We examine firms' propensity to adapt their R&D collaboration portfolio by establishing new types of R&D collaboration with different kinds of partners (suppliers, customers, competitors and universities & public research institutions). We argue that existing R&D collaboration with one of the two value chain partners (suppliers or customers) is associated with the formation of new R&D collaboration with the other value chain partner to ensure temporal alignment in innovation within the value chain. In contrast, issues related to governance and unintended knowledge spillovers suggest that ‘horizontal’ R&D collaboration with competitors only spurs R&D collaboration with other partner types if such competitor R&D collaboration has been discontinued earlier (‘delayed temporal alignment’). We posit that persistent prior R&D collaboration with institutional partners is an antecedent to the establishment of new R&D collaboration with industrial partners, and that discontinuation of a particular type of R&D collaboration is likely to lead to a restart of such R&D collaborative effort. Strong prior innovative performance is expected to increase the probability that firms establish R&D collaborations with new partner types, except for R&D collaboration with competitors, since the most innovative firms may fear leakage of proprietary knowledge to rivals. We find broad support for these predictions in a large panel of Spanish innovating firms (2004–2011). Our findings highlight that it is not just the configuration of R&D collaborations with existing partner types that predicts tie formation with new partner types, but also the intertemporal pattern of prior R&D collaboration and managerial discretion provided by past innovation success.
- Partner types