FDI and cities: new approaches, fresh insights, and new challenges for MNEs and investment policy


Guest Editors:

Helen S. Du, Ana Colovic, Christopher Williams, NEOMA Business School, France

Submission deadline: February 28, 2022

Background and Motivation:

Cities play an important role in the world economy. Tellingly, most MNE investment activity is carried out in cities. Scholars have often treated MNE FDI as a country-level phenomenon (Colovic, 2010; Dunning, 1993; Rugman & Nguyen, 2014). Recently, there has been a call to delve deeper into finer-grained subnational geographic level for MNE FDI (Beugelsdijk & Mudambi, 2014; Nielsen, Asmussen, & Weatherall, 2017). Still the literature on FDI has paid insufficient attention to “cities” - a subnational level of places as the location for FDI. Nevertheless, there is a burgeoning literature on MNE FDI and cities. For example, some scholars have examined global cities (Beaverstock, Smith, & Taylor, 1999) as FDI locations (Belderbos, Du, & Goerzen, 2017; Chakravarty, 2019; Goerzen, Asmussen, & Nielsen, 2013; Ma, Delios, & Lau, 2013), while other scholars have examined FDI in other types of cities such as national capital cities (Hutzschenreuter & Harhoff, 2020) or FDI in emerging market cities (Chadee, Qiu, & Rose, 2003; Du & Williams, 2017).

While such pioneering studies on FDI and cities have advanced our understanding of the relationship between FDI and cities, many important aspects of this relationship remain underexplored in the literature. Issues related to those unclear aspects include how other types of cities rather than global cities are involved as recipients or sources of FDI, the impact of city-specific attributes such as city connectivity on FDI location choice, the role of cities in the spatial configuration of Global Value Chains (GVCs), MNE FDI in emerging market cities (not limited to China), the performance effects of FDI in different types of cities versus other locations, MNE innovation and entrepreneurial activity in cities, and the co-evolution between MNEs and cities. This Special Issue seeks to advance our knowledge of the relationship and the dynamic interplay between FDI and cities, and aims at addressing these types of issues.

COVID-19 has altered the world. In many cities business activities have been significantly reduced. The crisis has also changed the relationship between FDI and cities. On the one hand, MNE FDI has been significantly disrupted by the outbreak of COVID-19. The balance of benefits and costs associated with FDI in cities has shifted. For example, the difficulties in international travel and the risks of physical proximity have significantly increased the costs of FDI. How will MNEs tackle these new challenges when conducting FDI in cities of foreign countries in the post-pandemic era? On the other hand, cities are expected to be in even greater intensive competition with each other to attract FDI post-pandemic, as the virtual interaction and remote working models become more viable. How will city leaders and investment agencies respond to these challenges to attract and benefit from FDI in the years ahead? This Special Issue aims at examining and critically reflecting upon the issues related to new challenges for MNEs and cities in the future.

Goals and Topics:

This Special Issue invites empirical and theoretical research papers that investigate the relationship between FDI and cities. An illustrative list includes, but is not limited to, the following themes:

• The location choice of FDI and cities
- The city-level locational characteristics that attract or discourage MNE FDI in cities.
- Global Value Chains and cities: how do MNEs strategically configure their different value chain activities such as headquarters, R&D, manufacturing, marketing and services, in different types of cities such as global cities, regional hub cities, and small cities?
- FDI in cities of developing countries and emerging markets: how do MNEs invest in emerging market cities?

• Global connections – the dynamic interplay between the city and MNEs
- How does city connectivity impact FDI location choice?
- How are cities connected between them and what role does FDI play in this process?
- How do the characteristics of a city influence the network relationships and joint activities with other city actors?

• The performance effects of FDI in cities
- How do FDIs located in different types of cities (global cities, regional hub cities, local cities, or other locations) influence MNE performance?
- What are the consequences and outcomes from MNE FDI in different types of cities?

• The co-evolution between multinational firms and cities
- What kind of cities have greater inward or outward FDI flows?
- How do MNE FDI activities shape the city’s economy, knowledge base and its social and cultural environment?

• Entrepreneurship and cities
- How do cities foster MNE innovation and entrepreneurial activity?
- How do MNEs carry out their innovation and entrepreneurial FDI in cities?
- How does MNE FDI promote the city to become a knowledge city, a creative city and finally an intelligent city?

• FDI in cities in the post-pandemic era: new challenges for MNEs and cities
- What is the impact of COVID-19 on inward or outward FDI flows in global cities, regional hub cities or local cities?
- How does FDI influence relevant recovery and resilience strategies by city leaders?
- What is the impact of COVID-19 on FDI in cities and how do MNE managers tackle the new challenges of internationalization in the post-pandemic era?


1. All papers will be subject to double-blind peer review, according to author guidelines available at https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/journal/cr?id=CR#author-guidelines
2. Submissions to Competitiveness Review are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/comprev (please select the correct special issue from the drop-down menu)
Submission deadline: February 28, 2022


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Belderbos, R., Du, H.S., & Goerzen, A. (2017). Global cities, connectivity and the location choice of MNC regional headquarters. Journal of Management Studies, 54, 1271–1302.

Beugelsdijk, S., & Mudambi, R. (2014). MNEs as border-crossing multi-location enterprises: The role of discontinuities in geographic space, Location of international business activities. Springer.

Chadee, D. D., Qiu, F., & Rose, E. L. (2003). FDI location at the subnational level: a study of EJVs in China. Journal of Business Research, 56(10), 835-845.

Chakravarty, D. (2019). Foreign direct investment in global cities and Co-ethnic clusters: Characteristics, performance, and survival. AIB Insights, 19(3), 7–11.

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Du, J., & Williams, C. (2017). Innovative projects between MNE subsidiaries and local partners in China: Exploring locations and inter-organizational trust. Journal of International Management, 23(1), 16-31.

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Hutzschenreuter, T., & Harhoff, P.-L. (2020). National capital city location and subsidiary portfolio expansion: The negative effect of geographic distance to the capital city at inception on the speed of subsequent investments. Journal of International Business Studies, 1–26.

Ma, X., Delios, A., & Lau, C.-M. (2013). Beijing or Shanghai? The strategic location choice of large MNEs’ host-country headquarters in China. Journal of International Business Studies, 44(9), 953–961.

Nielsen, B. B., Asmussen, C. G., & Weatherall, C. D. (2017). The location choice of foreign direct investments: Empirical evidence and methodological challenges. Journal of World Business, 52(1), 62-82.

Rugman, A.M., & Nguyen, Q.T.K. (2014). Modern international business theory and emerging market multinational companies. In A. Cuervo-Cazurra & R. Ramamurti (Eds.), Understanding Multinationals from Emerging Markets: 53-80. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.