Inderscience Publishers

Incentives, coordination and learning in government-sponsored vs. spontaneous inter-firm research cooperation

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Our paper is a primary attempt at characterising two types of inter-firm agreements from a micro-analytical perspective: publicly funded collaborations stimulated by research and development government programmes vs. spontaneous, privately funded joint research projects. Using a three-dimensional grid in terms of incentives, coordination and learning, we suggest that the two organisational modes show rather contrasted features: government-sponsored agreements generally concern peripheral activities, submit to predefined coordination rules and favour exploratory, unilateral learning, whereas spontaneous alliances focus on more critical activities, create their own operating rules and may – sometimes – activate an interactive learning which generates valuable, collective, specific assets. These two idealised collaborative patterns also lead to different evolution scenarios, the former being more stable than the latter in the short run, but also less persistent in the long run in case of success. The theoretical propositions are illustrated through two case studies in the emerging, fuel-cell technology.

Keywords: inter-firm technological alliances, R&, D government programmes, subsidised research agreements, spontaneous research agreements, inter-organisational learning, incentives, coordination mechanisms, agreement dynamics, fuel cells

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