Journal of International Entrepreneurship

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 483–512 | Cite as

Functional and contextual dimensions of INVs’ alliance partner selection

  • Nancy HaskellEmail author
  • Sophie Veilleux
  • Donald Béliveau


Prior research on the selection of international alliance partners calls for investigation of the potential specificity of selection criteria for evaluating partners for alliances with different objectives or functions. The present study responds to this need and contributes to the development of the field of international entrepreneurship by examining the relation between the alliance function and the criteria chosen. We studied three alliance functions: R&D, production, and marketing. Second, for each alliance function, we analyzed the criteria selected within two contexts: developing countries and those that consider emerging markets in their partner choice set. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with 25 executives from international new ventures (INVs) in two major North American biotechnology clusters, representing 239 alliances; 65.7 % of these were signed with international partners. Results indicate that, aside from compatibility/complementarity of resources (R&D and production alliances), all criteria used within a single function are unique to that function. Furthermore, these criteria differ somewhat when the potential partners considered by a firm include those from both emerging and developed markets, compared with firms that limit potential partners to those in developed market contexts. Finally, the study reveals that respondent firms integrate country, industry, and market attractiveness factors with partner selection criteria for marketing alliances. This suggests that, for many firms, market choice and partner selection are not successive steps. The study’s originality lies in its focus on the relationship between alliance function and partner selection criteria used by INVs as well as within different contexts.


Partner selection Alliance Emerging markets Developed countries Biotechnology Selection criteria Alliance function 


Des études précédentes portant sur la sélection des partenaires pour des alliances internationales soulèvent le besoin d’examiner la spécificité des critères de sélection dans l’évaluation des partenaires pour des fonctions différentes. Cet article répond à ce besoin et contribue au développement du domaine de l’entrepreneuriat international en analysant la relation entre l’objectif et les critères choisis pour trois types d’alliances: recherche et développement, production et marketing. Pour chaque fonction, les critères sont aussi analysés dans deux contextes: les entreprises qui limitent leurs partenaires à des pays développés et celles qui considèrent les pays en émergence. Des entrevues semi-structurées ont été réalisées auprès de 25 dirigeants de nouvelles entreprises internationales en biotechnologie de Montréal et de Boston, totalisant 239 alliances, dont 157 internationales. Les résultats indiquent que, mis à part la complémentarité et la compatibilité, tous les critères utilisés à l’intérieur d’une fonction lui sont spécifiques. Les critères peuvent diverger lorsque les partenaires potentiels proviennent de marchés émergents en plus de marchés développés. Pour les alliances marketing, les entreprises répondantes prennent en compte, en sus des critères de sélection reliés au partenaire, l’attractivité du pays, de l’industrie et du marché. Pour plusieurs entreprises, le choix du marché et la sélection du partenaire ne constitueraient pas des étapes successives. L’originalité de cette recherche repose sur le fait qu’elle se concentre sur la relation entre la fonction de l’alliance et les critères de sélection utilisés par les entreprises, qui pourront aussi varier selon le contexte.

Mots clés

Sélection de partenaires Alliance Marchés en emergence Pays développés Biotechnologie Critères de sélection Fonction de l’alliance 



We would like to thank two anonymous JIEN reviewers for the quality of their comments on this article. We also extend our thanks to Prof. Hamid Etemad, Editor-in-Chief of JIEN, for his feedback and encouragement during the review process. This research has been developed with the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


