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The 24th EGOS Colloquium 2008  

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Postdoctoral pre-colloquium workshop

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Sub-theme 33:

Organizing Innovation by Collaborating: Exploring Inter-Organizational Relationships for Research and Technology Development



Bart Nooteboom
Tilburg University (The Netherlands)

Markus Perkmann
Loughborough University

Erik Stam
University of Cambridge (UK)

Call for papers

Collaborating with others has become the new imperative for organizations intent to develop new knowledge and technology (Nooteboom, 2000). An ever expanding literature stresses the importance of external sources of knowledge for organizations in the public, private and third sectors. Information and communication technologies have offered new opportunities for configuring and coordinating activities across different firms. Concepts such as open innovation, networked innovation, distributed innovation, interactive innovation (Chesbrough, 2003, Powell et al., 1996) are used for describing and theorizing this phenomenon.

Several trends indicate that external sources of innovation are becoming more important for organizations. First, knowledge required for innovating is more organizationally dispersed, particularly in rapidly changing areas such as biotechnology. Second, products include a broader range of different technologies. Third, some industries are moving towards open standards and modular innovation, and outsourcing strategies have expanded to include innovation-intensive components and systems. Fourth, outsourcing provides more speed and flexibility in the configuration of novel combinations. Finally, the type of participants involved in innovation processes is becoming more disparate, as e.g. in user-driven innovation.

In this context, collaboration offers opportunities. Corporations collaborate to leverage their R&D operations, access rare expertise and intellectual property and learn about scientific, technological and commercial developments (Teece, 1992; Cohen & Levinthal, 1990; Cohen et al., 2002). Universities collaborate with industry to learn about real world problems and access additional funding. Users and communities of users are enlisted in knowledge-finding missions to take advantage of user-lead innovation (Von Hippel, 2005).

Yet there can be trade-offs involved in collaboration for some or all the parties involved. Strategic alliances can be hampered by waiting games or struggles for influence. Provisions relating to intellectual property claims can never be fully codified and can therefore create problems before, during and after collaborative partnerships. Large corporations might off-load innovation costs onto their suppliers and create lock-in situations. Corporations might appropriate innovative concepts or product ideas from users or user communities. Widespread collaboration with industry might distract universities and their academics from their main missions.

This sub-theme invites contributions that help provide a differentiated and up-to-date picture of the tensions between the benefits and trade-offs involved in innovation-oriented inter-organizational relationships. Contributors are encouraged to submit papers relating to the following topics:

  • New organizational forms that are being deployed for bridging corporations and public sector organizations (such as universities)
  • The role of codified and non-codified forms of knowledge mediation, and their impact on the inter-organizational relationships
  • Non-formalised relationships between members of different organizations
  • The role of intermediaries and brokers
  • The role of interaction-intensive relationships, i.e. those that rely on dense networks of social interaction including research partnerships, collaborative research agreements, etc.
  • The trade-off between advantages of dense, strong ties versus advantages of structural holes and weak ties in networks of collaboration for innovation
  • Individual motivations enabling, informing and affecting inter-organizational collaboration, including those of industry managers, industrial scientists, entrepreneurs and academic researchers for engaging in relationships and possible collisions with the objectives of their organizations
  • The relationships between research driven organizations and their spin-offs
  • Opportunities and challenges associated with partnerships between organizations belonging to different professional communities, organizational fields or institutional orders
  • Social, political, rhetorical and technical skills deployed by individuals for establishing, developing and maintaining relationships
  • The impact of geographic, cognitive, organizational and social proximity on relationships

The convenors welcome both qualitative and quantitative empirical papers as well as high-quality conceptual papers.

Key readings

Chesbrough, H.W. (2003): Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology. Boston. Harvard Business School Press.

Cohen, W.M. & D.A. Levinthal (1990): Absorptive Capacity: A New Perspective on Learning and Innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 15: 128-152.

Cohen, W.M, A. Goto, A. Nagata, R.R. Nelson & J.P. Walsh (2002): R&D Spillovers, Patents and the Incentives to Innovate in Japan and the United States. Research Policy, 31: 1349-1367.

Nooteboom, B. (2000). Learning and Innovation in Organizations and Economies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Powell, W.W., K.W. Koput & L. Smith-Doer (1996): Interorganizational Collaboration and the Locus of Innovation: Networks of Learning in Biotechnology. Administrative Science Quarterly, 41 (1): 116.

Teece, D.J. (1992): Competition, Cooperation, and Innovation: Organizational Arrangements for Regimes of Rapid Technological Progress. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 18: 1-25.

Von Hippel, E. (2005): Democratizing Innovation. Boston: MIT Press.

About the convenors

Bart Nooteboom is professor of innovation policy at Tilburg University (The Netherlands), member of the Dutch Scientific Council for Government policy, and member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Some of his books are Inter-firm Collaboration, Learning and Networks: An Integrated Approach (2004), Trust: Forms, Foundations, Functions, Failures and Figures (2002), Learning and Innovation in Organizations and Economies (2000), Inter-firm Alliances: Analysis and Design (1999). He published some 250 articles on those and related subjects.

Markus Perkmann is a fellow of the Advanced Institute of Management Research (AIM) in the Wolfson School at Loughborough University (UK) and guest-lecturer at the Leipzig Graduate School of Management (HHL). Markus has a PhD in Sociology from Lancaster University. His research interests include inter-organizational collaboration, university-industry relationships, innovation and R&D, institutional entrepreneurship and regional development. He has published in journals such as Sociology, Regional Studies, Economic Geography and is the editor of Globalisation, Regionalisation and Cross-border Regions.

Erik Stam is fellow of the Advanced Institute of Management Research (AIM) at the University of Cambridge (UK). His research interests include entrepreneurship, innovation, firm growth and (regional) economic development. He is the author of several books and book chapters and has published in journals such as Regional Studies, Small Business Economics, Economic and Industrial Democracy, Industry and Innovation, Journal of Evolutionary Economics and Economic Geography; and he is associate editor of Small Business Economics. He is trained both as economist and geographer and has a doctorate from Utrecht University.