Under the headline of Two Sides of Brain-Circulation the role of researcher intersectoral and international mobility is discussed today in a conference organized by the EC and by the Austrian BMWFW.

The literature has shown that labor mobility is a determinant of firm performance (Boschma, Eriksson, & Lindgren, 2009; Balsvik 2012) and of innovation in particular (Herstad, Sandven, & Ebersberger, 2015). Additionally the a recent study commissioned by the EC has highlighted that there is considerable room for increasing researchers’ mobility:

  • 14 % – 18 % of EU HEI researchers of have been internationally mobile during their PhD
  • 30 % of EU HEI researchers were mobile (> 3 months) in the last 10 years after PhD
  • 31 % of EU HEI researchers have NEVER been internationally mobile post PhD
  • 23 % of EU researchers currently outside of EU consider returning to EU
  • 72 % of non-EU researchers formerly in EU would have liked to stay
  • 77 % of EU HEI researchers collaborate internationally
    • more with academic partners than with industry
    • collaboration happens more frequently in later career stages
    • previous mobility and collaboration correlate
  • Virtual collaboration technology is important for international collaboration / partially substitutes travel
  • 30 % of EU HEI researchers have been inter-sectorally mobile
    • 12 % industry
    • 7 % private / non-profit
    • 15 % government

The literature also highlights that mobility might not be so bad for the countries or the firms the mobility originates from. Considerable spillovers back to the origin are to be expected (Agrawal, Cockburn, & McHale, 2006; Oettl & Agrawal, 2008). The transmission mechanism is the social ties developed on a workplace that last longer than the contractual arrangements.

Gone but not forgotten. 



Agrawal, A., Cockburn, I. & McHale, J. (2006). Gone but not forgotten: knowledge flows, labor mobility, and enduring social relationships. Journal of Economic Geography, 6 (5), 571–591. doi:10.1093/jeg/lbl016.

Balsvik, R. (2011). Is labor mobility a chanell for spillovers from multinationals? Evidence from norwegian manufacturing. Review of Economics and Statistics, 93 (1), 285–297.

Boschma, R., Eriksson, R. & Lindgren, U. (2009. How does labour mobility affect the performance of plants? The importance of relatedness and geographical proximity. Journal of Economic Geography, 9 (2), 169–190. doi:10.1093/jeg/lbn041.

Boschma, R.A. (2005). Proximity and Innovation: A Critical Assessment. Regional Studies, 39 (1), 61–74. doi:10.1080/0034340052000320887.

Herstad, S.J., Sandven, T. & Ebersberger, B. (2015). Recruitment, knowledge integration and modes of innovation. Research Policy, forthc. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2014.06.007.

Oettl, A. & Agrawal, A. (2008). International labor mobility and knowledge flow externalities. Journal of International Business Studies, 39 (8), 1242–1260. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400358.