Final Conference
Collaborative innovations: The use of external knowledge in inter-firm development processes

Scientific coordinators

Prof. Dr. Martin Heidenreich

Prof. Dr. Jannika Mattes

Prof. Dr. Volker Wittke†

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kädtler


From 2013 to 2016 COLLIN was financed by the Volkswagen Foundation within the funding initiative at the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture entitled "Niedersächsisches Vorab".


COLLIN – Collaborative innovations: The use of external knowledge in inter-firm development processes (VW Foundation, 2013-2016)

Competing in global markets, today’s high-tech companies are increasingly dependent on external knowledge for the generation of complex innovations. Both for the development and commercialization of new products companies need to collaborate with external knowledge providing organizations like manufacturers, supplier firms, knowledge intensive service companies, research institutes and universities and integrate their often highly specialized and heterogeneous knowledge into coherent innovation processes. Thus, the organization and coordination of collaborative inter-organizational knowledge transfers and learning processes become decisive factors for the innovativeness of high-tech companies.

The research project starts from the assumption that knowledge transfers can be organized via four different forms of collaboration: new knowledge can be purchased on markets in the form of li-censes or product components, built up through the integration of formerly external knowledge holders into the company’s hierarchy, made available through strategic partnerships in inter-organizational networks, or gained within publically accessible knowledge communities. Markets, hierarchies, networks and communities constitute the coordinative mechanisms for inter-organizational innovation processes and hence imply specific challenges in accessing knowledge from external contexts.

Assuming that every knowledge production is highly context-related, any attempt to access external knowledge requires the organizational capacity to reproduce the knowledge production context and to integrate new knowledge into firm-specific learning processes. Furthermore, to control knowledge, the innovating company is meant to protect it from undesired access by third parties in order to secure its innovative advantage over competitors. We therefore expect collaborative innovation processes to differ between the governance forms according to the way external knowledge is being accessed and controlled: In markets, the innovating company’s access to the knowledge production contexts remains limited on contract-based relationships while the purchased knowledge itself imply a high control of new knowledge; knowledge integrated in hierarchies grants direct access to the knowledge production contexts and the innovating company fully controls any new knowledge; in networks, both the access to knowledge production contexts and the exclusive ownership of knowledge are highly dependent on trust-based relationships; and in communities, the access to knowledge production is explicitly kept public and every community member is al-lowed to use new knowledge for its own purposes. Thus, depending on the dominant governance form, the innovating company is required to build up suitable strategies, organizational rules, management practices and working habits in order to (re)produce and control external knowledge.

These assumptions lead to the following main research questions: (1) What are the intra-organizational conditions and inter-organizational implications of market-, hierarchy-, network- or community-based forms of collaboration in innovation processes? (2) How do innovating companies cope with the collaboration-specific challenges of (re)producing and controlling external knowledge within inner-firm product development processes?

The research project examines innovation processes in the dynamic high-tech industries of wind energy (responsibility of CETRO, Oldenburg), and information technology (responsibility of the Sociology Research Institute in Göttingen, SOFI). Within both industries, we investigate two innovation projects for each governance form and each industry sector, which leads to an overall of 16 case studies. The investigation of each collaboration form will result in case studies describing the main industry-specific conclusions. At the end of the three year project period, a final report will be generated that summarizes the key findings, explains the differences and similarities between the analyzed industries and derives potential practical conclusions (i.e., best practice models). Additional publications are also planned.


Martin Heidenreich, Jannika Mattes, Volker Wittke, Patrick Feuerstein, Thomas Jackwerth (2016): Kollaborative Innovationen: Die innerbetriebliche Nutzung externer Wissensbestände in vernetzten Entwicklungsprozessen.  Endbericht zum Projekt "Kollaborative Innovationen" Oldenburger Studien zur Europäisierung und zur transnationalen Regulierung Nr. 25/2016.

Julian Huck (2016):<link file:177105> Vertrauen in Kooperationsnetzwerken – Eine Fallstudie im Offshore-Windenergiesektor, </link>Selected theses ST 2016/1, CETRO, Universität Oldenburg.

Martin Heidenreich, Thomas Jackwerth (2016): Das Trilemma von Innovationsprojekten, „Technologie-Informationen“ niedersächsischer Hochschulen, Mensch und Technik, TI 1+2/2016.

Ortiz, André; Schalkowski, Henrik (2015): Die Ausgestaltung der (Corporate) Governance bei Innovationsprozessen im Rahmen von M&A-Transaktionen, Zeitschrift für Corporate Governance, 1/15, S. 16-21.

Thomas Jackwerth: Studie zum Windenergiesektor. Eine empirische Analyse der betrieblichen Nutzung verteilten Wissens Oldenburger Studien zur Europäisierung und zur transnationalen Regulierung Nr. 23/2014.

Volker Wittke, Martin Heidenreich, Jannika Mattes, Heidemarie Hanekop, Patrick Feuerstein,Thomas Jackwerth: Kollaborative Innovationen. Die innerbetriebliche Nutzung externer Wissensbestände in vernetzten Entwicklungsprozessen Oldenburger Studien zur Europäisierung und zur transnationalen Regulierung Nr. 22/2012.

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