External knowledge sourcing in biotechnology through acquisition versus alliance: A KBV approach
Knowledge sourcing is important for firms, especially in fast-paced industries. However, few studies explore the effects of knowledge-based predictors on the comparative choice of employing acquisitions versus alliances for sourcing external knowledge. This study extends the limited existing research on this topic. It simultaneously examines the effects of knowledge domain attributes, seeker and source experience-based knowledge, and dyad knowledge similarity and digestibility on whether a firm chooses an acquisition or alliance when sourcing external knowledge. Data is comprised of 209 research-driven acquisitions and alliances of biotechnology firms based in North America. Our findings reveal that external knowledge sourcing through acquisition is more likely when the knowledge domain is more complex and valuable. Acquisition is also preferred when the seeker has greater acquisition experience and when the source has accumulated a moderate level of alliance experience. Alliance, in contrast, is the chosen mode for accessing external knowledge when the knowledge is high in specificity and when the seeker has prior alliance experience. In addition, increasing similarity and digestibility of the dyad's knowledge bases strengthen the relationship between knowledge value and the probability of acquisition versus alliance. These results extend understanding of how firms decide to augment their knowledge resources in a knowledge-intensive industry. They also demonstrate that a multilevel KBV approach emphasizing knowledge characteristics uncovers important predictors of strategy and structure in research-driven organizations.
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