Eurasian Business Review

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 387–406 | Cite as

Exploration, exploitation, and firm age in alliance portfolios

  • Manuel Guisado-GonzálezEmail author
  • Jennifer González-Blanco
  • José Luis Coca-Pérez
Regular Article


We analyzed the relationship between exploration-oriented and exploration-oriented alliances. Through the complementarity approach, three possible relationships were analyzed: complementarity, substitutability, and no relationship. We use Technological Innovation Panel data for Spanish manufacturing firms for 2005–2013. The econometric technique that we used to estimate the coefficients was population-averaged OLS. Our findings suggest that alliance portfolios formed by exploration-oriented and exploration-oriented alliances achieve worse innovation performance than specialized exploration or exploitation portfolios. In addition, we found that a single class of alliance has different impacts on innovation performance depending on whether it is implemented by a young company or a mature company.


Exploration Exploitation Firm age Alliances Complementarity approach 

JEL Classification

C12 D24 L24 O32 



  1. Abernathy, W. J. (1978). The productivity dilemma: roadblock to innovation in the automobile industry. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ahuja, G. (2000). The duality of collaboration: inducements and opportunities in the formation of inter-firm linkages. Strategic Management Journal, 21(3), 317–343.Google Scholar
  3. Atuahene-Gima, K. (2005). Resolving the capability: rigidity paradox in new product innovation. Journal of Marketing,69(4), 61–83.Google Scholar
  4. Ballot, G., Fakhfakh, F., Galia, F., & Salter, A. (2015). The fateful triangle. Complementarities between product, process and organizational innovation in the UK and France. Research Policy,44(1), 217–232.Google Scholar
  5. Belderbos, R., Carree, M., & Lokshin, B. (2006). Complementarity in R&D cooperation strategies. Review of Industrial Organization,28(4), 401–426.Google Scholar
  6. Boumgarden, P., Nickerson, J., & Zenger, T. R. (2012). Sailing into the wind: exploring the relationships among ambidexterity, vacillation, and organizational performance. Strategic Management Journal,33(6), 587–610.Google Scholar
  7. Branstetter, L. G., & Sakakibara, M. (2002). When do research consortia work well and why? Evidence from Japanese panel data. The American Economic Review,92(1), 143–159.Google Scholar
  8. Broekel, T., & Graf, H. (2012). Public research intensity and the structure of German R&D networks: a comparison of 10 technologies. Economics of Innovation and New Technology,21(4), 345–372.Google Scholar
  9. Brown, S. L., & Eisenhardt, K. M. (1995). Product development: past research, present findings, and future directions. Academy of Management Review,20(2), 343–378.Google Scholar
  10. Cao, Q., Gedajlovic, E., & Zhang, H. (2009). Unpacking organizational ambidexterity: dimensions, contingencies, and synergistic effects. Organization Science,20(4), 781–796.Google Scholar
  11. Cassiman, B., & Veugelers, R. (2006). In search of complementarity in the innovation strategy: internal R&D and external knowledge acquisition. Management Science,52(1), 68–82.Google Scholar
  12. Choi, Y. R., & Phan, P. H. (2014). Exploration, exploitation, and growth through new product development: the moderating effects of firm age and environmental adversity. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management,61(3), 428–437.Google Scholar
  13. Coad, A., & Guenther, C. (2013). Diversification patterns and survival as firms mature. Small Business Economics,41(3), 633–649.Google Scholar
  14. Coad, A., Segarra, A., & Teruel, M. (2016). Innovation and firm growth: does firm age play a role? Research Policy,45(2), 387–400.Google Scholar
  15. Cohen, W. M., & Levinthal, D. A. (1990). A new perspective on learning and innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly,3(1), 128–152.Google Scholar
  16. Colombo, M. G., Doganova, L., Piva, E., D’Adda, D., & Mustar, P. (2015). Hybrid alliances and radical innovation: the performance implications of integrating exploration and exploitation. The Journal of technology Transfer,40(4), 696–722.Google Scholar
