Coopetition and innovation

InnovationHead: M. Robert & F. Robert

  1. Impact of coopetition on innovation
  2. Which cooperation strategy has the most important impact on innovation (with rivals vs. with non-rivals?)
  3. Which coopetition strategy has the most important impact on innovation (horizontal vs. vertical) ?

In this research program, the idea is that it is no longer only the firms that introduce innovations but that firms are involved in genuine innovation networks. Very different stakeholders are present in these innovation networks: universities, customers, suppliers, competitors, etc. If this idea is now widespread, the actual impact of innovation networks remains to be investigated. There are few studies that establish a direct and indisputable link between coopetitive relationship of a firm and its propensity to innovate. The general question of the research program is the following: can we establish a direct link between the competitors of a firm and its propensity to be innovative?

This first level of questioning is possibly only if we consider the network not as an undifferentiated whole but as a set of relationships between different actors. The problem is to identify the relationships within the network, which are the most favourable towards innovation. Two main types of cooperation are possible: vertical cooperation and horizontal cooperation. Vertical cooperation, which today is defined as the open innovation model, allows benefiting from complementary skills and avoiding exposure to skills transfer to a competitor. However, it deprive skills of the competitor even though they could be very useful. Horizontal cooperation, which today is defined as the model of coopetition, provides access to a similar expertise which may cause scale effects, but expose it to transfer of skills to the competitor.

The second level of questions asked in this research program is the following: to develop innovation, does the firm need to focus on vertical relations and horizontal relations?

Various projects of the research program were formed to address more specific supplementary questions. Do factors such as the sector in which the firm is located or its size affect the pertinence of choice? Should SMEs focus on vertical relationships rather than cooperation with its competitors? Should a large company foster cooperative relations with its competitors and what is the best partner?