Offshoring Innovation to Emerging Markets: Organizational Control and Informal Institutional Distance

Michael Sartor, Paul W. Beamish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)


The literature on innovation offshoring has focused on the dichotomous choice between two distinct investment strategies – captive offshoring and outsourced offshoring. We use the concept of organizational control to investigate how differences in the informal institutions that prevail in the home and host countries influence multinational enterprise (MNE) strategy (or, the organizational control decision) with respect to subsidiaries established to offshore innovation. While the relationship between formal institutions and MNE strategy has been the subject of considerable academic scrutiny, less is known about the role of informal institutions. We propose that the type of uncertainty precipitated by informal institutions is critical to understanding the strategic behavior of foreign-investing MNEs. We hypothesize that an MNE’s organizational control over a subsidiary will be contingent upon the type of informal institutional uncertainty encountered by the subsidiary. More specifically, we disaggregate the informal institutions construct and develop three new, more explicit, latent constructs – behaviorally-oriented informal institutions (BOII), technology-oriented informal institutions (TOII) and demand-oriented informal institutions (DOII). Our theory posits that while an increase in BOII distance will precipitate a preference for greater organizational control, heightened TOII and DOII distances will induce the opposite outcome – a preference for lower levels of organizational control.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1072-1095
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of International Business Studies
Issue number9
Early online date21 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Dec 2014


  • informal institutions and uncertainty
  • informal institutional differences
  • foreign market entry
  • emerging markets/countries/economies
  • country risk
  • innovation and R&D


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