Talent, Geography, and Offshore R&D

Jingting Fan, Pennsylvania State University

I model and quantify the impact of a new dimension of globalization: offshore R&D. In the model, firms employ researchers across the globe to develop new product blueprints and then engage in offshore production and exporting. Frictions impeding trade and the separation of production from R&D lead to a ‘market-access’ motive for offshore R&D, while cross-country differences in the distributions of firm knowhow and worker ability generate a ‘talent-acquisition’ motive. I discipline the model using empirical facts derived from a new firm-level dataset. Counterfactual experiments show that the two motives can account for a significant portion of the observed offshore R&D. Incorporating offshore R&D amplifies the gains from globalization by a factor of 1.3 and generates new implications for the impacts of traditional forms of global integration, namely trade and multinational production.