When does knowledge acquisition in R&D alliances increase new product development?

Companies form Research & Development (R&D) alliances with the aim of developing and taking new products to market. This form of cooperation allows firms to acquire technological knowledge they'd otherwise have no access to. Such alliances may give participating firms an advantage in product development over competitors that plough their own furrow.

Although R&D alliances have been put under the academic spotlight before, this research transcends previous studies that have tended to look exclusively at either knowledge acquisition or product development. Instead it looks at the relationship between the two, examining when an R&D alliance enables firms to apply the knowledge they've acquired directly to product development.

This study looked at a sample of 44 manufacturing firms engaged in R&D alliances in the Information Technology industry, a sector where companies live and die by their ability to continually innovate and bring new products to market.

The study found that knowledge acquisition on average has a positive association with firms' numbers of new products. However it also finds that knowledge acquisition is substantially more beneficial for new product development when firms and their partners are active in similar technology domains, when their knowledge bases were closely related to those of their research partners and yet when they operate in distinct product markets. The benefits are substantially reduced if the firms are active in identical product markets.

The research study responds to calls in the innovation literature for a focus that integrates insights on knowledge acquisition with those on knowledge application. The study also points to several other avenues for research that can deepen understanding of the mechanisms connecting R&D alliances to firm performance.

A draft version of the research paper is available for download at the link below.

Article attachments Click on the attachments icons to download or open.