Migration and Innovation

Session organizers:

Stefano Breschi (stefano.breschi@unibocconi.it), Francesco Lissoni (francesco.lissoni@u-bordeaux.fr), Andrea Morrison (a.morrison@uu.nl)


The impact of migration on innovation has becoming a hot topic today due to the steady increase in the share of highly educated individuals on total migration flows. Special attention has been devoted to the circulation of scientists, researchers and highly skilled workers across the globe. More generally, migration has been historically a key channel through which knowledge, skills and ideas have circulated worldwide.  From the perspective of destination countries, migration has been associated with positive economic outcomes, as highly skilled migrants tend to contribute disproportionally to innovation and entrepreneurship.

However, it is highly debated whether these outcomes contribute to further concentrate innovation activities in specific location and technologies. Similarly, the dependence on the immigration of foreign workers can be seen as a source of instability and threat for the technological leadership of several countries.  From the perspective of the countries of origin, migration has been associated mainly to negative economic outcomes, due to the loss of skills and human capital (“brain drain”). However, it has been suggested that migration can generate positive feedbacks in the form of knowledge spillovers, returnee entrepreneurs and mediation of capital inflows (FDI, MNCs).  This special session aims to bring together scholars working on migration, innovation or development, and with an interest in the aforementioned debates. We welcome theoretical, empirical and methodological studies focusing on destination or origin countries, recent or past (historical) migration episodes.

Possible topics include:  social networks and diaspora-related knowledge externalities,  return migration and entrepreneurship in origin countries  migration and  regional/urban diversification in destination countries migration and trade/FDI flows  brain drain and brain drain reversal  migration and innovation/technological change in destination/origin countries Long term effect of migration (historical) on the economic growth/innovation of destination countries  Migration and spatial concentration of innovation