Collaborative enterprise governance : sustainable management of inter-firm R&D relationships in the German car industry
This research reports on the appropriate governance, i.e. design and management, of inter-firm R&D relationships in order to achieve sustainable competitive success for the whole partnership as well as its individual members. An exploratory study in the German automotive industry using inductive Grounded Theory was conducted. This involved data collection via 28 semi-structured interviews with 16 companies in order to form a set of 35 tentative propositions that have been validated via a questionnaire survey receiving 110 responses from 52 companies. The research has resulted in the consolidation of the validated propositions into a novel concept termed Collaborative Enterprise Governance. The core of the concept is a competence based contingency framework that helps decision makers in selecting the most appropriate governance strategy (i.e. sourcing strategy) for an inter-firm R&D relationship between a buyer and its supplier. Thereby, the concept does not draw on whole company-to-company connectivity. It rather conceptualises an inter-firm relationship to be composed of autonomous cross-functional units of the individual partner companies that contribute value to a particular joint R&D project via the possession of task specific competencies. The novel concept and its elements have been evaluated in a focus group with industrial experts of the German automotive industry and revealed positive effects on the sustainable competitive success of the whole partnership and the individual partner companies. However, it also showed that current practice does not apply the right mechanisms for its implementation and hence guidelines for practitioners and decision makers involved in inter-firm R&D collaboration in the automotive industry are offered on how to facilitate the implementation and usage of the Collaborative Enterprise Governance philosophy.