The determinants of knowledge transfer within collaborative new product development projects

Antony Potter, B. Lawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – This paper explores the factors which determine the degree of knowledge transfer in inter-firm new product development projects. We test a theoretical model exploring how inter-firm knowledge transfer is enabled or hindered by a buyer’s learning intent, the degree of supplier protectiveness, inter-firm knowledge ambiguity, and absorptive capacity. Design/methodology/approach – A sample of 153 R&D intensive manufacturing firms in the UK automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical, electrical, chemical, and general manufacturing industries were used to test the framework. Two-step structural equation modeling in AMOS 7.0 was used to analyse the data. Findings – Our results indicate that a buyer’s learning intent increases inter-firm knowledge transfer, but also acts as an incentive for suppliers to protect their knowledge. Such defensive measures increase the degree of inter-firm knowledge ambiguity, encouraging buyer firms to invest in absorptive capacity as a means to interpret supplier knowledge, but also increase the degree of knowledge transfer. Practical implications – Our paper illustrates the effects of focusing on acquisition, rather than accessing, supplier technological knowledge. We show that an overt learning strategy can be detrimental to knowledge transfer between buyer-supplier, as supplier’s react by restricting the flow of information. Organisations are encouraged to consider this dynamic when engaging in multi-organisational new product development projects. Originality/value – This paper examines the dynamics of knowledge transfer within inter-firm NPD projects, showing how transfer is influenced by the buyer firm’s learning intention, supplier’s response, characteristics of the relationship and knowledge to be transferred.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Operations & Production Management
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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