Keywords: nuclear plant building companies, competences, capabilities, resource-based view, competitive advantage
Managing key capabilities: a challenge for nuclear plant building companies
The nuclear plant building industry faces a paradoxical situation. The use of nuclear reactors to produce energy for civil purposes is both a promising technology, with potentially huge outlets, and a technology facing declining demand. One of the key problems is then: how to maintain the capabilities necessary to benefit from the potential recovery? The resource-based view of strategic management has shown the importance of different types of resources and capabilities in gaining a sustainable competitive advantage. Successful incumbents in the market of nuclear station building have built those kinds of distinctive capabilities that give them a competitive advantage over potential new entrants. But we show that, without a permanent activity in plant building, preserving those capabilities necessitates specific strategic action. We firstly develop the argument that the nuclear plant building industry is in a paradoxical situation in terms of demand and technical performance trends. Secondly, we try to identify the key capabilities of the incumbents. We show that companies in that field use mainly three types of distinctive capabilities: pure technical and scientific knowledge in direct relation to the use of nuclear as an energy generator, competences in risk management and competences in large project management, including financing. Thirdly, we show that although some of those capabilities are used through other nuclear-related activities such as plant maintenance or fuel supply, some of them necessitate taking strategic actions in order to be preserved. We argue that this should be a priority of nuclear equipment company managers in the next few years.