Development of absorptive capacity over time and across boundaries:   The case of R&D consortia

Omid Omidvar*, Jakob Edler, Khaleel Malik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Absorptive capacity (AC) has been identified as the ability of firms to acquire, assimilate, and apply external knowledge, and thus as a pre-condition for learning from knowledge environment. However, extant literature has focused on AC as (1) a static and (2) a firm-centred concept. In particular, there is little conceptual framing and empirical evidence of how AC develops over time and across boundaries. Taking R&D consortia as the unit of analysis and based on insights from three in-depth case studies of collaborative R&D, our contribution is a framework for AC development over time and across inter-organizational, intra-organizational, and practice boundaries at different stages of collaboration in R&D consortia. Using this framework, we identify a set of mechanisms which enable the development of AC and we discuss the preconditions for these mechanisms. For R&D managers, our research implies that in order to enhance effectiveness of knowledge transfer and learning in R&D consortia they need to develop a strategy that (1) supports learning and AC development throughout the whole cycle of the collaboration, not only by focusing on intra-firm capabilities, but in particular by providing flexible interfaces for overcoming a variety of interaction and learning boundaries between heterogeneous R&D partners, and (2) enables the integration of created and acquired knowledge within the organization once the collaboration is over.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)665-683
Number of pages19
JournalLong Range Planning
Issue number5
Early online date15 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


  • Absorptive capacity
  • Boundaries
  • Case study
  • R&D consortia


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