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Relational assets or liabilities? Competition, collaboration, and firm intellectual property breakthrough in the Chinese high-speed train sector

Abstract

How does government coordination in the strategic sectors affect the impact of relational resources on firm intellectual property (IP) development in the emerging economies? We investigate this question in the Chinese high-speed train sector from 1993 to 2014. Contrary to prior findings that international joint ventures (IJVs) lead technological innovation in the emerging economies, IJVs underperform in IP development in this context, whereas government-affiliated domestic firms outperform. We argue that government coordination in the strategic sector has escalated cross-border competitive tension but facilitated domestic collaborative innovation. Hence, IJVs face relational liabilities that hinder IP breakthrough, whereas government-affiliated domestic firms can leverage relational assets for innovation. We further examine the effects of ego-network density in the innovation network, which captures the degree to which a firm relies on partners to innovate. Consistent with our theory, innovation network density hampers IP development for the IJVs but promotes that for the government-affiliated domestic firms. Our findings offer actionable insights for innovation managers and policymakers in the strategic sectors. Firm managers should consider the potential influences from government coordination when acquiring relational resources for innovation. Policymakers should keep in mind how government actions may influence both interfirm collaboration and competition when building innovation networks.

Résumé

Comment la coordination gouvernementale dans les secteurs stratégiques influence-t-elle l'impact des ressources relationnelles sur le développement de la propriété intellectuelle (Intellectual Property – IP) des entreprises dans les économies émergentes? Nous étudions cette question dans le secteur du train à grande vitesse chinois, durant la période 1993–2014. Contrairement aux conclusions antérieures selon lesquelles les coentreprises internationales (International Joint Ventures – IJVs) prennent les devants en matière d’innovation technologique dans les économies émergentes, les IJVs sont devancées dans le développement de la IP dans ce contexte, alors que les entreprises domestiques affiliées au gouvernement enregistrent la meilleure performance. Nous argumentons que la coordination gouvernementale dans le secteur stratégique a exacerbé les tensions concurrentielles transfrontalières, mais a facilité l'innovation collaborative domestique. Par conséquent, les IJVs sont confrontées aux handicaps relationnels qui entravent la percée de la IP, tandis que les entreprises domestiques affiliées au gouvernement peuvent tirer parti des actifs relationnels pour l'innovation. Nous examinons en outre les impacts de la densité de l'ego-réseau d'innovation, laquelle représente le degré auquel une entreprise s'appuie sur ses partenaires pour innover. Conformément à notre théorie, la densité du réseau d'innovation empêche le développement de la IP des IJVs, mais favorise celui des entreprises domestiques affiliées au gouvernement. Nos résultats apportent des connaissances actionnables aux managers de l'innovation et aux décideurs politiques dans les secteurs stratégiques. Les dirigeants d’entreprise devraient tenir compte des influences potentielles de la coordination gouvernementale lorsqu'ils acquièrent des ressources relationnelles pour l'innovation. Les décideurs politiques devraient garder à l'esprit la manière dont les actions gouvernementales peuvent influer à la fois sur la collaboration et la concurrence inter-entreprises lors de la création d'un réseau d'innovation.

Resumen

¿Cómo afecta la coordinación del gobierno en los sectores estratégicos afecta el impacto de los recursos relacionales en el desarrollo de propiedad intelectual de las empresas en las economías emergentes? Investigamos esta presenta en el sector de trenes de alta velocidad entre 1993 y 2014. Contrario a hallazgos anteriores en donde las empresas conjuntas internacionales (IJV por sus iniciales en inglés) conducen a innovación tecnológica en las economías emergentes, las empresas conjuntas internacionales tienen rendimientos por debajo de lo esperado en cuanto al desarrollo de propiedad intelectual en este contexto, mientras que las empresas nacionales afiliadas al gobierno las superan. Sostenemos que la coordinación del gobierno en el sector estratégico ha escalado la tensión competitiva transfronteriza, pero ha facilitado la innovación colaborativa nacional. Por consiguiente, las empresas conjuntas internacionales enfrentan pasivos relacionales que dificultan el avance de la propiedad intelectual, mientras que las empresas nacionales afiliadas al gobierno pueden apalancar activos relacionales para la innovación. Continuamos examinando los efectos de la densidad de la red del ego en la red de innovación, la cual captura el grado en que una empresa depende de los socios para innovar. Consistente con nuestra teoría la red de innovación impide el desarrollo de propiedad intelectual para las empresas conjuntas, pero lo promueve para las empresas nacionales afiliadas al gobierno. Nuestros hallazgos deben considerar las influencias potenciales de la coordinación del gobierno cuando se adquieren recursos relacionales para la innovación. Los formuladores de políticas debe tener en menta cómo las acciones del gobierno pueden influenciar tanto la colaboración como la competencia entre empresas cuando se crea una red de innovación.

