Academic journal article Journal of Global Business and Technology

International Alliance Portfolios and Innovation: A Proposal for an Analytical Model Based on Bibliographic and Bibliometric Research

Academic journal article Journal of Global Business and Technology

International Alliance Portfolios and Innovation: A Proposal for an Analytical Model Based on Bibliographic and Bibliometric Research

Article excerpt


To sustain their competitiveness in globalized markets, firms are adopting innovation-oriented strategies that seek to leverage innovation through alliances. The latter have indeed been viewed as drivers of innovation (Wuyts et al., 2004; Cui & ÓConnor, 2012). Several investigations made evident the necessity to engage in multiple alliances, configuring networks (Ahuja, 2000) or alliance portfolios - APs - (Faems et al. 2005). Wassmer and Dussauge (2011, p. 47) observed that "most firms no longer rely on a single alliance: many firms maintain entire alliance portfolios comprised of multiple simultaneous strategic alliances with different partners in order to access a broad range of resources" (p. 47). Ozcan & Eisenhardt (2009, p. 246) noted that APs are theoretically important as they have "aggregate properties, such as tie diversity and mix of tie strengths that influence performance (Uzzi, 1997)", but are not significant for individual alliances. It is argued that the cross-functional integration that APs promote helps companies to generate innovation (Duysters & Lokshin, 2011), while mitigating risks associated with single alliances (Leiponen & Helfat, 2005) and thus contributes to ensuring their competitive edge.

In fact, firms are increasingly leveraging innovation through multiple cross-border alliances, configuring international alliance portfolios and networks - IAP/networks (Sivakumar et al. 2011). Indeed, "recent contributions have argued that access to international knowledge flows is especially important for firms aiming to tap into leading-edge knowledge (Griffith et al., 2006 apud Duysters and Lokshin, 2011, p.571). It is relevant that many of these alliances involve partners from emerging countries (Jacob et al. 2013). Given this trend, firms that seek to leverage innovation through IAPs should know which and how IAP/network characteristics positively influence innovation performance so that they can consider these in their strategic analyses and decisions. Also, they should have the necessary analytical tools. Phelps et al. (2012) carried out the first literature review (1990-2009) on knowledge networks. Stolwijck et al. (2013) made a bibliographic study on alliance network characteristics and technological development. They found that the more complex structural variables were hardly investigated. Wassmer (2010) conducted a literature review on APs. However, we did not find any that focused on IAPs and innovation performance.

This article presents the results of bibliographic research performed between 2001 and 2014 whose objective was twofold: i) to identify firm IAP/network characteristics that have a positive effect on innovation performance; ii) to formulate propositions and present a conceptual model to help analyze the relationship between the most significant firm IAP/network characteristics and innovation performance, considering intervening variables. Since global technology alliances now increasingly include partners from emerging economies (Jacob et al. 2013), special attention was given to IAPs involving the latter. The remainder of this article is divided into four parts: theoretical background, research methods, results and analysis, recommendations for managers and final considerations.


We adopted Gulatís (1998) definition of alliances as voluntary arrangements between firms, involving the exchange, sharing or co-development of products, technologies or services and classified them according to their degree of intensity that has been associated with performance (Contractor & Lorange, 1988).

"Linkages are thus classified running the following gamut from ... mergers & acquisitions - M&A, independent joint ventures, cross equity ownership, minority equity investment, joint Research and Development - R & D, production, or marketing, franchise alliances, know-how or patent licensing agreements... …

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