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The role of knowledge base homogeneity in learning from strategic alliances

Annapoornima M. Subramanian, Wang Bo and Kah-Hin, Chai

Research Policy, 2018, vol. 47, issue 1, 158-168

Abstract: Strategic alliances are important channels for interfirm learning, especially for small firms that are resource constrained. Of the several alliance attributes, technological distance between partners (measured as the distance between partners’ innovative outcomes) is shown to have a significant influence on the learning benefits from strategic alliances. Drawing upon the theory of recombination, our study argues that the influence of technological distance on learning is best understood by not only measuring the distance between innovative outcomes, but by also taking into consideration the knowledge elements underlying the innovative outcomes. We develop a concept of knowledge base homogeneity that captures the extent to which the innovative outcomes of partnering firms draw upon similar sets of knowledge elements. Using patent and alliance data from 201 small biotechnology firms during the period 1996–2010, we confirm that the technological distance has an inverted u-shaped relationship on interfirm learning. We further demonstrate that this u-shaped relationship is moderated by the knowledge base homogeneity between partners, such that benefits of technological distance are enhanced and the costs of technological distance are mitigated when the knowledge base homogeneity between alliance partners is high. The results have important implications for interfirm learning, especially in the context of small firms that are limited in their knowledge stocks.

Keywords: Strategic alliance; Interfirm learning; Technological distance; Knowledge base homogeneity; Recombination (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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