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Inter-Organizational Network Studies—A Literature Review


  • Carsten Bergenholtz
  • Christian Waldstrøm


Research on inter-organizational networks is generally fragmented which renders some of the studies incompatible and hinders a greater understanding and coherence of the field. The major distinction—which is not clearly stated in most research—is between the metaphorical description of some type of interaction across organizational boundaries, or whether the term refers to specific social structures between organizations. Whereas the metaphorical approach has previously dominated research, there has been a rise in the use of more structured and quantifiable research, most notably in the use of social network analysis. However, this has not been without serious theoretical and methodological issues. Most notably, a number of the concepts, methods and theories used within the field of inter-organizational networks originate from research in interpersonal and intra-organizational networks where some of the methodological issues (e.g. unit of analysis and boundary specification) are more easily addressed. In order to map the different methodological approaches in the field of inter-organizational networks, this paper presents a large-scale systematic literature review of the last 12 years' research on inter-organizational networks, with a focus on the methodological features. Some of the main variables relate to the unit of analysis, whether social network analysis is applied and what concept of a network is involved. The main findings of this paper are that few of the previous studies have used the full methodological (and thus theoretical) scope of the available data, the most cited papers and those appearing in top-ranked journals are more prone to using social network analysis than papers in general and there is a recent tendency among influential papers to go beyond a narrow application of social network analysis, and rely on multiplex relational data and whole networks.

Suggested Citation

  • Carsten Bergenholtz & Christian Waldstrøm, 2011. "Inter-Organizational Network Studies—A Literature Review," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(6), pages 539-562, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:indinn:v:18:y:2011:i:6:p:539-562 DOI: 10.1080/13662716.2011.591966

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hobday, Mike, 1998. "Product complexity, innovation and industrial organisation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 689-710, February.
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    8. Paul Dowdall, 2004. "Chains, networks and shifting paradigms: the UK defence industry supply system," Defence and Peace Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(6), pages 535-550.
    9. Thierry Kirat & Denis Bayon & Blanc Hélène, 2003. "Maîtriser les coûts des programmes d'armement," Post-Print halshs-00004239, HAL.
    10. V. Acha & S. Brusoni, 2008. "The Changing Governance Of Knowledge In Avionics," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(1-2), pages 43-57.
    11. Giovanni Dosi & Marco Faillo & Luigi Marengo, 2003. "Organizational Capabilities, Patterns of Knowledge Accumulation and Governance Structures in Business Firms. An Introduction," LEM Papers Series 2003/11, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    12. Ulrich, Karl, 1995. "The role of product architecture in the manufacturing firm," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 419-440, May.
    13. Hartley, Keith, 1995. "Industrial policies in the defense sector," Handbook of Defense Economics,in: Keith Hartley & Todd Sandler (ed.), Handbook of Defense Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 16, pages 459-489 Elsevier.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pippel, Gunnar, 2012. "The Impact of R&D Collaboration Networks on the Performance of Firms and Regions: A Meta-Analysis of the Evidence," IWH Discussion Papers 14/2012, Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH).
    2. Patrucco, Pier Paolo, 2013. "The Evolution of Knowledge Organization: The Emergence of Innovation Platform in the Turin Car System," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis LEI & BRICK - Laboratory of Economics of Innovation "Franco Momigliano", Bureau of Research in Innovation, Complexity and Knowledge, Collegio 201315, University of Turin.
    3. repec:spr:jorgde:v:6:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1186_s41469-017-0016-z is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Kudic, Muhamed & Guhr, Katja, 2013. "Cooperation Events, Ego-Network Characteristics and Firm Innovativeness – Empirical Evidence from the German Laser Industry," IWH Discussion Papers 6/2013, Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH).
    5. Benjamin Weber & Sven Heidenreich, 2016. "Improving Innovation Capabilities By Cooperation: Examining Effects Of Core Network Management Functions And Relational Mechanisms In The Industrial Goods Sector," International Journal of Innovation Management (ijim), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 20(07), pages 1-29, October.
    6. repec:kap:jtecht:v:42:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10961-016-9510-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Robert Huggins & Piers Thompson, 2015. "Entrepreneurship, innovation and regional growth: a network theory," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 45(1), pages 103-128, June.

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