The Evolution of Resources in Inter-Firm Collaboration

Helen Perks, 2001

This thesis seeks to understand and explain the evolution of resources in strategic alliances. It investigates how resources evolve and change throughout the process of creating and exchanging resources in inter-firm collaboration and seeks the underlying explanations for such processes. It adopts a dynamic resource-based perspective of collaboration, whereby firms seek to create and exchange strategic resources with each other in order to improve competitive performance. In particular, the study concentrates on long term collaboration between competing firms intent on exchanging and jointly creating resources for the purpose of new product development. Specifically, the study investigates what sort of resource-based value is created as an outcome of such collaboration, how firms' configurations of resources evolve and change throughout the duration of the collaborative relationship and why such evolution occurs. Critically, it identifies and explores the underlying explanatory processes behind such behaviour and outcomes.

In order to understand the complex and dynamic nature of such phenomena, the study's ontology is based on critical realism. Whilst a preliminary quantitative analysis of patterns of joint venture activities by W. European companies helped inform the focus of the major investigation and the units of analysis, the major investigation employs a multiple case study method. Four complex case studies of European/Japanese inter-firm collaboration for new product development are investigated in considerable depth.

Evaluation of the case study data is systematic and dynamic. The evolution of resources is analysed longitudinally, over several periods of time, based on an actors-resources-activities model. The contingent explanations for such resource changes are carefully unpacked in an iterative process. Following replication logic, a cross-case comparison articulates the explanatory processes driving the resource exchange/creation process and maps out the complex causal relationships between them. Fundamental explanatory principles are finally revealed. These comprise the nature of resources, collaborative and internal resource processes, resource evaluation by the actors, resource exchange mechanisms and context and form the critical findings from this work. In summary, the study provides deep understanding of complex causal mechanisms at play in long-term strategic alliances. Through the systematic and micro-level analysis of resource evolution in four major case studies, the intricacies and dynamism of processes underlying such change are revealed.