This paper examines how multinational enterprises (MNEs) and local partners, including suppliers, customers and competitors in China, improve their innovation capabilities through collaboration. We analyse this collaboration as a three-way interaction between the ownership specific (O) advantages or firm-specific assets (FSAs) of the MNE subsidiary, the FSAs of the local partner, and the location-specific assets of the host location. Our propositions are examined through a survey of 320 firms, supplemented with 30 in-depth case studies. We find that the recombination of asset-type (Oa) FSAs and transaction-type (Ot) FSAs from both partners leads to new innovation-related ownership advantages, or ‘recombinant advantages’. The study reveals important patterns of reciprocal transfer, sharing and integration for different asset categories (tacit, codified) and different forms of FSA and explicitly links these to different innovation performance outcomes. Ot FSAs, in the form of access to local suppliers, customers or government networks are particularly important for reducing the liability of foreignness for MNEs.