Fit and Complementarity – Cognitive Distance and Combined Competence as Predictors of Co-Operative R&D Projects’ Outcomes in Europe

31 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2009

See all articles by Laurent Zibell

Laurent Zibell

ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research

Peter M. Allen

Cranfield University

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

This article considers cognitive distance and combined competence as predictors of success in co-operative Research and Development (R&D) projects of firms. The concepts of cognitive distance and combined competence are operationalised based upon a dedicated survey, answered by matched pairs of projects managers in partnering organisations. The survey addresses technical and scientific competence, innovation-related management competence and cultural features. Empirical validation was performed on 92 R&D projects based in France, Germany and the United Kingdom in the industry of electronics and telecommunications equipment. Each R&D project was performed by an industrial partner jointly with another partner from industry or a partner from a public research organisation. Our research questions are the following: (1) How to describe and operationalise cultural features and organisational competences? (2) What is the effect of cognitive distance and of combined competence, along the variables described above, on the success of co-operative R&D projects? Organisational culture is operationalised using the parsimonious model of organisational character which is inherited from Jungian psychology and from the broadly-used Myers- Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality model. Organisational competences are operationalised as the ability to perform specific tasks, using a scale in which the first issue is whether it lies within the core competences and, within the core competences, how they relate to competitors. Triangulation is performed by averaging the self-appreciation and the partner evaluation of each competence level. Contrary to expectations from earlier literature, neither geographic distance, nor the difference between private firms and non-profit R&D organisations nor the difference in size has any significant influence on project outcomes (measured through nine complementary success indicators). In addition, neither the level of public support to the project nor the level of technical risk plays any statistically significant role in the project success. Distance along the behaviour in the outside world dimension of organisational character has a significant, positive influence on project outcomes: this may be interpreted as a synergy between explorative and exploitative behaviours. Differences in nationality have a significant, negative influence on project outcomes, probably due to communication and linguistic issues. Distance in technical & scientific competencies has a significant, negative effect on project outcomes: this may be interpreted as a cognitive difference in ontology, where partner organisations live in different intellectual worlds. Combined competence in management of R&D operations has a significant, positive influence on project outcomes, which means that project management procedures valid for inhouse operations retain validity in co-operative projects.

Keywords: Cognitive distance, Competence, Capability, Cooperation, R&D

JEL Classification: M14, L24, L25, O31, O32

Suggested Citation

Zibell, Laurent and Allen, Peter M., Fit and Complementarity – Cognitive Distance and Combined Competence as Predictors of Co-Operative R&D Projects’ Outcomes in Europe (2009). ZEW - Centre for European Economic Research Discussion Paper No. 09-073, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1520545

Laurent Zibell (Contact Author)

ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research ( email )

P.O. Box 10 34 43
L 7,1
D-68034 Mannheim, 68034
Germany

Peter M. Allen

Cranfield University ( email )

Cranfield
Bedfordshire MK43 OAL, MK43 0AL
United Kingdom

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