Collaborative supplier-buyer networks and buyer’s innovation
Firms rely more and more on coordinated relationships with others toimplement value chain activities.The paper explores the effects of firm’s network of vertical relationships oninnovation, in particular the relation between buyer’s innovation output andsupplier’s network of vertical ties (with other buyers and II tier suppliers). Thefocus is on collaborative ties: voluntary supplier-buyer arrangements of co-makership. The topic is at the confluence of two lines of research: Networktheory and Supplier Involvement in New Product Development. The paper is atheoretical contribution because it extends and bridge them, drawing on gapspresent in both. Supplier involvement in NPD literature, dyadic in focus, hasascribed conflicting effects on innovation to supplier’s firm-level characteristics(e.g. technical capabilities) or to trust and commitment. The paper introducesa wider focus and network-level characteristics for supplier selection.Network theory scholars have not agreed on the structure most beneficial for innovation. There is a trade off between closed network structure (Coleman)favouring idea implementation and disconnected network structure (Burt),favouring idea generation. Researches stressed the importance of structureundervaluing other dimensions for knowledge sharing. The paper providesinsights about these aspects through a Contingent approach. The researchproblem is: In presence of co-makership, are there any characteristics of thesupplier’s network of vertical ties that affect buyer’s innovation output?I develop two main propositions regarding the effect of supplier’s networkstructure (centrality and structural holes) in a collaborative context and fivepropositions introducing variables of moderation. The supplier is a strategicbroker; two contingencies are introduced, one regarding brokered actors:network content (knowledge heterogeneity); one regarding the broker:supplier’s tertius iungens orientation (motivational disposition). A contributionof the paper is to consider the active role played by each node in the networkinstead of regarding nodes as passive conduits of information.College, University, Industry Represented: LUISS Guido Carli, Department of Economics and Business, Rome, ItalyDownload copies of COINs 2009 research and industry papers atScienceDirect.