  1. Barney J (1991) Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. J Manag 17:99–120Google Scholar
  2. Barney J (1995) Looking inside for competitive advantage. Acad Manag Exec 9:48–61Google Scholar
  3. Barney J, Wright M, Ketchen DJ (2001) The resource-based view of the firm: ten years after 1991. J Manag:27–625Google Scholar
  4. Baum JAC, Silverman BS (2004) Picking winners or building them? Alliance, intellectual, and human capital as selection criteria in venture financing and performance of biotechnology startups. J Bus Ventur 19:411–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berkrot B, Blanchier G (2010) Progression attendue du marché de l’industrie pharmaceutique. (, citing IMS Health ( Accessed 10 October 2010
  6. Bingham C (2009) Oscillating improvisation: how entrepreneurial firms create success in foreign market entries over time. Strateg Entrep J:3–321Google Scholar
  7. Brouthers KD, Brouthers LE, Werner S (2003) Transaction cost-enhanced entry mode choices and firm performance. Strateg Manag J 24:1239–1248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buckley PJ, Casson MC (1996) An economic model of international joint venture strategy. J Int Bus Stud 27:849–876CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chandra Y, Coviello N (2010) Broadening the concept of international entrepreneurship: consumers as international entrepreneurs. J World Bus 45:228–236. doi: 10.1016/j.jwb.2009.09.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Colombo MG, Grilli L, Murtinu S, Piscitello L, Piva E (2009) Effects of international R&D alliances on performance of high-tech start-ups: a longitudinal analysis. Strateg Entrep J 3:346–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Coombs JE, Deeds DL (2000) International alliances as sources of capital: evidence from the biotechnology industry. J High Technol Manag Res 11:235–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Coviello NE (2006) The network dynamics of international new ventures. J Int Bus Stud 37:713–731. doi: 10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400219 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Coviello NE, Munro HJ (1997) Network relationships and the internationalization process of small software firms. Int Bus Rev 6:361–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cuervo-Cazurra A (2011) Selecting the country in which to start internationalization: the non-sequential internationalization model. J World Bus 46:426–437. doi: 10.1016/j.jwb.2010.10.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cumming DJ, Fischer E (2012) Publicly funded business advisory services and entrepreneurial outcomes. Res Policy 41:467–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cumming DJ, Sapienza H, Siegel D, Wright M (2009) International entrepreneurship: managerial and public policy implications strategic. Entrep J 3:283–296Google Scholar
  17. Cumming DJ, Fischer E, Peridis T (2015) Publicly funded business advisory services and entrepreneurial internationalization. Int Small Bus J 33:824–839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cyrino AB, Barcellos EP, Tanure B (2010) International trajectories of Brazilian companies: empirical contribution to the debate on the importance of distance. Int J Emerg Mark 5:254–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dacin MT, Hitt MA, Levitas E (2001) Selecting partners for successful international alliances: examination of U.S. and Korean firms. J World Bus 32:3–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Daunais J-P (1992) L’entretien non-directif. In: Gauthier B (ed) Recherche sociale: de la problématique à la cueillette de données. Presses de l’Université du Québec, Sillery, pp. 249–275Google Scholar
  21. Davidson WH (1982) Global strategic management. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  22. Deeds DL, Hill CW (1996) Strategic alliances and the rate of new product development: an empirical study of entrepreneurial biotechnology firms. J Bus Ventur 11:41–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Delerue H, Lejeune A (2012) Internationalization of biotechnology start-ups: geographic location and mimetic behaviour. Int Small Bus J 30:388–405. doi: 10.1177/0266242611402565 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dong L, Glaister KW (2006) Motives and partner selection criteria in international strategic alliances: perspectives of Chinese firms. Int Bus Rev 15:577–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ernst & Young (2009a) The 2009 Ernst & Young business risk report: Life Sciences.Google Scholar
  26. Ernst & Young (2009b) Beyond borders: Global biotechnology report 2009.Google Scholar
  27. Ernst & Young (2010) Beyond borders: Global biotechnology report 2010.Google Scholar
  28. Fang E (2011) The effect of strategic alliance knowledge complementarity on new product innovativeness in China. Organ Sci 22:158–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fernhaber SA, Li D (2013) International exposure through network relationships: implications for new venture internationalization. J Bus Ventur 28:316–334. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2012.05.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fink M, Harms R (2012) Contextualizing the relationship between self-commitment and performance: environmental and behavioural uncertainty in (cross-border) alliances of SMEs. Entrep Reg Dev 24:161–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Freeman S, Hutchings K, Lazaris M, Zyngier S (2010) A model of rapid knowledge development: the smaller born-global firm. Int Bus Rev 19:70–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Geringer MJ (1991) Strategic determinants of partner selection criteria in international joint ventures. J Int Bus Stud 22:41–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hamel G, Prahalad CK (1995) La conquête du futur. InterEditions, ParisGoogle Scholar
