Dhruba Borah

Challenges and Strategies for Offshoring R&D to Emerging Countries: Evidence from Foreign MNCs' R&D Subsidiaries in India.

Alliance Manchester Business School -
PhD awarded 2019

I am currently working as a Postdoctoral Researcher in Strategy and International Business at the University of Liverpool Management School (ULMS). I will be joining as a Lecturer at ULMS from the 1st of December, 2019. I completed my PhD at the Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) in early 2019 under the supervision of Professor Silvia Massini and Dr Khaleel Malik. My PhD thesis studies two key challenges for offshoring R&D activities to emerging countries in terms of recruiting and retaining talent: low-quality of fresh engineering graduates and high outward mobility of inventors and investigates firms’ strategies to overcome these challenges. This thesis is a collection of three research papers.

The first paper of this thesis presents research findings from an exploratory study of 12 firms in India to establish how these firms use teaching-focused industry-academia (I-A) collaboration strategies with universities to develop engineering graduates with prerequisite skills for R&D positions. By offering insights into how teaching-focused I-A collaborations are operationalised, and the drivers and challenges for universities and corporations participating in such alliances, this paper strengthens a much-neglected dimension of industry-academia (I-A) collaboration literature: the role of collaborative activities in teaching. In addition, this paper contributes to the human capital theory by demonstrating the potential of teaching-focused I-A collaborations to provide an alternative to the traditional graduate recruitment and development model: ‘in-house on-the-job training’. This paper has been published in Research Policy, a Financial Times’ top 50 Journal.

The second paper of this thesis further contributes to this line of research by exploring the university-level and institutional determinants of teaching-focused I-A collaborations using mixed methods. The identification of factors that facilitate or hinder universities’ propensity to engage in teaching-focused I-A collaborations allows me to suggest policy implications on how to promote a favourable environment for teaching collaborations to take place.

The third paper of this thesis aims at explaining the factors behind inventors’ high outward mobility in emerging countries.  We claim that MNCs’ formal and informal institutional distance with the host countries positively impact the inventors’ outward mobility from subsidiaries. We also posit that experience plays a moderating role at both the micro level (i.e. at the individual inventor-level) and macro level (i.e. at the MNC-level). Our empirical analysis refers to foreign ICT MNCs in India, in the period 1996-2016, and adopts a novel methodology of tracking 1,421 inventors’ mobility on LinkedIn. This paper was nominated for the best paper award at the Academy of International Business (AIB) Conference in Copenhagen in 2019. To summarise, my thesis contributes to one of the critical research themes that RADMA supports which isthe interaction of organisation-wide processes such as strategy formulation and human resources with R&D”.

During my PhD, I also worked as a Research Assistant in Horizon 20-20, and Innovate UK funded projects; completed an internship at the Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology, United Nations (New Delhi); and spent a semester at Politecnico di Milano, Italy as a Visiting Researcher. Engagement in these projects helped me achieve a broader business, societal and policy impact. In order to develop all-round academic skills, during my PhD I also participated in teaching at AMBS. In 2018, I received the ‘Teaching Assistant Award’ from AMBS. Overall, my PhD journey was a fascinating experience. I am grateful to RADMA for partially sponsoring my PhD dissertation project. Without RADMA’s generous financial support, the PhD degree would have remained a mere dream to me.