Journal of World Business

Call for papers for a special issue

Submission Deadline: 31.5.2018

The Nature of Innovation in Global Value Chains 

Guest Editors:

Ari Van Assche, Kristin Brandl, Alessandra Perri, Vittoria G. Scalera, Björn Ambos


The rise of global value chains (GVCs) has revolutionized the way that production processes are carried out in the world economy. Thanks to reduced communication and transportation costs, many companies have abandoned the practice of producing goods or services entirely in a single country and within their own organizational boundaries. Thus, through offshoring and outsourcing, value chains are sliced up and activities are dispersed to locations and actors where they can be produced most efficiently.

Scholars have been quick to jump on this trend. Over the last two decades, an influential literature has emerged, analyzing the geographical spread of global value chains (Suder et al., 2015; Turkina, van Assche, and Kali, 2016), the factors that affect the decision where to locate activities (Doh, Bunyaratavej, and Hahn, 2009; Jensen and Pedersen, 2011; Ma and Van Assche, 2016), or how to govern GVCs (Gereffi, Humphrey, and Sturgeon, 2005). Other, more firm related studies investigated the drivers of the international fragmentation of production (Kedia and Mukherjee, 2009; Schmeisser, 2013), the firm types more likely to follow this trend (Farinas and Martin-Marcos, 2010), and the effects it has on a firm for example with regards to its productivity or employment (e.g. Brandl, Mol, and Petersen, 2017; Bunyaratavej, Hahn, and Doh, 2007; Hummels et al. 2014; Kasahara and Rodrigue, 2008; Larsen, Manning, and Pedersen., 2013).

Remarkably absent in this literature, however, is a profound discussion of the impact of GVCs on firm innovation (Pietrobelli and Rabellotti, 2011; Van Assche, 2016). This lack of insight is interesting especially when considering the importance of innovation in the contemporary international business environment. For example, the fine slicing of value chains also implies that R&D activities can be geographically separated from manufacturing activities. However, while Farrell (2005) and Vivek, Richey, and Dalela (2009) suggest that this dispersion can benefit innovation, as it allows firms to free up resources that could be invested in R&D activities, others such as Pisano and Shih (2009), warn that spatial separation of manufacturing and R&D activities may in some cases undermine a company’s innovation capabilities. Furthermore, such dispersion increases the complexity of the firm’s operations, which can create challenges such as limitations on managerial bandwidth (Narula, 2014) or increased numbers of firm internal boundaries, which are potential sources of politics and strife (Schotter et al, 2017). This diversity in perspectives challenges our understanding of the phenomenon and call for further research. 

Moreover, like production, R&D and innovation processes have become “fine-sliced” and dispersed to different firms around the globe (Andersson et al., 2016; Cano-Kollmann et al. 2016; Mudambi, 2008). These global outsourcing activities result in a fundamental change of the nature of innovation. For example, many leading multinational enterprises (MNEs) have offshored R&D activities to China and India to capitalize on country specific assets such as the access to local talent pools (Chen, 2004; Lewin, Massini, and Peeters, 2009), thus generating both permanent relocations (Singh, 2008; Lahiri, 2010) and temporary intrafirm mobility (Choudhury, 2017) that significantly affect the way knowledge is sourced and recombined within the MNE. These activities are widespread despite the risks arising from poor institutional environments (Zhao, 2006), the potential challenges in managing knowledge workers from emerging economies (Tymon, Stumpf, and Doh, 2010) or impending issues with the coordination and communication among partner firms (Clampit et al., 2015; Larsen et al., 2013). 

Therefore, innovation increasingly takes place in global networks, where a variety of business and non-business actors from a range of locations participate in distinct ways to access to, generate and combine new knowledge (Levin and Barnard, 2013; Perri, Scalera, and Mudambi, 2017; Tzabbar and Vestal, 2016). An implication of this trend is a firm’s connectedness to the global innovation network, which should be a key feature of its innovation strategy, its capabilities, and its value-capture dynamics (Hannigan et al., 2015; Lorenzen and Mudambi, 2013; Perri et al., 2017).

This special issue aims to improve our understanding on the widespread diffusion of GVCs and its influence on the nature of innovation across country borders. We call for original contributions that shed light on how, where and when innovation happens in GVCs, by exploring the heterogeneity of participating actors, governance modes, knowledge networks’ linkages, and outcomes involved in internationally distributed innovation processes. We welcome both theoretical and empirical contributions adopting different perspectives, focusing on different levels of analysis, and applying different research methodologies. We particularly welcome empirical papers that make use of original data and multi-disciplinary theoretical perspectives. Possible research questions that would suit with this special issue include, but are not limited to the following:

·      Which factors drive the emergence of global innovation networks within GVCs? Do these factors differ from the drivers of global production networks? 

·      To what extent does the division of labor in innovation co-evolve with the division of labor in production? How do such co-evolution patterns influence the nature of innovation within global networks and their organization over time? 