  17. Czarnitzki, D., Ebersberger, B., & Fier, A. (2007). The relationship between R&D collaboration, subsidies and patenting activity: empirical evidence from Finland and Germany. Journal of Applied Econometrics,22(7), 1347–1366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Damanpour, F., Walker, R. M., & Avellaneda, C. N. (2009). Combinative effects of innovation types and organizational performance: a longitudinal study of service organizations. Journal of Management Studies,46(4), 650–675.Google Scholar
  19. Das, T. K., & Teng, B. S. (1998). Between trust and control: developing confidence in partner cooperation in alliances. Academy of Management Review,23(3), 491–512.Google Scholar
  20. Das, T. K., & Teng, B. S. (2000). A resource based theory of strategic alliances. Journal of Management,26(1), 31–61.Google Scholar
  21. Deeds, D. L., & Hill, C. W. (1996). Strategic alliances and the rate of new product development: an empirical study of entrepreneurial biotechnology firms. Journal of Business Venturing, 11(1), 41–55.Google Scholar
  22. Duncan, R. B. (1976). The ambidextrous organization: designing dual structures for innovation. The Management of Organization Design,1, 167–188.Google Scholar
  23. Faems, D., Janssens, M., Madhok, A., & Van Looy, B. (2008). Toward an integrative perspective on alliance governance: connecting contract design, contract application, and trust dynamics. Academy of Management Journal,51(6), 1053–1078.Google Scholar
  24. Faems, D., Van Looy, B., & Debackere, K. (2005). Interorganizational collaboration and innovation: toward a portfolio approach. Journal of Product Innovation Management,22(3), 238–250.Google Scholar
  25. Gibson, C. B., & Birkinshaw, J. (2004). The antecedents, consequences, and mediating role of organizational ambidexterity. Academy of Management Journal,47(2), 209–226.Google Scholar
  26. Guisado-González, M., Wright, L. T., & Guisado-Tato, M. (2015). Product–process matrix and complementarity approach. The Journal of Technology Transfer. Scholar
  27. Gupta, A. K., Smith, K. G., & Shalley, C. E. (2006). The interplay between exploration and exploitation. Academy of Management Journal,49(4), 693–706.Google Scholar
  28. Hannan, M. T., & Freeman, J. (1984). Structural inertia and organizational change. American Sociological Review,49(2), 149–164.Google Scholar
  29. He, Z. L., & Wong, P. K. (2004). Exploration vs. exploitation: an empirical tests of the ambidexterity hypothesis. Organization Science,15(4), 481–494.Google Scholar
  30. Jansen, J. J. P., Tempelaar, M. P., Van den Bosch, F. A. J., & Volberda, H. W. (2009). Structural differentiation and ambidexterity: the mediating role of integration mechanisms. Organization Science,20(4), 797–811.Google Scholar
  31. Koza, M. P., & Lewin, A. Y. (1998). The co-evolution of strategic alliances. Organization Science,9(3), 255–264.Google Scholar
  32. Laursen, K., Leone, M. I., & Torrisi, S. (2010). Technological exploration through licensing: new insights from the licensee’s point of view. Industrial and Corporate Change,19(3), 871–897.Google Scholar
  33. Lavie, D., Kang, J., & Rosenkopf, L. (2011). Balance within and across domains: the performance implications of exploration and exploitation in alliances. Organization Science,22(6), 1517–1538.Google Scholar
  34. Levin, R. C., Klevorick, A. K., Nelson, R. R., & Winter, S. G. (1987). Appropriating the returns from industrial research and development. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 3, 783–820.Google Scholar
  35. Lavie, D., Lechner, C., & Singh, H. (2007). The performance implications of timing of entry and involvement in multipartner alliances. Academy of Management Journal,50(3), 578–604.Google Scholar
  36. Lavie, D., & Rosenkopf, L. (2006). Balancing exploration and exploitation in alliance formation. Academy of Management Journal,49(4), 797–818.Google Scholar
  37. Lavie, D., Stettner, U., & Tushman, M. L. (2010). Exploration and exploitation within and across organizations. The Academy of Management Annals,4(1), 109–155.Google Scholar
  38. Leung, V. K. K., Keung, M Ch., Zhang, Z., & Gu, F. F. (2015). Explorative versus exploitative alliances: evidence from the glass industry in China. Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies,13(2), 127–146.Google Scholar
