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The Role of Virtual Design Tools on Knowledge Replication and Recombination: An Empirical Investigation


  • Antonino Vaccaro

    (Instituto Superior Técnico of Lisbon, Portugal and Department of Engineering and Public Policy Carnegie Mellon University, USA.)

  • Stefano Brusoni

    (CESPRI & CRORA, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy.)

  • Francisco Veloso

    (Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, USA and Universidade Católica Portuguesa – FCEE, Portugual.)


This paper analyzes the contribution of Virtual Design Tools (VDTs) to the processes of knowledge replication and recombination in the context of product innovation. On the basis of an in depth case study of two automotive firms engaged in two comparable new product development projects, we show that knowledge replication can occur in two distinct ways, namely through simplification and deepening of existing knowledge. By knowledge simplification we mean the selection and isolation of a specific part of the body of technological knowledge associated with the architectural functions of a multi- component system. By knowledge deepening we mean the decomposition of a knowledge packet in units of smaller dimension. We argue that the processes of knowledge simplification and knowledge deepening drive to very different innovation approaches that in turn have different competitive implications for small and large firms.

Suggested Citation

  • Antonino Vaccaro & Stefano Brusoni & Francisco Veloso, 2007. "The Role of Virtual Design Tools on Knowledge Replication and Recombination: An Empirical Investigation," KITeS Working Papers 198, KITeS, Centre for Knowledge, Internationalization and Technology Studies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy, revised Feb 2007.
  • Handle: RePEc:cri:cespri:wp198

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. D'Adderio, Luciana, 2001. "Crafting the virtual prototype: how firms integrate knowledge and capabilities across organisational boundaries," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(9), pages 1409-1424, December.
    2. Argote, Linda & Ingram, Paul, 2000. "Knowledge Transfer: A Basis for Competitive Advantage in Firms," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 150-169, May.
    3. Salter, Ammon & Gann, David, 2003. "Sources of ideas for innovation in engineering design," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(8), pages 1309-1324, September.
    4. Becker, Markus C. & Salvatore, Pasquale & Zirpoli, Francesco, 2005. "The impact of virtual simulation tools on problem-solving and new product development organization," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(9), pages 1305-1321, November.
    5. Bruno Dyck & Frederick A. Starke & Gary A. Mischke & Michael Mauws, 2005. "Learning to Build a Car: An Empirical Investigation of Organizational Learning," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(2), pages 387-416, March.
    6. Andrea Prencipe & Stefano Brusoni, 2005. "Making Design Rules: A Multi-Domain Perspective," SPRU Working Paper Series 136, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
    7. Ulrich, Karl, 1995. "The role of product architecture in the manufacturing firm," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 419-440, May.
    8. Kreiner, Kristian & Tryggestad, Kjell, 2002. "The co-production of chip and society: unpacking packaged knowledge," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 421-449, September.
    9. Linda Argote & Sara L. Beckman & Dennis Epple, 1990. "The Persistence and Transfer of Learning in Industrial Settings," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 36(2), pages 140-154, February.
    10. Arora, Ashish & Gambardella, Alfonso, 1994. "The changing technology of technological change: general and abstract knowledge and the division of innovative labour," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 523-532, September.
    11. Baba, Yasunori & Nobeoka, Kentaro, 1998. "Towards knowledge-based product development: the 3-D CAD model of knowledge creation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 643-659, February.
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    More about this item


    Virtual Design Tools; Innovation; Modularity; Knowledge Replication; Knowledge Recombination.;

    JEL classification:

    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance
    • L62 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Automobiles; Other Transportation Equipment; Related Parts and Equipment

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    1. Studies on the automobile industry


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