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Balancing diversity in innovation networks: Trading zones in university-industry R&D collaboration
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics. (Swedish Center for Digital Innovation)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0602-5404
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics. (Swedish Center for Digital Innovation)
School of Science and Technology, Georgia Gwinnett College,.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics. (Swedish Center for Digital Innovation)
2015 (English)In: European Journal of Innovation Management, ISSN 1460-1060, Vol. 18, no 1, 44-69 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]


– Although the potential of innovation networks that involve both university and industry actors is great variances in cultures, goals and knowledge poses significant challenges. To better understand management of such innovation networks, the authors investigate different strategies for balancing diversity. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach– In this multiple case study, the authors draw on network and trading zone theory to examine the strategies of four research centers that govern university-industry innovation networks.


– The authors provide empirically grounded descriptions of strategies for balancing diversity in innovation processes, extend previous theorizations by suggesting two types of trading zones (transformative and performative), and identify four strategy configuration dimensions (means of knowledge trade, tie configuration, knowledge mobility mechanisms and types of trust).

Research limitations/implications

– Further research is needed on transferability of results when, e.g. cultural collaboration and communication patterns change, and performance implications of different configurations. The research provides conceptual tools for future research on the impact of different diversity strategies.

Practical implications

– The findings point to the importance of identifying desired types of innovation outcomes and designing the appropriate level of diversity. To implement the selected strategy, managers need to configure communication channels and strength of relationships, establish associated capacity for knowledge transfer and build appropriate levels of trust.


– While extant research has provided a solid understanding of benefits from diversity in boundary spanning innovation processes, this paper outlines strategies for managing associated challenges.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2015. Vol. 18, no 1, 44-69 p.
Keyword [en]
Diversity, Open innovation, Innovation management, Innovation networks, The medici effect, Trading zone
National Category
Information Systems
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-88705DOI: 10.1108/EJIM-09-2013-0088OAI: diva2:716832
Available from: 2014-05-13 Created: 2014-05-13 Last updated: 2015-02-04Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Digital Capability: Investigating Coevolution of IT and Business Strategies
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Digital Capability: Investigating Coevolution of IT and Business Strategies
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Digital abilitet : En undersökning av samevolution mellan IT- och affärsstrategier
Abstract [en]

This dissertation investigates the role of information technology (IT) in organizational strategy. Specifically, it examines how organizations can persist in turbulent competitive landscapes characterized by IT innovations. Underlying premises for this dissertation are that: (1) ubiquitous IT implies constant disruptions from digital innovation, (2) IT and practice are becoming fused, and (3) organizational strategies are dynamically linked with practice, i.e. they are reciprocally related through what organizations do rather than have. To investigate such IT strategizing processes, I outline a conceptual framework for analyzing how organizations can generate digital capability, i.e. a collection of routines for strategizing by leveraging digital assets to create differential value. Digital assets here refer to the complement of available resources and competencies for IT design and implementation. Based on the notion of dynamic capability and evolutionary theory, this framework emphasizes the importance of sensing, seizing and transforming abilities for generating digital capability.

As organizational practices are becoming fused with IT scholars have argued that attempting to disentangle them analytically is futile. In a similar vein, organizational strategy is increasingly reliant on available IT resources for both formulation and execution. In the IS field it is widely acknowledged that IT has both enabling and inhibiting consequences for organizations. Drawing on the resource-based view of the firm and theory on organizational capabilities, the notion of IT capability has been widely used as a conceptual tool for analyzing these dual strategic effects of IT. Considering the explosive advances in computing, network and interaction that have resulted in IT being ubiquitous and deeply embedded in contemporary practices, recent research argues for the need to move beyond the functional view of technology implicit in the IT capability notion. A key aspect to address for such broadening of the perspective is the coevolution of IT and business practices, i.e. who (or what) leads, who or what follows, and whether such a causal distinction is meaningful.

Grounded in the outlined conceptual framework, this dissertation examines how organizations can build digital capability to both enable large variation and complexity of feasible competitive actions, and reduce inhibiting effects of IT. The empirical investigation is situated in three distinct domains: boundary spanning IT innovation, transformation of existing IT resources, and hybridization of technology through digitalization of production equipment. These investigations are presented in five research papers.

The dissertation contribute to knowledge of IT strategy by: (1) explicating the construct of digital capability, (2) providing a framework for coevolutionary strategizing processes, (3) presenting an empirical illustration of the coevolution of IT and business strategies, and (4) offer specific insights on design and orchestration of processes for digital capability generation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2014. 98 p.
Research reports in informatics, ISSN 1401-4572 ; RR-14.01
, Dissertations from the Swedish Research School of Management and Information Technology, 64
Digital capability, IT strategy, coevolution, IT innovation, digital innovation, organizational evolution, practice research, strategy-as-practice, evolutionary theory
National Category
Information Systems, Social aspects
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-88722 (URN)978-91-7601-065-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-06-05, MA 121, Umeå Universitet, MIT-huset, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2014-05-15 Created: 2014-05-13 Last updated: 2014-05-15Bibliographically approved

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