Loughborough University
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Collaborating with competitors: pitfalls and paybacks

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posted on 2017-06-15, 09:00 authored by Jinqiu Cai
Inter-firm collaborations have become an indispensable part of business strategy to deal with faster competitive dynamics and higher market and environmental uncertainties. Interestingly, research has found that around half of all cooperative relationships take place between competitors. Termed as coopetition , it refers to the simultaneous cooperation and competition between at least two actors. Over the past two decades, coopetition has become an important domain for industrial practice which has led to increasing research interest by scholars worldwide with a wide range of subjects studied within the extant body of literature. Despite the growing interest, coopetition research is still fragmented and is dominated by conceptual research. This entails limitations to knowledge and understanding reflected by heterogeneous uses of the coopetition concept (mixed definitions and a lack of clarity in how to apply coopetition successfully), a lack of generalisability, and a limited number of quantitative studies. Coopetition scholars commonly argue that competitors rarely cooperate in activities that are close to customers, known as output activities (e.g., sales and marketing), but instead argue that they mostly cooperate in activities far from the customer, referred to as input activities (e.g., R&D, logistics, and NPD). However, it has been found in real world business examples that competitors also cooperate in output activities. In this study these two distinct types of coopetition are termed as internally focused coopetition (cooperating with competitors in input activities) and externally focused coopetition (cooperating with competitors in output activities). This is the first study synthesising these two types of coopetition in one conceptual model, and examining their individual paybacks and pitfalls. After the development of the conceptual model based on the relevant literature, a cross-sectional research design is adopted and an online survey is implemented among Chief Operating Officers and Managing Directors in UK high-tech companies. A total of 148 completed questionnaires are collected. Data analysis employs a two-stage approach, which includes a measurement model assessment and a structural model assessment. The results indicate that both internally and externally focused coopetition can help firms to develop new knowledge-based resources and capabilities. However, these two types of coopetition also have different paybacks and pitfalls. Even though the new innovation knowledge-based resources and capabilities gained from internally focused coopetition can lead to better business efficiency and effectiveness, firms also lose uniqueness in their existing knowledge-based resources and capabilities (a key tenet of competitive advantage in resource- and knowledge-based theories). In contrast, externally focused coopetition has no significant impact on uniqueness, but the new marketing knowledge-based resources and capabilities negatively influence business efficiency and effectiveness. It has also been found that when firms perceive that their competitors are behaving opportunistically, they tend to do the same and appropriate more knowledge-based resources and capabilities from the collective value created. Competitors opportunism also renders more loss of uniqueness, which in turn worsens business performance. This research provides greater clarity and understanding to scholars of the workings of coopetition for deriving new knowledge-based resources and capabilities and extrapolating performance benefits from this. This work also illuminates situations where coopetition does not result in the perceived win-win-win situations indicated in literature. Based on these results, a number of theoretical and managerial contributions are developed. Principally, (1) this is the first study that conceptualises and operationalises internally and externally focused coopetition, and their individual knowledge-based outcomes are analysed from a knowledge-based view; (2) how competitors opportunism affects the dynamics of coopetition is better understood from a game theoretical perspective; (3) this study extends the understanding of business performance outcomes of coopetition.


Loughborough University.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business


© Jinqiu Cai

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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