Resumo

Como a coordenação governamental em setores estratégicos afeta o impacto de recursos relacionais no desenvolvimento da propriedade intelectual (PI) corporativa nas economias emergentes? Investigamos essa questão no setor chinês de trens de alta velocidade de 1993 a 2014. Ao contrário de descobertas anteriores de que joint ventures internacionais (IJVs) lideram a inovação tecnológica nas economias emergentes, IJVs apresentam desempenho inferior no desenvolvimento de IP neste contexto, enquanto firmas domésticas afiliadas ao governo apresentam desempenho superior. Argumentamos que a coordenação governamental no setor estratégico aumentou a tensão competitiva internacional, mas facilitou a inovação colaborativa doméstica. Portanto, IJVs enfrentam passivos relacionais que impedem o avanço da IP, enquanto empresas domésticas afiliadas ao governo podem alavancar ativos relacionais para inovação. Examinamos ainda os efeitos da densidade da rede do ego na rede de inovação, que capta o grau em que uma empresa depende de parceiros para inovar. Consistente com nossa teoria, a densidade da rede de inovação dificulta o desenvolvimento de IP para IJVs, mas o promove para firmas domésticas afiliadas ao governo. Nossas descobertas oferecem insights acionáveis para gerentes de inovação e formuladores de políticas em setores estratégicos. Gerentes de empresas devem considerar as influências potenciais da coordenação governamental ao adquirir recursos relacionais para inovação. Formuladores de políticas devem ter em mente como ações do governo podem influenciar tanto a colaboração entre empresas quanto a competição ao construir uma rede de inovação.

摘要

在新兴经济体的战略型产业中, 政府协调如何影响关系资源对企业知识产权(IP)发展的影响?我们以中国高铁1993年至2014年数据研究这个问题。与已有研究认为国际合资企业引领新兴经济体的技术创新相反, 我们研究发现, 在新兴经济体中, 国际合资企业在知识产权发展方面表现不佳, 而政府隶属的国内企业创新能力表现更为突出。我们认为, 对于战略型产业, 政府协调加剧了跨境竞争紧张, 但促进了国内企业间的协同创新。因此, 国际合资企业的关系负债阻碍了其知识产权突破, 而政府隶属的国内企业可以利用关系资产促进其创新。我们进一步研究了创新网络中自我中心网络密度的影响, 自我中心网络反应了企业的创新依赖于合作伙伴的程度。与我们的理论假设一致, 实证结果表明, 创新网络密度阻碍了国际合资企业的知识产权发展, 但促进了政府隶属的国内企业的知识产权发展。我们的研究为战略型产业的创新管理者和政策制定者提供启示: 企业管理者在获取创新关系资源时应考虑政府协调的潜在影响。决策者在构建创新网络时应考虑政府行为对企业间合作与竞争的影响。

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Acknowledgements

This work is in part supported by Grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71732005 and 72072124), National Social Science Foundation of China (20BGL040) and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We thank Victor Cui and three anonymous JIBS reviewers for valuable comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Juan Song.

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Accepted by Victor Cui, Guest Editor, 20 July 2021. This article has been with the authors for four revisions.

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Genin, A.L., Tan, J. & Song, J. Relational assets or liabilities? Competition, collaboration, and firm intellectual property breakthrough in the Chinese high-speed train sector. J Int Bus Stud 53, 1895–1923 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41267-021-00482-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41267-021-00482-7

Keywords

  • international joint venture
  • IP breakthrough in emerging economies
  • relational liabilities
  • innovation network
  • Chinese high-speed train sector
  • panel data analysis