The antecedents of new R&D collaborations with different partner types: On the dynamics of past R&D collaboration and innovative performance

René Belderbos, Victor Gilsing, Boris Lokshin, Martin Carree*, Juan Fernández Sastre

*Corresponding author for this work

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-302
Number of pages18
JournalLong Range Planning
Issue number2
Early online date19 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


The empirical analysis uses data from the Spanish Survey of Technological Innovation PITEC (Panel de Innovación Tecnológica). The survey is carried out by the Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE), the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) and the Foundation for Technological Innovation (COTEC). The PITEC dataset is well-suited for the investigation of our research questions and has several advantages that we exploit in our research. The first advantage is that the survey contains information on firms' innovation activities, including questions on R&D collaboration, and is conducted annually starting from 2004 onwards. This feature is important for our analysis of specific patterns of inter-temporal interrelationships among R&D collaborative agreements. Second, the PITEC survey follows guidelines in the Oslo Manual ( OECD, 2005 ) and is therefore comparable to the Community Innovation Survey (CIS) that is conducted every two years on behalf of Eurostat and constitutes a main survey instrument to garner harmonized data on firm innovation activities in the EU. The third advantage is that PITEC is designed as a panel data survey, with high compatibility in firm sampling across the different waves, which helps mitigate problems of attrition and selection, and allows the use of lagged explanatory variables in the analysis. Fourth, the survey covers firms operating in all sectors of the Spanish economy according to the CNAE-93 classification and is representative of the population of firms engaged in innovation activities. 2 2

FundersFunder number
Foundation for Technological Innovation
Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología


    • Alliances
    • Collaboration
    • Innovation
    • Partner types
    • R&D


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