Coopetitive Innovation Scouting - Comparing Practices of the Network of Automotive Excellence and a Strategic OEM-Supplier Network in Germany

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Berlin (2010)


Coopetition, innovation, Networks


The pressure to innovate and to integrate new technologies into the functionalities of automo-biles has risen considerably over the past years due to over capacities, hybridization and e-mobility trends as well as the current economic crisis. OEMs and their suppliers engage dif-ferently with one another – in more or less collaborative manner – to meet this contemporary challenge. In this paper we target new approaches of OEMs to identify the innovation poten-tial within and beyond the automobile value chain that has not yet been exploited by tradi-tional innovation strategies. Of special interest is the handling of competitive moments in the collaborative identification of innovation potentials. As research objects the Network of Automotive Excellence and a strategic OEM-supplier network in Germany have been ana-lysed. Due to the underlying type of network governance (i.e. strategic network management vs. largely self-coordinated governance), two fundamentally different approaches of manag-ing competition in innovation processes exist.
Within the German based Network of Automotive Excellence a special process has been im-plemented that enables the participants to communicate rather freely about new ideas and in-novations of tier X suppliers within an initiative called “Innovation Scouting”. Here, OEM and suppliers meet regularly to exchange opinion and ideas on upcoming technological inno-vations. This initiative also encompasses a so called “Innovation Competition”, a collabora-tively held event that enables OEMs to scout for new, normally rather unnoticed, develop-ments within the value chain. Although there are no formal buyer-supplier relations and all members should possess equal weight in the discussions, informal power relationships evolve between smaller, typically supplier firms and the more powerful OEMs. Among the partici-pating OEMs, on the other hand, many still have to get used to not being able to solely deter-mine the direction of the initiative by exerting buying power authority.
As a representative of a “typical” type of strategic OEM-supplier network management we chose the case of Volkswagen and their newly introduced practice of “Innovation Competi-tion”. This practice was designed to stimulate cooperation with suppliers who should have the chance to introduce new technologies at a very early stage of the development process. How-ever, suppliers are reluctant to reveal their innovative technologies at such an early point of time as they anticipate the upcoming competition with other suppliers. Thus, the traditional buyer-supplier relationship with its uneven distribution of power may hinder such innovation scouting activities.
This paper aims to uncover the implications for the regulation of cooperation and competition in innovation processes that result from two different types of network governance. By this, we aim to make a contribution to the growing research on interfirm coopetition that has hith-erto focused on innovation processes in dyadic relations between two rivals but ignored forms of network organization.

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