Keywords: benchmarking, interorganisational cooperation, R&, D, technology, infrastructure, sustained performance, industry-university-cooperative-research centres
Benchmarking inter-organisational technology cooperation: the link between infrastructure and sustained performance
Cooperative efforts among government, industry, and universities have gown in importance as strong contributors to the nation's technological and economic competitiveness in the global environment. Such efforts include cooperation among networks of government R&D/technology laboratories, industrial R&D laboratories, and universities. The resulting novel organisational formats created to accommodate these cooperative efforts influence the degree to which such multipartner cooperations perform in a sustained manner. A stellar example of the complex, multi-partner cooperative programs is the network of 52 industry-university-cooperative research centres (IUCRCs) established in 1973 and supported by the National Science Foundation. This paper examines the effects of dimensions of infrastructure of IUCRCs on their sustained performance. A study of 87 industrial companies and 12 additional companies which terminated their membership in a single centre over a ten-year period has generated two main findings. Firstly, the decisions by industrial companies to join, remain, or terminate membership in a multipartner cooperation with universities are three different phenomena, impacted on by different combinations of infrastructure dimensions. Secondly, the effect of dimensions of the infrastructure on sustained performance varies according to the stage in the life cycle of the cooperation. These results suggest that complex multipartner cooperations, such as the IUCRCs, may be benchmarked by dimensions of the infrastructure. The contribution of this study is that managers and policy makers in the area of inter-organisational technology cooperation now have powerful new analytical tools, in addition to their knowledge about technology transfer. These tools allow for planned intervention that will impact on membership decisions and improve sustained performance.