Working Paper
International Mobility of Engineers and the Rise of Entrepreneurship in the Periphery

By 2000, over one-third of Silicon Valley’s high-skilled workers were foreign-born, and overwhelmingly from Asia. These US-educated engineers are transforming developmental opportunities for formerly peripheral regions as they build professional and business connections to their home countries. In a process more akin to ‘brain circulation’ than ‘brain drain’, these engineers and entrepreneurs, aided by the lowered transaction costs associated with digitization, are transferring technical and institutional know-how between distant regional economies faster and more flexibly than most large corporations. This paper examines how Chinese- and Indian-born engineers are contributing to highly localized processes of entrepreneurial experimentation in their home countries, while maintain close ties to the technology and markets in Silicon Valley.