  34. Hendry C, Brown J (2006) Organizational networking in UK biotechnology clusters British. J Manag 17:55–73Google Scholar
  35. Hitt MA, Tyuler BB, Hardee C, Park D (1995) Understanding strategic intent in the global marketplace. Acad Manag Exec 9:12–19Google Scholar
  36. Hitt MA, Nixon RD, Clifford PG, Coyne KP (1999) The development and use of strategic resources. In: Hitt MA, Clifford PG, Nixon RD, Coyne KP (eds) Dynamic strategic resources: development, diffusion and integration. Wiley, Chichestershire, England, pp. 1–14Google Scholar
  37. Hitt MA, Dacin MT, Levitas E, Arregle J-L, Borza A (2000) Partner selection in emerging and developed market contexts: resource-based and organizational learning perspectives. Acad Manag J 43:449–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hitt MA, Ahlstrom D, Dacin MT, Levitas E, Svobodina L (2004) The institutional effects on strategic alliance partner selection in transition economies: China vs. Russ Organ Sci 15:173–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Huber GP, Power DJ (1985) Retrospective reports of strategic-level managers: guidelines for increasing accuracy. Strateg Manag J 6:171–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hurmerinta-Peltomäki L (2004) Conceptual and methodological underpinnings in the study of rapid internationalizers. In: Jones MV, Dimitratos P (eds) Emerging paradigms in international entrepreneurship. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham/Northampton, pp. 64–88Google Scholar
  41. Ireland RD, Hitt MA, Vaidyanath D (2002) Alliance management as a source of competitive advantage. J Manag 28:413–446Google Scholar
  42. Jacob J, Belderbos R, Gilsing V (2013) Technology alliances in emerging economies: persistence and interrelation in European firms’ alliance formation R & D. Management 43:447–460Google Scholar
  43. Johanson J, Mattson L-G (1988) Internationalisation in industrial systems – a network approach. In: Hood N, Vahlne JE (eds) Strategies in global competition. Croom Helm, London, pp. 287–314Google Scholar
  44. Koot WTM (1988) Underlying dilemmas in the management of international joint ventures. In: Contractor F, Lorange P (eds) Cooperative strategies in international business. Lexington Books, Lexington, MA, pp. 347–367Google Scholar
  45. Kuivalainen O, Saarenketo S, Puumalainen K (2012) Start-up patterns of internationalization: a framework and its application in the context of knowledge-intensive. SMEs Eur Manag J 30:372–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lee H, Kelley D, Lee J, Lee S (2012) SME survival: the impact of internationalization, technology resources, and alliances. J Small Bus Manag 50:1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Li J (2010) Global R&D Alliances in China: collaborations with universities and research institutes IEEE. Trans Eng Manag 57:78–87. doi: 10.1109/tem.2009.2028324 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Li N, Boulding W, Staelin R (2010) General alliance experience, uncertainty, and marketing alliance governance mode choice. J Acad Mark Sci 38:141–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Li L, Qian GM, Qian ZM (2012) Early internationalization and performance of small high-tech born-globals. Int Mark Rev 29:536–561CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Liesch PW, Welch LS, Buckley PJ (2011) Risk and uncertainty in internationalisation and international entrepreneurship studies review and conceptual development management. Int Rev 51:851–873Google Scholar
  51. Looney W (2010) Strategies for emerging markets: seven keys to the kingdom. Pharm Exec 30:54–58Google Scholar
  52. Luo YD (1998) Joint venture success in China: how should we select a good partner? J World Bus 33:145–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. March JG, Levitt B (1999) Organizational learning. In: March JG (ed) The pursuit of organizational intelligence. Blackwell, Oxford, England, pp. 75–99Google Scholar
  54. McDougall PP, Oviatt BM (2000) International entrepreneurship: the intersection of two research paths. Acad Manag J 43:902–906CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Melen S, Rovira NE (2009) The internationalisation modes of born Globals: a longitudinal study. Eur Manag J 27:243–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Meyer K, Wright M, Pruthi S (2009) Managing knowledge in foreign entry strategies: a resource-based analysis. Strateg Manag J 30:557–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Moen O, Bakas O, Bolstad A, Pedersen V (2010) International market expansion strategies for high-tech firms: partnership selection criteria for forming strategic alliances. Int J Bus Manag 5:20–30Google Scholar
