Winning by Co-Opeting in Strategic Government-University-Industry R&D Partnerships: The Power of Complex, Dynamic Knowledge Networks

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There is increasing consensus among academic scholars, policy makers, and industry practitioners alike that the present and future secret of business survival and prosperity lies in strategic partnering and co-opeting successfully rather than outright competition. This is particularly so in knowledge-intensive, highly complex, and dynamic environments such as all high technology industries (semiconductors, aerospace, software, telecommunications, etc.), where collaborating to compete in knowledge generation and exchange has become so pervasive it is often hard to notice having become the standard modus operandi (from cross-licensing agreements to strategic complementarity in products and services). For example, witness the case of the Microsoft/Intel collaboration or “Wintel” alliance.

We propose a dynamic, learning-driven framework which uses the game theoretic perspective, drawing principally from the notion of “co-opetition” (coined by Ray Noorda, former CEO of Novell, and developed by Brandenburger and Nalebuff [1996]), to examine how a knowledge generating and leveraging value-maximizing organization (not just a for-profit firm), should position itself in relation to the range of players with whom the organization interacts (in terms of market relationships, generating and pooling of strategic knowledge assets including intellectual property rights and human capital, and other dimensions) to maximize shareholder value in the long term.

Select case studies focusing on government-university-industry strategic partnerships for research and technological development (GUISP RTDs), such as the NSF Engineering Research Centers, provide empirical validation of our concepts and especially on how to architect intelligent organizational interfaces across the spectrum of strategic R&D collaborations.

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