Global R&D management, the management of company R&D effort distributed over different countries, a task that concerns multinational firms, has not been widely studied. The authors have therefore carried out in-depth studies of global R&D conducted by 7 European and 15 Japanese companies. Their objective was to identify ‘best practice’ and so construct a framework for future research.
The authors' conclusions are as follows. Globalisation, that is decentralisation of R&D, has become a necessity for multinationals as a result of the localisation of competition, of product life becoming shorter than development time, and the need to locate laboratories near sources of new technological know-how.
Because foreign acquisitions often lead to the acquisition of laboratories, questions are raised about how best to integrate them with the administrative practices of the ‘home’ organization, whether to reorganize them or to close them down. When it is necessary to set up a new foreign-based laboratory deciding its exact location will require the weighing of factors such as whether the activities are to be market or process oriented, where on the R to D scale the activities will be placed, and how far direction of the laboratory's programmes and work will be decentralised.
Global management also demands special attention to the building of an open communication network among the laboratories, the best form of which has yet to be determined. The main concern in human resource management will be how to select and develop an internationally oriented management corps and how to train R&D professionals to communicate across sites.
If globally dispersed R&D laboratories are to be most effectively used then a new framework for their management needs to be developed.