  58. Niosi J (2003) Alliances are not enough explaining rapid growth in biotechnology firms. Res Policy 32:737–750CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Nordman ER, Tolstoy D (2014) Does relationship psychic distance matter for the learning processes of internationalizing SMEs? Int Bus Rev 23:30–37. doi: 10.1016/j.ibusrev.2013.08.010 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Ojala A (2009) Internationalization of knowledge-intensive SMEs: the role of network relationships in the entry to a psychically distant market. Int Bus Rev 18:50–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Oviatt BM, McDougall PP (1994) Toward a theory of international new ventures. J Int Bus Stud 25:45–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Pangarkar N, Klein S (2001) The impacts of alliance purpose and partner similarity on alliance governance. Br J Manag 12:341–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Peng MW (2001) The resource-based view and international business. J Manag 27:803–829Google Scholar
  64. Powell WW (1998) Learning from collaboration: knowledge and networks in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Calif Manag Rev 40:228–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Powell WW, Brantley P (1992) Competitive cooperation in biotechnology: learning through networks? In: Nohria N (ed) Networks and organizations. Harvard Business School Press, Boston, pp. 366–394Google Scholar
  66. Powell WW, Koput KW, Smith-Doerr L (1996) Interorganizational collaboration and the locus of innovation: networks of learning in biotechnology. Adm Sci Q 41:116–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Powell WW, White DR, Koput KW, Owen-Smith J (2005) Network dynamics and field evolution: the growth of interorganizational collaboration in the life sciences. Am J Sociol 110:1132–1207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Reuer JJ, Lahiri N (2014) Searching for alliance partners: effects of geographic distance on the formation of R&D collaborations. Organ Sci 25:283–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Reuer JJ, Tong TW (2010) Discovering valuable growth opportunities: an analysis of equity alliances with IPO firms organization. Science 21:202–215Google Scholar
  70. Roijakkers N, Hagedoorn J (2006) Inter-Firm R&D partnering in pharmaceutical biotechnology since 1975: trends, patterns, and networks. Res Policy 35:431–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Roijakkers N, Hagedoorn J, Van k H (2005) Dual market structures and the likelihood of repeated ties-evidence from pharmaceutical biotechnology. Res Policy 34:235–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Rothaermel FT, Deeds DL (2006) Alliance type, alliance experience and alliance management capability in high-technology ventures. J Bus Ventur 21:429–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Roy J-P (2012) IJV partner trustworthy behaviour: the role of host country governance and partner selection criteria. J Manag Stud 49:332–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Sandberg S (2013) Emerging market entry node pattern and experiential knowledge of small and medium-sized enterprises. Int Mark Rev 30:106–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sexton T (1997) The effects of partner and the relationship characteristics on alliance outcome. Acad Manag J 40:443–461CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Sivakumar K, Roy S, Zhu J, Hanvanich S (2011) Global innovation generation and financial performance in business-to-business relationships: the case of cross-border alliances in the pharmaceutical industry. J Acad Mark Sci 39:757–776. doi: 10.1007/s11747-010-0229-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Sleuwaegen L, Onkelinx J (2014) International commitment, post-entry growth and survival of international new ventures. J Bus Ventur 29:106–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Stuart TE (1998) Network position and propensities to collaborate: an investigation of strategic alliance formation in a high-technology industry. Adm Sci Q 43:668–698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Tang YK (2011) The influence of networking on the internationalization of SMEs: evidence from internationalized Chinese firms. Int Small Bus J 29:374–398. doi: 10.1177/0266242610369748 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Teece DJ, Pisano G, Shuen A (1997) Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strateg Manag J 18:509–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Teng BS, Das TK (2008) Governance structure choice in strategic alliances - the roles of alliance objectives, alliance management experience, and international partners. Manag Decis 46:725–742CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Veilleux S, Haskell N, Pons F (2012) Going global: how smaller enterprises benefit from strategic alliances. J Bus Strateg 33:22–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Wernerfelt B (1984) A resource-based view of the firm. Strateg Manag J 5:171–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Yu J, Gilbert BA, Oviatt BM (2011) Effects of alliances, time, and network cohesion on the initiation of foreign sales by new ventures. Strateg Manag J 32:424–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Zhou L, Wu A, Barnes BR (2012) The effects of early internationalization on performance outcomes in young international ventures: the mediating role of marketing capabilities. J Int Mark 20:25–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Zou H, Ghauri PN (2010) Internationalizing by learning: the case of Chinese high-tech new ventures. Int Mark Rev 27:223–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Business AdministrationPavillon Palasis-Prince, Laval UniversityQuébec, QCCanada

Personalised recommendations