Knowledge-intensive Spinoffs in the Mexican automotive industry

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Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Puebla (2016)


global value chains, Knowledge-intensive SMEs, Regional Innovation Systems, Spin-offs


The creation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in knowledge-intensive activities in Mexico are linked to two types of enabling environments: technological spillovers and interactive learning from the multinational companies (MNC) operating in the country, and the maturation of Regional Innovation Systems (RIS) in various regions of Mexico.
It is generally accepted that learning and innovation are key elements for the competitiveness and growth of countries, regions and companies. According to Pietrobelli and Rabellotti (2011), companies located in less developed countries learn and innovate based on their participation in global value chains (GVC) because they have to meet product quality, delivery times, production costs, labor and environmental requirements.
In this paper we analyze the convergence of knowledge spillovers from automotive companies with the enabling conditions of the RIS in the process of creating SMEs, known in the literature as spinoffs. These new technology-based companies are related to the learning and innovation rooted in the local territory, and in turn linked to two kinds of governance; GVC and RIS governances. The latter related to the processes of knowledge transfer and innovation among businesses, government and institutions of higher education, specifically through linkages and interactions between these actors (Cooke, 2001; Gereffi et al, 2005).
The research questions are: (1) What is the role of the multinational automotive companies operating in Mexico in the creation of knowledge-intensive spinoffs? (2) How the new technological spinoffs are linked with their regional innovation system? and (3) How the CGV and RIS approaches can be combined to explain the creation of high-value added spinoffs?
We use two complementary approaches: Global Value Chains (Gereffi et al, 2005; Pietrobelli and Rabellotti, 2011) and Regional Innovation Systems (Lundvall, 2007; Cooke, 2001; Trippl, 2009), under the argument that knowledge-intensive spinoffs are the result of organizational learning, knowledge capabilities, innovation, social and professional networks as well as specific regional policies and dynamics in the context of CGV and SRI.
Likewise, the literature has been emphasizing the role of MNC as bearers of knowledge in the GVC and their need to transfer technical and managerial knowledge to their employees and to local companies in order to upgrade their technical and managerial skills, and thus meet the standards and specifications in the GVC. Particularly, these knowledge transfer processes become more evident in knowledge-intensive sectors such as automotive and aerospace. Therefore, knowledge transfer processes from the MNC to its employees are a catalyst for the formation spinoffs (Gereffi et al, 2005; Contreras and Carrillo, 2012).
In this work we analyze the mechanisms of creation and consolidation of SMEs in the automotive industry by analyzing entrepreneurial spinoffs created after the NAFTA. Semi-structured interviews to owners of SMEs in different cities in Mexico were conducted. The individuals interviewed were selected according to the following criteria: (1) owners of a micro, small or medium sized enterprise; (2) the firm belongs to the automotive industry; (3) the owner is a former employee of the automotive industry; and (4) the firm is a supplier of high value-added products or services of at least one MNC in that sector. To identify companies that met these criteria, the “snowball” technique was used as well as key informants from the business environment in the cities selected.
The preliminary results show that most of the new knowledge-intensive spinoffs in automotive industry have been created in a close interaction with the MNC through interactive learning processes. The knowledge and technologies transferred to the SMEs prompts upgrade their organizational capabilities, therefore affecting their performance and profitability. Even more, some spinoffs firms become suppliers of the automotive companies. Additionally, the former employees are linked to the RIS through regional agents and institutions, especially with technical and academic training institutions, by using government funds for innovation and by carrying out joint projects with universities and research centers.

Copyright© Gerpisa
Concéption Tommaso Pardi
Administration Géry Deffontaines

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