Inter-organizational relationships in innovation processes : a microfoundations approach

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Doctoral thesis (article-based)
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Helsinki University of Technology, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management doctoral dissertation series, 2009/1
Microfoundations have emerged as an important theme in strategic management research. The aim is to increase current understanding of many central issues of strategic management through studying organizations from the perspective of individual actions and interactions. This thesis takes the microfoundations approach to the study of inter-organizational relationships in invention and innovation processes. The key objective is to provide new insights about how to successfully utilize and manage inter-organizational relationships for new knowledge creation and exploitation. The main theoretical approaches used in the thesis are the resource-based view of the firm, the knowledge-based view and the social capital perspective. In addition to contributing to these theoretical approaches by adopting the microfoundations perspective, this thesis supports managerial practice in performing R&D collaboration. The thesis includes four individual publications, which are based on a case study approach. Publications I and II explore the role and nature of inter-organizational relationships in invention processes. They describe how inventors utilize external knowledge in the development of patents, and demonstrate the benefits of their external interactions for a firm as enhanced competitiveness and learning. As a key contribution, publications I and II reveal how inventors' informal interactions in R&D consortia and with suppliers and customers influence knowledge creation. The results are based on interviews with the inventors and a survey that covers 90 patent development processes in 1996-2004 in the case company that acts in the telecommunications sector. Publications III and IV examine managerial actions that contribute to successful implementation of collaborative R&D projects. Whilst prior research has determined the enabling conditions of successful knowledge creation and exploitation in inter-organizational relationships, publication III links these conditions with managerial actions such as the definition of clear project roles and responsibilities and customer education and training. These findings are derived from a case study of five collaborative R&D projects in the telecommunications sector. Publication IV examines how managers cope with project dynamics i.e. sudden changes that occur during a project. Earlier research has emphasized the importance of the topic, whilst it has been little studied previously. Publication IV develops a generic change management process for inter-firm R&D projects and assists in its implementation. These results are derived from a case study of two inter-firm R&D projects in the telecommunications sector.
collaboration, innovation, inter-organizational relationships, knowledge, microfoundations, patent
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  • [Publication 1]: Mona Weck and Kirsimarja Blomqvist. 2008. The role of inter-organizational relationships in the development of patents: A knowledge-based approach. Research Policy, volume 37, number 8, pages 1329-1336. © 2008 by authors and © 2008 Elsevier Science. By permission.
  • [Publication 2]: Mona Weck. 2005. Search-transfer behavior, knowledge heterogeneity and organizational learning. In: Proceedings of the 2005 IEEE International Engineering Management Conference (IEMC 2005). St. John's, Canada. 11-13 September 2005, pages 822-826. © 2005 IEEE. By permission.
  • [Publication 3]: Mona Weck. 2006. Knowledge creation and exploitation in collaborative R&D projects: Lessons learned on success factors. Knowledge and Process Management, volume 13, number 4, pages 252-263. © 2006 by author and © 2006 John Wiley & Sons. By permission.
  • [Publication 4]: M. Weck. 2005. Coping with project dynamics in an inter-firm project context. Production Planning & Control, volume 16, number 4, pages 396-404.