  39. Levinthal, D. A., & March, J. G. (1993). The myopia of learning. Strategic Management Journal,14, 95–112.Google Scholar
  40. Lewin, A. Y., Long, C. P., & Carroll, T. N. (1999). The coevolution of new organizational forms. Organization Science,10(5), 535–550.Google Scholar
  41. Lubatkin, M. H., Simsek, Z., Ling, Y., & Veiga, J. F. (2006). Ambidexterity and performance in small- to medium-sized firms: the pivotal role of top management team behavioral integration. Journal of Management,32(5), 646–672.Google Scholar
  42. March, J. G. (1991). Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. Organization Science,2(1), 71–87.Google Scholar
  43. McNamara, P., & Baden-Fuller, C. (2007). Shareholder returns and the exploration-exploitation dilemma: R&D announcements by biotechnology firms. Research Policy,36(4), 548–565.Google Scholar
  44. Milgrom, P., & Roberts, J. (1990). The economics of modern manufacturing: technology, strategy, and organization. American Economic Review,80, 511–528.Google Scholar
  45. Miotti, L., & Sachwald, F. (2003). Co-operative R&D: why and with whom? An integrated framework of analysis. Research Policy,32(8), 1481–1499.Google Scholar
  46. Mohnen, P., & Röller, L. (2005). Complementarities in innovation policy. European Economic Review,49(6), 1431–1450.Google Scholar
  47. O’Reilly, C. A., & Tushman, M. L. (2004). The ambidextrous organization. Harvard Business Review,82(4), 74–81.Google Scholar
  48. O’Reilly, C. A., & Tushman, M. L. (2008). Ambidexterity as a dynamic capability: resolving the innovator’s dilemma. Research in Organizational Behaviour,28, 185–206.Google Scholar
  49. Park, S. H., Chen, R., & Gallagher, S. (2002). Firm resources as moderators of the relationship between market growth and strategic alliances in semiconductor start-ups. Academy of Management Journal,45(3), 527–545.Google Scholar
  50. Park, N. K., Mezias, J. M., & Song, J. A. (2004). Resource-based view of strategic alliances and firm value in the electronic marketplace. Journal of Management,30(1), 7–27.Google Scholar
  51. Pinto, P. E., Hine, D. & Knights, P. (2011). Types and traps: R&D consortia and developmental pitfalls. DRUID Society Conference 2011 on Innovation, Strategy and Structure—Organizations, Institutions, Systems and Regions, Copenhagen, Denmark.Google Scholar
  52. Porter, M. E. (1980). Competitive strategy: techniques for analyzing industries and competitors. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  53. Puhan, T. X. (2008). Balancing exploration and exploitation by creating organizational think tanks. Wiesbaden: Gabler Edition Wissenschaft.Google Scholar
  54. Raisch, S., & Birkinshaw, J. (2008). Organizational ambidexterity: antecedents, outcomes, and moderators. Journal of Management,34(3), 375–409.Google Scholar
  55. Raisch, S., Birkinshaw, J., Probst, G., & Tushman, M. L. (2009). Organizational ambidexterity: balancing exploitation and exploration for sustained performance. Organization Science,20(4), 685–695.Google Scholar
  56. Rivkin, J. W., & Siggelkow, N. (2003). Balancing search and stability: interdependencies among elements or organizational design. Management Science,49(3), 290–311.Google Scholar
  57. Rosenkopf, L., & McGrath, P. (2011). Advancing the conceptualization and operationalization of novelty in organizational research. Organization Science,22(5), 1297–1311.Google Scholar
  58. Rothaermel, F. T. (2001). Complementary assets, strategic alliances, and the incumbent’s advantage: an empirical study of industry and firm effects in the biopharmaceutical industry. Research Policy,30(8), 1235–1251.Google Scholar
  59. Rothaermel, F. T., & Alexandre, M. T. (2009). Ambidexterity in technology sourcing: the moderating role of absorptive capacity. Organization Science,20(4), 759–780.Google Scholar
  60. Rothaermel, F. T., & Deeds, D. L. (2004). Exploration and exploitation Alliances in biotechnology: a system of new product development. Strategic Management Journal,25(3), 201–221.Google Scholar
  61. Sidhu, J. S., Commandeur, H. R., & Volberda, H. W. (2007). The multifaceted nature of exploration and exploitation: value of supply, demand, and spatial search for innovation. Organization Science,18(1), 20–38.Google Scholar
