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International R&D alliances and innovation for emerging market multinationals: roles of environmental turbulence and knowledge transfer

Yang Liu (School of Management, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China)
Ping Deng (Department of Management, Cleveland State University Monte Ahuja College of Business, Cleveland, Ohio, USA)
Jiang Wei (School of Management, Zhejiang University School of Management, Hangzhou, China)
Ying Ying (School of Business Administration, Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China)
Mu Tian (Department of Business and Economics, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid Facultad de Ciencias Economicas y Empresariales, Madrid, Spain)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 5 March 2019

Issue publication date: 7 October 2019




The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationships between environment turbulence, knowledge transfer and innovation performance for emerging market multinationals (EMNEs) in an asymmetric international R&D alliance.


Data were collected through a survey of high-tech firms in Zhejiang Province of China from 2013 to 2015.


Innovation performance of EMNEs is positively influenced by knowledge transfer activities (knowledge replication and knowledge adaption), technological and market turbulence, while negatively influenced by institutional turbulence. In addition, different aspects of environmental turbulence moderate the relationship between knowledge transfer practices and innovation performance of EMNEs differently.

Research limitations/implications

Future studies could use a longitudinal design to capture the dynamism driving innovation performance of EMNEs through R&D alliances.

Practical implications

Practical guidelines are provided particularly for EMNE managers on how to develop an innovation strategy by leveraging external knowledge, adaptive innovation and environmental turbulence.


This study deepens the knowledge of how EMNEs enhance their innovation by building the linkage between environmental turbulence and absorptive capacity through knowledge transfer activities in an asymmetric international R&D alliance.



This paper forms part of a special section “Institutional environment and collaborations/consolidations in B2B”, guest edited by En Xie, Zhi Yang and K.S. Reddy.

This research is partially supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (71872161, 71874150, 71732008 & 71872053), The MOE (Ministry of Education) Project of Key Research Initiatives of Humanities and Social Sciences at Chinese Universities (17JZD020) and the Monte Ahuja Endowment Fund for the Chair of Global Business at Cleveland State University, USA. The authors are grateful to three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and developmental inputs which are instrumental in strengthening our paper significantly. Finally, the authors are deeply indebted to the special issue editors, Dr En Xie and Dr Zhi Yang, for their excellent editorial guidance during the entire review process.


Liu, Y., Deng, P., Wei, J., Ying, Y. and Tian, M. (2019), "International R&D alliances and innovation for emerging market multinationals: roles of environmental turbulence and knowledge transfer", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 1374-1387.



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