Organizational knowledge interface factors on knowledge acquisition success in university–industry alliances

[Deutscher Titel: Einfluss organisationaler Wissensschnittstellen für die erfolgreiche Übertragung von Wissen in Universitäts-Industrie-Partnerschaften (Text übersetzen: Deutsch)]

Arthur Lloyd Sherwood, Jeffrey G. Covin (2008)
Knowledge Acquisition in University-Industry Alliances: An Empirical Investigation from a Learning Theory Perspective
Journal of Product Innovation Management 25 (2) , 162–179

Abstract: A firm’s technological knowledge base is the foundation on which internal product and process innovations are generated. However, technological knowledge is not accumulated solely through internal learning processes. Increasingly, firms are turning to external sources in the technology supply chain to acquire the technological knowledge they need to introduce product and process innovations. Thus, the successful structuring and executing of partnerships with external “technology source” organizations is often critical to competitive success in technologically dynamic environments. This study uses situated learning theory as a basis for explaining how factors inherent to the knowledge acquisition context may affect the successful transference of technological knowledge from universities to their industry partners. Data collected via a survey instrument from 104 industry managers were used to explore the effects of various organizational knowledge interface factors on knowledge acquisition success in university–industry alliances. The organizational knowledge interface factors hypothesized to affect knowledge acquisition success in the current research include partner trust, partner familiarity, technology familiarity, alliance experience, formal collaboration teams, and technology experts’ communications. Results indicate that partner trust predicts the successful acquisition of tacit knowledge but not explicit knowledge. Both forms of knowledge are predicted by partner familiarity and communications between the partners’ technology experts. These findings suggest three principal managerial implications. First, although the development of a trusting relationship between the knowledge source and knowledge-seeking parties is generally advisable, firms that seek to acquire explicit technological knowledge from their alliance partners may successfully do so without having made significant time and energy investments designed to assure themselves that they can trust those partners. The relative observability and verifiability of explicit knowledge relative to tacit knowledge may enable knowledge-seeking parties to have greater confidence that knowledge has been acquired when partner trust is in question or has not been deliberately developed. A second implication is that, other things being equal, a knowledge-seeking party’s interests may be best served through repeated exposures to particular alliance partners, particularly if those exposures facilitate mutual understandings on relevant process-related matters. A third managerial implication is that ongoing, broad-based communications between the partners’ technology experts should be used to effect technology transfer. A key quality of the organizational knowledge interface that promotes the successful acquisition of technological knowledge, both tacit and explicit, is multipoint, real-time contact between the technology experts of the partner organizations. Such communications potentially enable the knowledge-seeking party to directly access desired information through the most knowledgeable individuals on an as-needed basis.

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