• Omid Omidvar Tehrani

Student thesis: Phd


Over the past two decades, the literature on Absorptive Capacity (AC) research has been burgeoning with enormous empirical and theoretical contributions to the field. Yet, there is not much advancement in understanding the internal dynamics of AC and the concept remains a black box in a large body of research. This study aims at contributing to this body of knowledge by examining the development of AC throughout the lifecycle of R and D consortia. In particular, it examines the pre-conditions of AC across its three dimensions corresponding with the phases of consortia: exploratory, transformative and exploitative learning, and investigates the role of disciplinary, organisational, and intra-organisational boundaries in the development of AC.Utilising a case study research strategy, the thesis analyses AC in three R and D consortia in the alternative materials, pharmaceuticals, and aerospace industries and embraces qualitative methods with interviews and documents as its main sources of data. The collected data is analysed through template analysis technique assisted by the NVivo 8 software package. The theoretical contributions of the thesis are fourfold. First, findings indicate that AC is not an exclusively organisational or dyadic capability, but a three-level concept unfolding at the consortium, interface (between consortia and organisations), and organisational levels, and in exploratory, transformative and exploitative phases throughout the consortium lifetime. On that basis, a model for AC in R and D consortia is developed and its underlying learning mechanisms and conditions across levels and phases are discussed in detail. Second, the thesis contends that the development of a shared space which provides the opportunities for participation and development of shared meaning across organisational and disciplinary boundaries in R and D consortia serves a critical role in the development of AC. The characteristics of the shared space and the conditions for its development are specified. Third, by integrating adaptation mechanisms to the formulation of AC, the thesis contributes to understanding of AC as a dynamic capability-a higher order capability to change operating routines and processes. This finding feeds into the argument that AC is both path-dependent, by storing knowledge in routines, processes and artefacts through exploitative learning, and path-breaking, by modifying and changing prevailing processes and structures through exploratory and transformative learning. Finally, the thesis argues that understanding learning in R and D consortia necessitates taking into consideration the effects of disciplinary and organisational boundaries simultaneously. It is argued that organisational boundaries can influence the transfer of knowledge even within disciplinary domains, which challenges the excessive focus of practice-based research on disciplinary boundaries in cross-disciplinary collaborations, calling for further exploration of the role of organisational boundaries within a given disciplinary domain. These theoretical contributions are accompanied by a set of managerial implications for the formation and governance of R and D consortia, as well as policy implications for evaluation of policy interventions in collaborative research schemes.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJakob Edler (Supervisor) & Khaleel Malik (Supervisor)


  • Absorptive capacity, Boundaries, Communities of Practice, R and D collaboration, Learning

Cite this