Creating collaborative advantage with well-designed and managed R&D collaboration

Due to increased need to focus on core business the companies’ dependence on each other has increased. The mutual dependency has resulted in a need of efficient R&D collaboration taking all viewpoints into consideration and ensuring the competitive edge of products.

Collaboration between Finnish companies is in principle based on trust and there has been much talk about partnerships. However, the practices for R&D collaboration vary considerably. The companies’ perceptions of collaboration are sometimes astoundingly different, which leads too often to disappointments.

In FIMECC REBUS program a model for managing and designing dyadic R&D collaboration has been proposed. “In the area of R&D collaboration one should move from the traditional buyer/seller talk to real partnership, which is built systematically and the points of view of both parties are taken into consideration”, states Juho Ylimäki from University of Vaasa.

Three essential elements of R&D collaboration are 1) the possible forms of collaboration, 2) the collaboration process, and 3) the practices supporting R&D relationships.

Collaborating companies can design and choose the form of their collaboration purposefully, and can switch from one collaboration form to another as the situation demands.For an R&D collaboration process to be fully functional, it is important to simultaneously take into account both efficiency and dialogical perspectives in the relevant interaction. Practices that facilitate and support R&D collaboration strengthen each other and thus it is essential to ensure their balanced implementation.

The increasing need in recent years to focus on core business has increased companies’ dependence on each other. When companies acquire manufacturing and services from external companies, the result is that related R&D tasks also move from one company to its collaborator companies. However, typically the R&D tasks in question cannot be conducted without the customer company’s knowledge related to the actual need. This setting has led to a situation where companies need efficient R&D collaboration.

Nonfunctional R&D collaboration decreases the relative competitive edge of products whereas those companies that are able to build functional R&D partnerships can achieve a competitive advantage with faster, more efficient, and more accurate R&D”, Ylimäki explains the need for the research.

The development and building of collaborative product and service development relationships is inarguably beneficial to various companies across industries. The dyadic R&D collaboration can at its best be an approach that creates collaborative advantage for both parties. In order to advance the implementation of development actions more joint projects with companies and research institutes are needed. By applying design science principles to relationship development, these projects could remarkably advance the participation of companies in implementing research-based knowledge and academia by offering real-world contexts in which to challenge sometimes overly theoretical concepts.

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