In this paper by Neo Siping Luo, Mary E. Lovely, & David Popp "Intellectual returnees" are defined as
. . . skilled persons who study or work in an advanced economy and subsequently return to their country of origin to engage in technology-related activities (Mountford, 1997; Kapur and McHale, 2005; Zucker and Darby, 2007) (p. 1).
And their influence seems to be important. From the abstract
Using nonlinear methods, we find robust evidence that returnees positively influence patenting activity and also promote neighboring firm innovation.
The authors analyze photovoltaic energy production in China, which the authors argue went from being almost non-existent to the world third largest in less than a decade.
During China’s PV industry development process, intellectual returnees played a crucial role in mastering the technology and techniques needed to produce for export. Pioneers in the industry are the well known “three returnees of China’s photovoltaic,” Huaijin Yang, Zhengrong Shi, and Jianhua Zhao. These three men, originally from Jiangsu province, studied photovoltaic technology in Australia in the 1990s, and then returned to China with advanced technology and foreign capital to start firms using China’s relatively low-wage skilled labor force (p. 5).Besides the three famous returnees, there are many more working in that sector.
A draft of the paper is here.