The paper identifies the evolving nature of headquarters-subsidiary relations during the whole process of R&D internationalization. In-depth data on five Japanese multinationals revealed that the role of overseas laboratories actually evolved over time, from the 'starter' to the 'innovator' and then to the 'contributor'. Such a shift in role of overseas laboratories affected the nature of headquarters-subsidiary relationship accordingly. 'Semi-connected freedom' was identified as an optimal condition for the overseas laboratories to reconcile the two competing pressures: need for local autonomy and need for internal information connectivity. Various managerial steps were suggested for the laboratories to reach that state: increase in process linkage, active broker's role, short-term socialization, and project-level socialization. Some practical and theoretical implications were drawn from this research, and future research direction was suggested.
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