Internal or external knowledge: Which is more important for the performance of national laboratories in technology latecomer countries?

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Portland International Conference on Management of Engineering and Technology, Vol: 2015-September, Page: 1787-1797

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Ploykitikoon, Pattravadee; Weber, Charles M.
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Engineering; Business, Management and Accounting; Technological innovations; Communication & technology; Diffusion of innovations; Developing countries; Operations Research, Systems Engineering and Industrial Engineering
conference paper description
The national laboratories in countries that are latecomers to advanced technological development are considered a significant source of scientific knowledge and technology for local industries that the national government deems strategic and for developing the country's infrastructure. This knowledge comes from both inside and outside the national laboratories. We investigate the relative impact of internal and external sources of knowledge on the performance of the national laboratories of a rapidly developing country, whose stated missions are 1) satisfying the needs of targeted local technology users; 2) commercialization of technology; and 3) developing a long-term R&D capability for the country. We conduct a survey-based study, which covers 208 recently completed R&D projects that span three industries: biotechnology; electronics and computers; materials and nano-materials. Our study finds that, regardless of mission, knowledge from external sources impacts performance more significantly than internal knowledge does. The impact on performance is greatest when knowledge from internal and external sources is used in conjunction. We consequently make the case for an open innovation policy for the national laboratories in technology latecomer countries and for implementing practices that enhance the capacity to absorb knowledge that flows into the national laboratories from external sources.