The ignition of auto-mobility ecosystems projects - Insights from three case studies

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2017)




Automotive players know that the battle toward long term profitability involves partners previously not related to the traditional automotive sector value chain, such as European Commission or Google. The interplay with these new entrants generates different engagement frames, compared to the supplier-OEMs relationship in a stable value chain. The need and the forms of performing such partnership with an extended and heterogeneous panel of partners, is a strategic question traditional players struggle with, and it drives to a paralyzing paradox. The tension resides in defining the adequate measure of engagement, the typology of relationship, the length of the time horizon, traditional players should engage with the new players, considering that actions in this direction diverts resources from traditional business. Go for a strong, long-term vision based engagement, with hard-to forecast impacts on traditional business, or for a weak, short-term communication goal based one?
The communication investigates how heterogeneous partners engage into collaboration aiming at the creation of an ecosystem for the deployment of services involving public and private stakeholders. How does the engagement take off and by which parameters is it influenced?

Cases selected:
In order to answer to this research question, researchers chose to investigate three projects: two European Commission funded research projects and one national private initiative driven project, all aiming at smart mobility infrastructure development. The three cases
We chose these three cases because they stand as a relevant “theoretical sampling” for the research quest:
- Each one goes far beyond the traditional automotive value chain and imply that OEMs take a position in data, new energies and smart cities value chains.
- They are quite heterogeneous in term of initial setting structures, technology standards, competences and alignment levels among partners.
Case 1 - A consortium formed by four automotive manufacturers (OEMs), one energy supplier, a service operator and one academic institution (the authors were part of it) aims to deploy 200 EV charging stations in 2 years along a national highways network.
Case 2 - A consortium formed by three carmakers, two service providers, two private IT and cloud operators and one academic institution (the authors were part of it), aims to create the prototype for a marketplace to monetize data extracted from connected cars.
Case 3 - One carmaker in collaboration with several industrial, public and academic partners (the authors were part of it), aims to create a vision of the autonomous mobility, as a first step toward profitable ecosystem creation for services and integration into local urban environment.
Case analysis
We observed and analyzed how each project, initiated by a “common purpose and shared objective" evolved overtime.

Data collection included participation to Consortia Committees, interviews to partners and project-related stakeholders, participation to international symposia on smart cities and big data-driven innovation. Relying on these data, we followed a process analysis creating (and recreating dynamically) a narrative of how things (Dumez 2006)– organizations, people, opinions, objects, etc. – evolve overtime and why they evolve in this way (Van de Ven, 1992).
We dynamically constructed and analyzed the storytelling of the cases relying on established theorical lenses: innovation management and dynamic capabilities (Adner, Midler, Maniak Teece, Baldwin and Clark), platform leadership (Gawer Cusumano), public-private partnership (Markard and Truffer, Pinkse et al.), double sided markets (Eisenmann et al.,; Parker and Alstyne), , exploration projects (Lenfle, Le Masson, Weil, Hatchuel), as well as the valuable inputs from digital disruption on governance from value chain dynamics and ecosystem management (Jacobides).


All projects started with a shared declared purpose and an adequate allocation of resources. Neverthless, they had unexpected trajectories in term of planning completion, partners engagement and target achievement among public and private stakeholders.
We show that such deviations can be explained by the misfit between the practices of such ecosystemic project management and the specificities of each partner initial dynamic. This suggests that project management settings (reporting, timeline, governance, flexibility,…) should adapt to partners’ maturity at the beginning of the project (defined as the level of previously acquired, stabilized and diffused experience), number of similar projects under simultaneous development, and ambidextrous capacity for effective application of knowledge and results from previous projects, Initial actors alignment in term of technical standards, cognitive setting (or awareness) and roadmap development. . This highly conditions partners’ incentives and coordination obligation.
Consequently, different typologies of management and tools should apply depending on the initial “cocktail” of parameters. The above parameters impact the design of the (flexible) management tools to be used for management in order to have partners to move forward their respective dynamics..
The analysis also questions the public-private traditional practices and invites to bridge private and public theories. It namely invite to consider public authorities not only as ex ante or ex post “regulation players” or reporting receivers, but as active “project members”.

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