Network-independent partner selection and the evolution of innovation networks

Joel Baum, Robin Cowan & Nicolas Jonard

#2009-022

Empirical research on strategic alliances has focused on the idea that alliance partners are selected on the basis of social capital considerations. In this paper we emphasize instead the role of complementary knowledge stocks (broadly defined) in partner selection, arguing not only that knowledge complementarity should not be overlooked, but that is may be the true causal force behind alliance formation. To marshal evidence on this point, we design a simple model of partner selection in which firms ally for the purpose if learning and innovating, and in doing so create an industry network. We abstract completely from network-based structural and strategic motives for partner selection and focus instead on the idea that firms' knowledge bases must "fit" in order for joint learning and innovation to be possible, and thus for an alliance to be feasible. The striking result is what while containing no social capital considerations, the simple model replicates the firm conduct, network structure, and contingent effects of network position on performance observed and discussed in the empirical literature.

Keywords: Network formation and dynamics; Innovation; Knowledge; Alliances

JEL: D8, D2, L14, L2, O3

UNU-MERIT Working Papers ISSN 1871-9872

  


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