Abstract: Less Transfer than Transformation: The Formation and Evolution of Corning's Avon Laboratory

Margaret Graham


This paper looks at the institutionalization of transnational technology transfer at Corning, Inc., one of the first U.S. companies to form an international R&D network. The formation of Corning's Avon Laboratory near Fontainebleau, France, was the first step in this process. In 1972, when Corning devised a strategy to "grow" an international laboratory, it envisioned a multi-lingual research staff at a greenfield site in an "international" location (Geneva or Brussels). Business realities forced the company instead to "make do" with the Avon Laboratory. The small parochial French laboratory was a poor vehicle for its original purpose—product adaptation for multiple European markets. But Avon more than justified its existence for Corning's evolving research network. The bridge it provided between Corning's French and U.S. operations enabled a two-way flow of knowledge, and the sharing of complementary experience helped to renew and transform Corning's central laboratory at a critical time.