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Collaborative R&D capabilities - In search of micro-foundations

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The aim of this thesis is to improve the understanding of how collaborative R&D capabilities comeabout and how they are jointly determined by individual and organizational level factors. I arguethat despite the fact that a surge of interest in inter-organizational collaboration has been witnessedin research fields as diverse as strategic management, economics, sociology, and organizationtheory, we know very little about the micro-foundations of collaborative R&D capabilities.Processes going on internally in collaborating firms are treated like a ‘black box’ in many strands ofresearch. How, we may ask, does openness towards external knowledge sources lead to enhancedR&D performance? What are the internal organizational mechanisms that facilitate thecollaborative processes? How are specific collaborative capabilities developed to ensurecollaborative success, and—most importantly—what is their composition in terms of organizationaland individual level factors?In this thesis these and related questions are addressed by means of empirical as well astheoretical analyses. It is argued that studies of strategic alliances and R&D collaborations havesuffered from being mainly conducted on large datasets and with little attention to individual levelfactors that may be key drivers of alliance success. The case-study methodology is emphasized as auseful complementary method as it entails the option of learning from the employees engaged in theformation and operation of collaborative arrangements. Three narrative studies are undertaken withthe aim of identifying the micro-foundations of collaborative R&D capability in the firms. This isdone to provide an explorative overview of the determinants rather than to evaluate the degree towhich the capabilities have been implemented successfully leading to better performance. Theobjective is thus to challenge the existing theories in the field of strategic alliances and to qualifythem by joining theoretical knowledge about firm level benefits of R&D alliances with theories onindividual level work motivation, and behaviors in connection to R&D collaboration.The study is focused on knowledge intensive firms (as distinct from ‘supplier dominatedfirms’, ‘specialized equipment suppliers’ or ‘scale intensive firms’). It is stressed that even coreknowledge used in the various R&D or innovation processes does not necessarily need to stem fromsources internal to the firm, but is likely to originate externally. R&D collaboration has become animportant means to foster opportunities to learn, and to access, transfer and utilize knowledge tocreate innovative solutions But very high failure rates are shown and between fifty and seventy percent of all alliances do not justify the expectations. This vindicates a better understanding ofcollaborative R&D capabilities. A study of the micro-foundations of these capabilities is bothtimely and warranted.

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Line Gry Knudsen

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