External leveraging and technological upgrading among East Asian firms in the United States

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This paper examines the innovation strategies driving Asian firms' investment in the US based on the resource-based model of knowledge. Specifically, it is shown that Asian firms' competitive advantage revolves around their ability to capture rents through a series of technological and marketing capabilities that collectively constitute the firms' knowledge resource base. The process of learning is documented by shedding light on the major sources of knowledge acquisition that enhance technological capabilities internally and externally. Specifically, this empirical research, based on a large-scale quantitative survey of Taiwanese, South Korean, and Singaporean firms in the US that was conducted between 2003 and 2004, shows that the firms in industrializing Asian economies (henceforth the IAFs) are directly investing in the US and setting up R&D operations there to acquire knowledge that enables them to become more innovative. A variety of technology sourcing strategies practiced among these IAFs was found, depending on their firm-specific variables (e.g. size and sector) and their prior technological capabilities. The types of technology and knowledge sources also go beyond conventional technological know-how to embrace the entire production chain from manufacturing technologies to expertise in marketing and distribution.