·      Which types of linkages and connectivity channels are most conducive to knowledge exchange and creation in global innovation networks mediated by GVCs? Which characteristics of such linkages and channels affect the performance of the resulting innovation? Which kind of frictions do they generate to established knowledge creation modes in MNEs?

·      What are the most widespread governance modes for the management of global innovation networks in GVCs? How do they affect value-creation and value-capture dynamics of MNEs and other participating actors, and under which boundary conditions? 

·      What are the key coordinating roles that ensure an effective orchestration of global innovation networks? What actors are most likely to take them on?

·      To what extent has the role of geographical proximity changed as an enabler of actors’ interaction? Which formal and informal mechanisms can be leveraged in global innovation networks to balance local and global interactions?

·      How do GVCs-mediated innovation networks differ across industries? How do industrial and institutional changes affect such global innovation networks over time?

·      How does the geographical distribution of GVCs affect the dispersion of global innovation networks, and vice-versa? How does such relationship affect the nature of innovation? 

·      How do patterns of connectedness within and across GVC innovation networks differ depending on the level of development of the country or region? Which country- or region-level specific characteristics play a key role?

·      How do actors from emerging and peripheral regions participate in GVC innovation networks? Under which circumstances are these actors able to upgrade their position in global networks?

·      Does the entry of emerging economies in GVCs-mediated innovation networks threaten or buttress knowledge creation in advanced economies?

Submission process

Authors should submit complete manuscripts between the 1st and the 31st of May 2018 via the JWB EVISE online submission system at

To ensure that all manuscripts are correctly identified for consideration for this special issue, it is important that authors select ‘SI: Innovation in GVCs’ when they reach the “Article Type” step in the online submission process. Manuscripts should be prepared in accordance with the JWB Guide for Authors available on the journal web page. All submitted manuscripts will be subject to the JWB’s blind review process.

Research Data

Research data forms the backbone of research articles and provides the foundation on which knowledge is built.  Researchers are increasingly encouraged, or even mandated, to make research data available, accessible, discoverable and usable.  Although not mandatory, the journal encourages authors to submit their data at the same time as their manuscript. Further information can be found at:

Questions about the Special Issue may be directed to the guest editors or supervising editor:

Ari Van Assche, HEC Montréal, [log in to unmask]" class="">[log in to unmask]

Kristin Brandl, University of Victoria, [log in to unmask]" class="">[log in to unmask]

Alessandra Perri, Ca' Foscari University of Venice, [log in to unmask]" class="">[log in to unmask]

Vittoria G. Scalera, University of Amsterdam, [log in to unmask]" class="">[log in to unmask]

Bjoern Ambos, University of St. Gallen, [log in to unmask]" class="">[log in to unmask]



Andersson, U., Dasí, À., Mudambi, R., & Pedersen, T. (2016). Technology, innovation and knowledge: The importance of ideas and international connectivity. Journal of World Business, 51(1), 153-162.

Brandl, K., Mol, M.J., & Petersen, B. (2017) The Reconfiguration of Service Production Systems in Response to Offshoring - A Practice Theory Perspective. International Journal of Operations and Production Management37 (9), forthcoming

Bunyaratavej, K., Hahn, E. D., & Doh, J. P. (2007). International offshoring of services: A parity study. Journal of International Management, 13(1), 7-21.

Cano-Kollmann, M., Cantwell, J., Hannigan, T. J., Mudambi, R., & Song, J. (2016). Knowledge connectivity: An agenda for innovation research in international business. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(3), 255-262.

Chen, S. H. (2004). Taiwanese IT firms’ offshore R&D in China and the connection with the global innovation network. Research Policy, 33(2), 337-349.

Choudhury, P. (2017). Innovation Outcomes in a Distributed Organization: Intrafirm Mobility and Access to Resources. Organization Science, 28(2), 339-354.

Clampit, J., Kedia, B., Fabian, F., & Gaffney, N. (2015). Offshoring satisfaction: The role of partnership credibility and cultural complementarity. Journal of World Business, 50(1), 79-93.

Doh, J., Bunyaratavej, K., & Hahn, E. (2009). Separable but not equal: The location determinants of discrete services offshoring activities. Journal of International Business Studies, 40(6), 926-943.

Farinas, J., & MartínMarcos, A. (2010). Foreign sourcing and productivity: evidence at the firm level. The World Economy, 33(3), 482-506.

Farrell, D. (2005). Offshoring: Value creation through economic change. Journal of Management Studies, 42(3), 675-683.

Gereffi, G., Humphrey, J. & Sturgeon, T. (2005). The governance of global value chains. Review of International Political Economy, 12(1), 78-104.

Hannigan, T.J., Cano-Kollmann, M., & Mudambi, R. (2015). Thriving innovation amidst manufacturing decline: the Detroit auto cluster and the resilience of local knowledge production. Industrial and Corporate Change, 24(3), 613-634.

