Abstract: An Earlier Experience of Knowledge and Technology Transfer: The Case of Derosne & Cail in Cuba in the Nineteenth Century

David Pretel


This paper explores the relationship between foreign MNEs and the transfer of knowledge and technology in emerging markets. This crucial yet under-researched aspect of FDI is approached in two ways: first, through a review of the concepts proposed by the literature of international business; and second, through a long-term, empirical analysis of the operations of a prominent MNE in Cuba in the nineteenth century. We examine the transnational operations of the French firm ''Derosne & Cail,'' one the most innovative engineering firms in the mid-nineteenth century as well as one of the first European companies supplying advanced technology to sugar industry and railway equipment through an extensive network of factories, representatives, agents, and branches across four continents. We will focus especially on one of these branches, sugar machinery, taking into account that this firm was one of the world's main developers, producers, and sellers of sugar technology in the nineteenth century. The transfer of technical innovations in the Caribbean was probably its main goal. Derosne and Cail followed a global strategy from its beginning in 1812 using foreign agents and offices, the management of intellectual property rights, and encouraging the relationship of the firm with local ''agents.'' Our case study will demonstrate an early experience (much earlier than the proliferation of MNEs) of an astute, successfully global strategy of diversification and internationalization, effectively harnessing an extensive international network of intermediaries that turned this company in one of the first European multinationals.