Diffusion of knowledge through migration of scientific labour in India

Kale, Dinar; Wield, David and Chataway, Jo (2008). Diffusion of knowledge through migration of scientific labour in India. Science and Public Policy, 35(6) pp. 417–430.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3152/030234208X331245


'Brain drain' is often viewed as a curse for developing countries like India and China but recent analysis suggests that in the current global competitive environment, the 'brain drain' may actually provide a crucial advantage to these countries. Over the years, these regions typically have been treated as low-cost production sites for multinational companies, but the ‘reverse brain drain’ of engineers or scientists educated and trained in the US or Europe can accelerate technological upgrading of these regional economies. Communities of such foreign educated scientists or engineers can provide the skill and know-how needed to help local firms shift to higher value added activities. However transfer of knowledge through human mobility is not a straight-forward process and that knowledge diffusion by hiring scientists is a complex process. This paper presents important insights regarding the issues affecting diffusion of knowledge through migration of scientific labour by using innovative Indian pharmaceutical firms as case studies.
The analysis of firm level ‘assimilation processes’ revealed the major issues such as generational differences of returnees, differences in working culture of Indian firms and western firms and importantly differences in requirements of the Indian firms and skills sets of returnees hampered effective diffusion of knowledge. It also shows that Indian firms responded to these issues by adopting global R&D management practises. The findings also suggest that firms require support of government policies in attracting returnees.

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