Determinants of knowledge transfer in inter-firm new product development projects

Benn Lawson, Antony Potter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the factors which determine the degree of knowledge transfer in inter-firm new product development (NPD) projects. The authors 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 was used to test the framework. To analyse the data, two-step structural equation modeling in AMOS 7.0 was used. Findings: The 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: The paper illustrates the effects of focusing on acquisition, rather than accessing supplier technological knowledge. The paper shows that an overt learning strategy can be detrimental to knowledge transfer between buyer-supplier, as suppliers react by restricting the flow of information. Organisations are encouraged to consider this dynamic when engaging in multi-organisational, NPD projects. Originality/value: The 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. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1228-1247
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number[ABS 4 Journal]
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012


  • Causal ambiguity
  • Knowledge management
  • Knowledge transfer
  • New product development
  • New products
  • Product development
  • Supplier involvement


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