Technology Sharing in Manufacturing Business Groups

Martin Sköld, Christer Karlsson

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Technology represents the primordial force for companies and organizations in securing long-term competitiveness. In the intensive search to access new technology, organizations are more and more looking beyond the borders of the focal firm and becoming involved in various networks with suppliers, consultants, partners, and others. However, the distinction between the focal firm, on the one hand, and networks, on the other, is in this paper argued to be too extensive without intermediating nuances. Less focus is given to an in-between perspective configured by business groups or concerns here defined as parent corporations with subsidiary companies. It is this perspective of business groups with characteristics between individual firms and open networks that is of interest in this paper. The focus is on manufacturing business groups in which the companies will typically have individual as well as common technologies.

The research aim is to develop a framework to be used as an analytical tool for understanding and organizing technology sharing in manufacturing business groups. The research approach was to study technology sharing in a natural setting combining multiple in-depth sources of evidence in a clinical research setting. A prestudy identified key dimensions in classifying cases leading to four clusters of typified cases. Data were gathered from meetings with 24 managers from various research and development (R&D) units who met regularly every other week during seven months, in-depth interviews, internal documents and protocols, and workshops. Following the clinical field-study approach, findings are theoretically validated in relation to literature. The analysis identifies and depicts four different types of technology-sharing scenarios in manufacturing business groups. Each type has particular characteristics of its own. The four scenarios together provide a synthesized portfolio with different types of dimensions. A first dimension makes a distinction between sharing new technology development versus existing technology. Another distinguishes between technologies aimed at the whole business group and those aimed at specific segments. The two dimensions together comprise four different types of technology-sharing alternatives. Each one of them can be used at the focal firm, and together, they are applicable from a business group perspective comprising technology-sharing portfolios of manufacturing business groups.
TidsskriftJournal of Product Innovation Management
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)113–124
Antal sider12
StatusUdgivet - 2012