A Multilevel Framework of NPD Alliance Management: The Dynamics of Coopetition in Co-Development Teams


Firms often prefer co-development alliances to eliminate the risks and costs associated with intrafirm investments in innovation. Co-development alliances provide several benefits to participating firms, such as easier access to new knowledge and enhanced opportunities for gaining new competencies (Rindfleisch and Moorman 2003; Thomas 2013; Xu, Wu and Cavusgil 2013). At the same time, it is also challenging to manage coopetition inherent in alliances as knowledge sharing and knowledge protection, which often occur in co-development alliances, create a tension between partner firms.

Importantly, in the context of UK, a recent report of Gkypali and Roper (2018) shows that external knowledge acquisition constitutes the least widely used information source while only 23% of the firms have openness for forming co-development alliances with other firms. Though there is no specific data available on large sized firms, in the context of SMEs, common problems associated with co-development alliances such as the misalignment of goals, cultural incompatibilities, coordination problems, and trust related concerns have been among the barriers for collaboration between firms (Banerjee, Bielli and Haley 2016). Thus, it becomes essential for the firms in the UK to understand the dynamics of alliance management for achieving not only successful new product outcomes but also healthy and long term relationships.

A large stream of research has investigated how firms may better manage co-development alliances. However, existing research has predominantly focused on factors at the alliance or firm level, such as the design of contracts, selection of partners, etc. An important factor that has received little attention is the role of individual alliance managers in the process of collaboration. Nevertheless, individual managers play an important role in firms’ strategic implementation (Kleinbaum and Stuart 2014). This is particularly true for alliance management because it is a complex process that often requires managers to go beyond prescribed routines and take proactive actions (Spekman et al. 1998). Managers’ cognitive, affective, and relational behaviors influence how alliances are managed and how they perform (Grigoriou and Rothaermel 2014).

To examine the role of individual managers in alliance management, it is necessary to take a multi-level approach and integrate individual level, alliance level, and organisational level factors within the same framework. Scholars have long recognised the multi-level nature of the alliance phenomenon (Phelps, Heidl and Wadhwa 2012).Yet, multi-level alliance research is still in its infancy particularly in the context of alliance management.

This study develops a multi-level framework of alliance management that demonstrates how individual level mechanisms contribute to alliance level outcomes of co-development alliances between firms, as well as how organisational level factors influence individual managers’ behaviors. The relationships we examine within the conceptual framework shed light on different mechanisms that influence knowledge management and ultimately performance of co-development alliances. This unique approach would allow us to reveal new determinants of alliance performance and offer original insights on how to better manage co-development alliances more efficiently and effectively.

Furthermore, this study will focus on the co-development alliances taking place in the UK. This is because studying co-development alliances within an international context is expected to create sample size and data collection challenges that are difficult to overcome. For example, Gkypali and Roper’s (2018) study documents that there are half as many UK firms open to co-development with international alliances as to domestic ones. 

Considering the UK’s increasing innovation deficit (Jones 2016), the proposed study is expected to provide strategic implications for effective management of co-development alliances to improve the innovation performance of UK firms.