Hummels, D., Jørgensen, R., Munch, J., & Xiang, C. (2014). The wage effects of offshoring: evidence from Danish matched worker-firm data. American Economic Review, 104(6), 1597-1629.

Jensen, P., & Pedersen, T. (2011). The economic geography of offshoring: the fit between activities and local context. Journal of Management Studies, 48(2), 352-372.

Kasahara, H., & J. Rodriguez. (2008). Does the use of imported intermediates increase productivity? Plant-level evidence. Journal of Development Economics, 87(1), 106-118.

Kedia, B., & Mukherjee, D. (2009). Understanding offshoring: A research framework based on disintegration, location and externalization advantages. Journal of World Business, 44(3), 250-261.

Lahiri, N. (2010). Geographic distribution of R&D activity: How does it affect innovation quality? Academy of Management Journal, 53(5), 1194–1209.

Larsen, M. M., Manning, S., & Pedersen, T. (2013). Uncovering the hidden costs of offshoring: The interplay of complexity, organizational design, and experience. Strategic Management Journal, 34(5), 533-552.

Levin, D. Z., & Barnard, H. (2013). Connections to distant knowledge: Interpersonal ties between more-and less-developed countries. Journal of International Business Studies, 44(7), 676-698.

Lewin, A., Massini, S., & Peeters, C. (2009). Why are companies offshoring innovation? The emerging global race for talent. Journal of International Business Studies, 40(6), 901-925.

Lorenzen, M., & Mudambi, R. (2013). Clusters, connectivity and catch-up: Bollywood and Bangalore in the global economy. Journal of Economic Geography, 13, 501–534.

Ma, A. & Van Assche, A. (2016). Spatial Linkages and Export Processing Location in China. World Economy 39(3), 316-338.

Mudambi, R. (2008). Location, control and innovation in knowledge-intensive industries. Journal of Economic Geography, 8(5), 699-725.

Narula, R. (2014). Exploring the paradox of competence-creating subsidiaries: balancing bandwidth and dispersion in MNEs. Long Range Planning, 47(1-2), 4-15

Perri, A., Scalera, V.G. & Mudambi, R. (2017) What are the most promising sources of foreign knowledge? Innovation catch-up in the Chinese Pharmaceutical Industry. Industrial and Corporate Change26(2), 333-355.

Pietrobelli, C., & Rabellotti, R. (2011). Global value chains meet innovation systems: are there learning opportunities for developing countries? World development, 39(7), 1261-1269.

Pisano G., & Shih W. (2009) Restoring American competitiveness, Harvard Business Review 87, 114–125. 

Schmeisser, B. (2013). A systematic review of literature on offshoring of value chain activities. Journal of International Management, 19(4), 390-406.

Schotter, A., Mudambi, R., Doz, Y & Gaur, A. (2017). Boundary spanning in global organizations. Journal of Management Studies, forthcoming.

Singh, J. (2008). Distributed R&D, cross-regional knowledge integration and quality of innovative output. Research Policy, 37(1),:77–96

Suder, G., Liesch, P., Inomata, S., Mihailova, I., & Meng, B. (2015). The evolving geography of production hubs and regional value chains across East Asia: Trade in value-added. Journal of World Business, 50(3), 404-416.

Turkina, E., Van Assche, A., & Kali, R. (2016). Structure and evolution of global cluster networks: Evidence from the aerospace industry. Journal of Economic Geography, forthcoming.

Tymon, W. G., Stumpf, S. A., & Doh, J. P. (2010). Exploring talent management in India: The neglected role of intrinsic rewards. Journal of World Business, 45(2), 109-121.

Tzabbar, D., & Vestal, A. (2016). Bridging the Social Chasm in Geographically Distributed R&D Teams: The Moderating Effects of Relational Strength and Status Asymmetry on the Novelty of Team Innovation. Organization Science, forthcoming.

Van Assche, A. (2016). Global value chains and innovation. In H. Bathelt., P. Cohendet, S. Henn and L. Simon (eds.). The Elgar Companion to Innovation and Knowledge Creation: A Multi-disciplinary Approach, Edward Elgar. Forthcoming.

Vivek, S. D., Richey, R. G., & Dalela, V. (2009). A longitudinal examination of partnership governance in offshoring: A moving target. Journal of World Business, 44(1), 16-30.

Zhao, M. (2006). Conducting R&D in countries with weak intellectual property rights protection. Management Science, 52(8), 1185-1199.


Prof. Dr. Björn Ambos 
Director,  Institute of Management (IFB)
Senior Editor, Journal of World Business
University of St. Gallen
Dufourstrasse 40a  
CH 9000 St. Gallen (Switzerland)
Fon ++41 (0) 71 / 224 7610, Fax ++41 (0) 71 / 224 2355
E-Mail: [log in to unmask]

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