Cognitive & Relational Distance in Alliance Networks: Evidence on the Knowledge Value Chain in the European ICT Sector
This paper deals with the firms’ motives for entering into knowledge partnerships. We start by showing that networking strategies are designed to access external knowledge whilst maintaining at the same time a sufficient level of knowledge appropriation and tradability. The ICT sector (and interplaying ones) is particularly concerned by this accessibility/appropriation trade-off. The questions of modularity, complementarity, compatibility and standardisation are critical in the formation of corporate strategic and technological partnerships. Considering that knowledge in this sector is complex and systemic, we construct a theoretical typology of knowledge partnerships by crossing the levels of cognitive and relational proximity with the knowledge phases of exploration, examination and exploitation. This typology is then tested on empirical data through the use of a classification algorithm. The dataset is based on a sample of strategic alliances in the European ICT sector extracted from SDC Platinum. We show that strategic alliances are clustered in relation to the knowledge phases (exploration, examination, exploitation), and that the alliance categories are characterised by levels of relational and cognitive distance which actually are in keeping with the theoretical predictions.