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Few studies of technology alliances have explicitly examined the link between internal research capability and external sources of innovation via interfirm networks. While different partners bring with them different sets of resource opportunities, the networks can serve as "pipes" of information via indirect partners. This research examined whether the level of research capability moderates the performance impact of a firm's network accessibility in terms of the number of technology partners and the firm's centrality in the network. Interviews were also conducted with management executives and engineers to investigate the underlying motives and strategy of technology alliances. While the statistical findings show that increasing research capability enhances the benefits of information access via centrality, our interview data provide support that the role of good engineers as technology gatekeepers is critical to the success of leveraging partners' resources. Building upon the rich qualitative data, we conclude the study with an organizational framework of technology strategy. This paper contributes to engineering management research by linking both strategic and organizational factors of research capability in acquiring external sources of innovation.
Date of Publication: Nov. 2005