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Governing Explorative R&D Alliances: Searching for Effective Strategies


  • Dries Faems

    () (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Applied Economics)

  • Maddy Janssens

    () (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Applied Economics)

  • René Bouwen

    () (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences)

  • Bart Van Looy

    () (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Applied Economics)


Although firms increasingly rely on interfirm collaboration to explore new technological opportunities, few studies have examined the ways in which this collaboration form is governed. In this paper, we attempt to increase our understanding of governing explorative R&D alliances. First, we argue that explorative R&D alliances are likely to face substantial risks of opportunistic behavior and high coordination costs. Second, applying insights from the alliance literature, we identify formal governance mechanisms as effective tools to mitigate the risk of opportunistic behavior as well as coordination costs. However, relying on insights from the new product development literature, we argue that such formal governance mechanisms may hamper exploring new technological opportunities. Third, we propose and develop alternative strategies, facilitating the governance of explorative R&D alliances: 1) relying on embedded relationships in which heterogeneity is maintained and 2) balancing formal and relational governance. To conclude, we emphasize the importance of longitudinal, multi-level research to study the characteristics and dynamics of different governance mechanisms within interfirm collaboration.

Suggested Citation

  • Dries Faems & Maddy Janssens & René Bouwen & Bart Van Looy, 2006. "Governing Explorative R&D Alliances: Searching for Effective Strategies," management revue. Socio-economic Studies, Rainer Hampp Verlag, vol. 17(1), pages 9-29.
  • Handle: RePEc:rai:mamere:1861-9908_mrev_2006_01_faems

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    Cited by:

    1. Müller, Dirk, 2010. "Alliance Coordination, Dysfunctions, and the Protection of Idiosyncratic Knowledge in Strategic Learning Alliances," EconStor Preprints 41039, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.

    More about this item


    Alliances; Exploration; Formal Governance; Relational Governance;

    JEL classification:

    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • J53 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Labor-Management Relations; Industrial Jurisprudence
    • M10 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - General


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