Georg Simmel's notion of intersecting group affiliations is used to analyze the situation of European R&D personnel employed by Japanese and American corporations. The fact that foreign R&D personnel belong to multiple research communities poses strategic challenges for global firms. One notable finding concerns the issue of 'competitive advantage in the basic research lab'. The traditional 'ethnocentricity' of Japanese firms, while facilitating intra-firm tacit knowledge flows, may create obstacles in the ability to access and capture critical knowledge embedded in foreign innovation systems outside firm boundaries. In contrast, 'explicit' US firms appear to possess a certain advantage for accessing the knowledge embedded in foreign systems of innovation.
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