  62. Smith, K. G., Collins, C. J., & Clark, K. D. (2005). Existing knowledge, knowledge creation capability, and the rate of new product introduction in high-technology firms. Academy of Management Journal, 48(2), 346–357.Google Scholar
  63. Sørensen, J. B., & Stuart, T. E. (2000). Aging, obsolescence, and organizational innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly,45(1), 81–112.Google Scholar
  64. Stuart, T. E. (2000). Interorganizational alliances and the performance of firms: a study of growth and innovation rates in a high-technology industry. Strategic Management Journal, 21(8), 791–811.Google Scholar
  65. Stettner, U., & Lavie, D. (2014). Ambidexterity under Scrutiny: exploration and exploitation via internal organization, alliances, and acquisitions. Strategic Management Journal,35(13), 1903–1929.Google Scholar
  66. Stinchcombe, A. L. (1965). Social structure and organizations. In J. G. March (Ed.), Handbook of organizations (pp. 142–193). Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  67. Sutton, J. (1997). Gibrat’s legacy. Journal of Economic Literature,35(1), 40–59.Google Scholar
  68. Teece, D. J. (2002). Managing intellectual capital. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Topkis, D. M. (1978). Minimizing a submodular function on a lattice. Operations Research,26(2), 305–321.Google Scholar
  70. Tripsas, M. (1997). Unraveling the process of creative destruction: complementary assets and incumbent survival in the typesetter industry. Strategic Management Journal,18, 119–142.Google Scholar
  71. Tushman, M., & Nadler, D. (1986). Organizing for innovation. California Management Review,28(3), 74–92.Google Scholar
  72. Uotila, J., Maula, M., Keil, T., & Zahra, S. A. (2009). Exploration, exploitation, and financial performance: analysis of S&P 500 corporations. Strategic Management Journal,30(2), 221–231.Google Scholar
  73. Van den Bosch, F. A. J., Volberda, H. W., & de Boer, M. (1999). Coevolution of firm absorptive capacity and knowledge environment: organizational forms and combinative capabilities. Organization Science, 10(5), 551–568.Google Scholar
  74. Venkatraman, N., Lee, C. H., & Iyer, B. (2007). Strategic ambidexterity and sales growth: a longitudinal test in the software sector. Unpublished manuscript. Boston University Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  75. Volery, T., Mueller, S., & Von Siemens, B. (2015). Entrepreneur ambidexterity: a study of entrepreneur behaviours and competencies in growth-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises. International Small Business Journal,33(2), 109–129.Google Scholar
  76. Voss, G. B., Sirdeshmukh, D., & Voss, Z. G. (2008). The effects of slack resources and environmental threat on product exploration and exploitation. Academy of Management Journal,51(1), 147–164.Google Scholar
  77. Voss, G. B., & Voss, Z. G. (2013). Strategic ambidexterity in small and medium-sized enterprises: implementing exploration and exploitation in product and market domains. Organization Science,24(5), 1459–1477.Google Scholar
  78. Wagner, J. (2004). Are young and small firms hothouses for nascent entrepreneurs? Evidence from German micro data. Applied Economics Quarterly,50(4), 379–391.Google Scholar
  79. Wheelwright, S. C., & Clark, K. B. (1992). Revolutionizing product development: quantum leaps in speed, efficiency and quality. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  80. Yamakawa, Y., Haibin Yang, H., & Linc, Z. (2011). Exploration versus exploitation in alliance portfolio: performance implications of organizational, strategic, and environmental fit. Research Policy,40(2), 287–296.Google Scholar
  81. Zhang, J. (2016). Facilitating exploration alliances in multiple dimensions: the influences of firm technological knowledge breadth. R&D Management,46, 159–173.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Eurasia Business and Economics Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Financial Economics and AccountingUniversity of ExtremaduraCáceresSpain
  2. 2.Faculty of Economics and BusinessUniversity of VigoVigoSpain

Personalised recommendations