resource seeking motivation is relevant for manufacturing FDI to high-income countries with relatively high fuel abundance, and to low-income countries with primary resource abundance (other than fuels). Differently, the strategic-asset seeking motivation, measured by the level of R&D spending on GDP, positively and significantly only affects Chinese manufacturing and services FDI to OECD countries, while higher education levels are attraction factor for all investing firms. Natural resources are an important attraction factor for Chinese FDI, not only in resource-related sectors, but also in manufacturing and services sectors. Finally, Chinese FDIs tend to follow exports (rather than fostering them), especially in services sectors.


The “Marco Polo” effect: Chinese FDI in Italy

International Journal of Technology and Globalization, 4(4), 277-291 

The article is written with Carlo Pietrobelli and Marco Sanfilippo.

This study investigates the motivations driving Chinese outward direct investment to Italy. The analysis is based on secondary sources and in- depth interviews with key informants and senior managers of Chinese affiliates in Italy. The evolution of the Chinese pattern of entry in Italy confirms the pattern followed by Chinese firms in other European countries, adding some additional interesting results. Starting from small-scale operations in trade-related activities, Chinese FDI have evolved towards the acquisition of tangible and intangible resources that are deemed necessary to improve China’s presence in international markets and to upgrade their technological and production capacities.
Chinese investments in Italy are increasingly targeting the acquisition of technological capabilities and of design skills and brands to tap local competences available in specialized manufacturing clusters in sectors such as automotives and home appliances. The main industries of specialization of Chinese OFDI in Italy reflect this approach and appear to be related to China’s strategy to increase the sophistication of its exports and to move away from standardized commodities and intermediate manufactures and components.

Outward FDI from developing countries MNEs as a channel for technological catch-up

Seoul Journal of Economics, 23(2): 239-261

The paper is in collaboration with Alessia Amighini and Marco Sanfilippo.

One of the more recent aspects of the globalization process is the rise and the increasing outward expansion of multinational enterprises (MNEs) from developing countries. Among the more promising effects of this phenomenon is a potentially positive development impact: through outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) developing country MNEs acquire new knowledge, which contributes to the technological catch-up of their home countries. This paper reviews the recent literature on OFDI from developing countries, with a critical focus on the theory and evidence of FDI as a channel for technological catch-up. This literature suggests that the features and global business environment of current emerging country MNEs is different from those of latecomer firms in earlier decades. Modularity of production in an increasing number of sectors, combined with weak national innovation systems (NIS) in many developing countries explain why the sourcing of strategic assets – including technology and innovation – from abroad through OFDI has become such an important channel for technological catch-up.