This paper studies how problem framing by research and development groups, in particular the extent of problem decomposition, impacts knowledge replication processes conducted through the use of virtual simulation tools (VSTs). It presents the results of a comparative study of two research and development groups working on the design of hybrid propulsion systems. The research contributes to the literature on strategy and innovation in four ways. First, we identify three organizational and strategic factors affecting the problem framing decision. Second, we analyse the impact of problem framing on the use of VSTs and the related effect on knowledge replication processes. Third, we show the emergence of a new VST-driven knowledge replication process, i.e. functional replication. Fourth, we explain how VST‐driven knowledge replication processes can attenuate the dangers related to the adoption of modular design strategies and address the replication vs. imitation dilemma.