Multinational Innovation Strategies in the 4th Industrial Revolution

With the global economy at the precipice of the fourth industrial revolution, research into understanding multinationals’ (MNE) international R&D strategies is particularly timely. Using Siemens as a case study, with its recent decision to set up an industrial robotics centre in China, this project, in partnership with Tsinghua University and Carnegie Mellon University, has sought to understand what factors played a decisive role in informing the company’s strategic direction.


European fieldwork interviews were conducted with Siemens representatives and industry experts in both the UK and Germany. Key findings emerge as to why China was preferred to a European country. Locating in China, firms gain access to a sizeable market, and its growing educated population at a relatively cheaper cost compared to Europe. Populous countries are also home to a dense network of individuals who use digital services intensively. The data generated on digital platforms for firms developing new technologies enables quick results to produce successive iterations of technology-intensive products. Hence, market oriented technologies are more suited to being trialled in emerging or populated markets. In China’s case, these advantages are complemented by domestic acceptance of new technologies. European nations on the other hand have been less willing to adopt new technologies; the majority Germany’s economy for example is composed of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), many family-owned and more traditional in their operations.