Department of Management Studies

Location Research Project

A research project from International Business (IB) unit of Aalto University, School of Business examining the multiple meanings of the concept of location.


Helsinki City

A firm’s choice to relocate its headquarters depends on the interplay between physical and social aspects, and the social aspects constitute a key consideration. The shifting meaning of firm location reflects the global transformation of management activities. What constitutes the sense of place?

What does location mean?

Both large and small firms today are more capable to spread their management activities across various geographic locations. A firm's choice to relocate its headquarters depends on the interplay between physical and social aspects, and the social aspects constitute a key consideration in strategic decisions. 

Physical and perceptual factors of location should be considered jointly to develop a more elaborate understanding about “The sense of place”. 

We define physical location as the geographical and organizational arrangements of firms’ international activities. Perceptual location, in turn, refers to how internal and external stakeholders of the international firm such as employees, customers, suppliers, and owners understand a location. 

Silicon Valley is a mindset, not a location

Reid Hoffmann
yin-yang, location research project
Location: a physical or perceptual concept?

The shifting of firm location: from a physical setting to a perceptual sense of place

Locations are not passive, fixed entities. Emotional connections, feelings of belonging, or perceived rights and responsibilities comprise to the perceptual aspects of location that are perceived by different stakeholders. 

International firms shape the characteristics of their locations such as the cities in which they reside. Founders of start-ups ask themselves from day one where to establish their activities. How does "the sense of place" influence firms and start-up founders to make the location decision?

We argue that social aspects of locations should be considered jointly with physical aspects to develop a more elaborate understanding of the topic.

Keilaniemi, Location project
Keilaniemi, Helsinki City. Image: Espoon Kaupunki

Project's scope

In this project, we cover two types of organizations: established multinationals operating in multiple locations, this bound by their previous decisions, and startups that have yet to make their international location decisions. 

This project aims to contribute to the field of international business, economic geography, and strategic management by providing an integrative theoretical framework on the shifting meaning of firm location and its implications for policy-makers. 

We examine the shifting meaning of firm location in three parts:

1) physical aspects of location in the geographical and organizational arrangement of management activities

2) perceptual aspects of location

3) location as a concept that calls for problematization in international business research.

 

Research Work Packages

The project includes four work packages and will be executed in 4,5 years to explore, define the physical and perceptual of firm location, as well as conceptualize the meaning of location in international business activities. 

We have received funding from Marcus Wallenberg Foundation and from Academy Finland.

Work packages, location project
Focus area of the work packages

Research Team

portrait picture, research team

Rebecca Piekkari is the principal investigator in this project and Professor of International Business at Aalto University School of Business. She has written extensively on the organization of multinational corporations and its evolution over time. Her research has been published in the leading journals of management and international business such as Academy of Management Review, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of Management Studies.

portrait picture, location project

Perttu Kähäri is a Professor of Practice in International Business at Aalto University School of Business. He has a long practical experience of working in multinationals in various executive roles at corporate and regional headquarters as well as in local units. His research interests are related to management of multinationals, headquarters’ location and relocation, start-up internationalization and global logistics.

portrait picture, location project

Paulina Junni is an Assistant Professor of International Business at Aalto University School of Business. Her research interests relate to the strategic and sociocultural aspects of mergers and acquisitions, knowledge transfer, absorptive capacity, organizational ambidexterity, and strategic agility.

Saittakarin kv liiketoiminnan alan väitöskirja palkittu

Iiris Saittakari is a postdoctoral researcher in International Business at Aalto University School of Business. She defended her doctoral dissertation titled “The location of headquarters: Why, when and where are regional mandates located?” in May 2018. Her research interests are related to headquarters’ location and relocation, knowledge flows, foreign multinationals in small open economies and global value chains.

portrait picture, location project

Tiina Ritvala is an Assistant Professor of International Business at Aalto University School of Business. Her research focuses on international cross-sector partnerships and conflict, industry emergence, institutional change and sustainability in international business.

portrait picture, location project

Linyu Liu - Doctoral Candidate

portrait picture, location project

Jo Angouri - Professor at University of Warwick

portrait picture, location project

Jan Schmitt - Post doctoral researcher at WU Vienna

Department of Management Studies
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