Inderscience Publishers

Technological capabilities in multinational agribusiness

With a sample of 18,611 utility patents, this paper studies the patent mix of 90 of the world's leading food and beverage multinationals (FBMs) from 1969-1994. It explores the statistical association within companies between patenting in food technology, in agriculture and in ten non-food technological fields. Food patenting is always positively associated with patenting in Biotech, Chemicals, Machinery and Other (e.g. textiles) technological fields, whatever the home country of the firm. The strongest associations arise between Food and Chemicals, and Food and Other technological fields. The multinational agrifood sector displays a common knowledge base across companies. Firms strategically combine such different types of technological capabilities in a variety of industrial situations, including sub-samples of both core-centred FBMs and unrelated FBMs, (i.e. companies diversifying into the chemicals/drugs or other industries). This suggests a strategic technological role for seemingly unrelated technological diversification, contrary to most received views.

Keywords: food and drink industry, innovation, multinational enterprises, patent mix, technological capabilities

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