Competitors: rival or your best friend?

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The aim of this research is to gain more insight into how the digitalization of the manufacturing industry and a firm’s innovation strategy affect inter-firm collaborations and whether or not both change the nature of the required and desired cooperation. Digitalization offers opportunities to increase the efficiency and the productivity of the manufacturing process and expand existing product portfolios with digital solutions to maximize customer value. If firms lack capabilities to keep up with the digital production changes or lack innovativeness, firms might need to look beyond their organizational boundaries and evaluate how the resources and abilities of external parties can be exploited to improve their own production process. The digitalization and innovation might increase the need to collaborate and force firms to find new collaboration partners, even considering competitors as potential co-workers. Both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered and analyzed to find out how digitalization and innovation influence inter-firm collaborations. The findings of the analyses conclude that digitalization does have a partial influence on inter-firm collaborations as it supports and stimulates the collaboration process, but it does not change the need to collaborate. Besides, a lack of consistency in the results of the analyses made it impossible to confirm a relationship between the innovative behavior of a company and the need to collaborate. In addition, both digitalization and innovation did not create a need to collaborate with competitors, as the lack of trust was too much of a barrier. The research made some theoretical and practical implications that are beneficial for manufacturing firms, but it also had a number of limitations that demonstrated the need for future research to find in-depth and comprehensive information that could lead to more generalizable conclusions.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen