Hochschule Karlsruhe Hochschule Karlsruhe - University of Applied Sciences
Hochschule Karlsruhe Hochschule Karlsruhe - University of Applied Sciences

Globalization Highly qualified

Globalization and relocation trends among highly skilled


The objective of this study is to use an exploratory approach to gain in-depth insights into the patterns and trends of internationalization of high-skilled activities, as the globalization of economic activities and, consequently, the international division of labor have advanced extremely dynamically in recent decades. Whereas until the 1980s mainly rather simple, manufacturing activities were located abroad or relocated there, since the 1990s at the latest, higher-skilled activities have also increasingly been affected by internationalization.
The central cornerstone of the approach is qualitative expert interviews in selected companies. These are flanked by a data screening on the globalization of R & D in order to be able to make a rough classification in the overall emerging developments in this context. Guiding these topics are:

  • State and scope of global location of R & amp;D activities
  • Motives and strategies for locating activities abroad, particularly in the areas of R&D and software development
  • Development and trends of the described activities over the last ten years in terms of target countries and strategies
  • Re-concentrations, relocations, or refocusing of R & D or software development activities at German sites
  • The role of the megatrend Industry 4.0 (in particular the increasing digitalization and networking of business processes) with regard to globalization or concentration of activities at existing locations

Central results and main findings

Valuable conclusions can be drawn from the data from the Stifterverband on how the global R&D expenditures of German industrial companies have developed in recent years. However, the current edge of this data only extends to 2013. Moreover, no differentiation is possible according to different target countries for the location of R&D activities.

  • The share of R&D expenditures provided abroad by German manufacturing has increased from about 24% of total R&D expenditures in 2007 to about 32% in 2013. The stronger R & D commitment of German industrial companies abroad is therefore not at the expense of domestic R & D activities, but seems to stimulate them equally.
  • Clearly dominant is vehicle manufacturing, whose share of German manufacturing's R&D expenditure increased significantly from 52% in 2007 to 58% in 2013. German vehicle manufacturing thus continues to generate an above-average proportion of its R&D activities in Germany.
  • The mechanical engineering has increased the share of its R&D expenditure abroad from 30% in 2007 to around 38% in 2013. In the case of manufacturers of data processing equipment, electronic and optical products, and electrical equipment, foreign R&D expenditure also increased very strongly during the period under review (by almost 150%), while domestic R&D expenditure fell by around a quarter. In both industries, therefore, the internationalization of R&D activities appears to be partly at the expense of the industry-specific R&D commitment at the German location.
  • The pharmaceutical industry plays a special role. Here, from 2007 to 2013, the foreign R & D expenditures were almost doubled, but in the domestic market even increased by more than a factor of four. The global, strong R & amp;E growth of this industry has thus particularly favored Germany as a location for innovation.

Study duration

  • 2016 to 2017

Funding by

  • IG Metall
  • Hans Böckler Foundation


  • Prof. Dr. Steffen Kinkel
  • Ralph Lichtner


Prof. Dr. Steffen Kinkel

Phone: +49 (0)721 925-2915
Fax: +49 (0)721 925-2965
steffen.kinkelspam prevention@h-ka.de

Geb. E, Raum 105
Moltkestraße 30
76133 Karlsruhe