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How Domestic Firms Absorb Spillovers: A Routine-Based Model of Absorptive Capacity View

  • Cheng-Hua Tzeng (a1)

Extant spillover literature explains domestic firms' productivity change mainly by the presence and attributes of foreign direct investment. In contrary, this paper, by adopting a routine-based model of absorptive capacity, intends to explore how domestic firms absorb spillovers over time. Based on a qualitative study of a domestic firm in China's silicone adhesive industry, the findings show that unbounded by geographical constraints, domestic firms enact their external absorptive capacity routines to actively search for spillovers from multinational enterprises (MNEs) at both national and international levels. Moreover, rather than searching for what is available, domestic firms are selective for spillovers that are coherent with their business strategies. The most unexpected finding is that domestic firms diligently acquire spillovers from MNEs and from local competitors in combination. Spillovers acquired from local competitors are used to increase the inferential accuracy of spillovers acquired from MNEs about strategic successes. Further, instead of absorbing spillovers from MNEs which pose moderate technology gaps, domestic firms target at MNEs which exhibit wider technology gaps, and undertake organizational learning and develop complementary assets to enhance their internal absorptive capacity routines. Socially enabling mechanisms are found to facilitate domestic firms' absorption of spillovers by employee turnover.

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