Configurations of Inter-Firm Relations in Management Innovation: A Study in China's Biopharmaceutical Industry Defended on Thursday, 17 March 2011

This dissertation proposes a configurational approach to the study of inter-firm relations facilitating management innovation. Previous research conceptualizes management innovation as either the outcome of determinants of individual firms or a complex process of conjunctural factors between firms. In contrast, this thesis attempts to reconcile the two camps by examining the conditions under which the management innovation process within inter-firm relations takes place. The empirical analysis employs data from 56 firm partnerships in China’s biopharmaceutical industry collected during field research in 2008. The population of firms in China’s biopharmaceutical industry is young, highly diverse and strongly relies on ties to other organizations. Operating under volatile conditions requires constant development of new managerial instruments. Methodologically, this dissertation employs a technique new in the study of management innovation. Fuzzy Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis has been chosen for its ability to properly translate complex theories into models and its suitability for configurational analyses.

The results identify four configurations of inter-firm relations differing in their combinations of relational, structural and environmental conditions. Each is equally effective in facilitating management innovation yet employs internal and external knowledge differently to develop and implement new management instruments. The results provide a simple and well arranged decision-making tool for drafting intelligible managerial strategies and indicate that firms in China’s biopharmaceutical industry swiftly develop and introduce management instruments which soon may serve as templates for the global biopharmaceutical industry as a whole.


management innovation, configurational analysis, china, inter-firm relations, QCA, biotechnology, organizational theory, strategic change, innovation

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