|This paper investigates to which extent exporters, importers and multinational firms have a greater propensity to start innovation activities. We merge two consecutive French Community Innovation Surveys (CIS), and apply the model of Crépon et al. (1998) to a sample of first-time innovators (“switchers”), which are compared to firms that do not engage in innovation activities. We estimate the probability of becoming an innovative firm depending on past international experience, which allows us to test the idea that firms learn from foreign markets. It appears that firms that both export and import are more likely to start investing in R&D, but international activities do not affect R&D intensity. Regardless of size, industry, ownership and R&D intensity, firms that both export and import and multinational firms are found more likely to become innovators, by introducing new products for their markets and/or new patents. Finally, knowledge production is found to increase productivity in the next period. These findings are consistent with the existence of learning effects through international activities. This study also contributes to comparing the innovation process of longtime innovators and switchers, and suggests that the latter less depend on R&D expenses, market power and size in order to produce knowledge.