R&D Collaborations and Innovation Performance of SMEs: The Role of Entrepreneurial Orientation, Social Capital, and Interorganizational Learning

  • Ribin Seo

Student thesis: Phd


What are the intrafirm- and interfirm-level factors contributing to the value-creating and capturing process of R&D collaboration of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)? Although SMEs often find it challenging to obtain full value from the engagement in the joint technological innovation with external parties, the question has seldom been explored in the literature. To fill this literature gap, this research answered to the question through empirical investigation of the potential roles of entrepreneurial orientation at intrafirm-level as well as social capital and interorganizational learning at interfirm-level on innovation performance of SMEs’ R&D collaborations. To the best of our knowledge, exploring their roles in R&D collaboration has been neglected or not supported by empirical evidence. For doing so, we differentiated the innovation performance into two indicators: technological competitiveness and business performance. Technological competitiveness refers to the contribution of technological outputs co-created in R&D collaboration to the competitive advantage of a collaborating firm, indicating the technological superiority, marketability, and business feasibility. Business performance indicates the firm’s economic outcomes achieved individually after completing the collaboration. For the purpose of this project, we compiled three different but interconnected research papers within an overarching conceptual framework. Each paper addressed distinct research questions – associated with the main research question – and tested hypotheses in our original dataset collected from 218 Korean technology-intensive SMEs with experience on R&D collaborations with external parties. The analysis revealed the performance implication of entrepreneurial orientation at intrafirm-level as well as social capital and interorganizational learning at interfirm-level in SMEs’ R&D collaborations: their positive multiplicative roles for the innovation performance improvement in the partnerships. Our findings also indicate that each construct provides contextual and conditional clues explaining the effect of other constructs on innovation performance. More specifically, entrepreneurial orientation at firm-level is conducive to developing social capital at interfirm-level in R&D collaborations; the social capital among R&D partners translates the performance implication of entrepreneurial orientation as well as maximizes the performance implication of interorganizational learning. Consequently, collaborating firms can achieve technological competitiveness which, in turn, leads to better business performance. We pioneer the new research field in the literature of R&D collaboration by (a) bringing the theories of entrepreneurial orientation, social capital, and interorganizational learning to the literature; (b) employing the multilevel perspective and multidimensionality of the constructs; and (c) diversifying the performance indicators rather than relying on one-dimensional ones. By doing so, this study distinguishes itself from previous studies on R&D collaborations. This research contributes to advancing an integrative view of the value-creating process of R&D collaborations of SMEs in a truly multi-dimensional perspective and to expanding our knowledge on performance indicators of R&D collaborations by developing the concept of technological competitiveness and its measures. Beyond academic contributions, this research offers four main managerial strategies based on the findings and reflects on its limitations and future research venues.
Date of Award31 Dec 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSilvia Massini (Supervisor) & Jakob Edler (Supervisor)


  • Interorganizational Learning
  • Small and Medium-sized Enterprises
  • Social Capital
  • Technological Competitiveness
  • Entrepreneurial Orientation
  • Innovation Peformance
  • R&D Collaboration

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