Strategic change and the coevolution of industry-university relationships : evidence from the forest products industry
Author(s)Pertuzé Salas, Julio Alberto
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Engineering Systems Division.
Edward M. Greitzer.
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In this thesis we present an analysis of the dynamics of industry-university relationships tracing the origin of the relationship and its changes over time as the firm's strategies evolve. We analyze the strategic trajectories of nine European and North American forest products companies, distilling four generic strategies, and linking those strategies to each company's university relationships as judged by publications records, academic trajectories of the company's personnel, and interviews with company managers. We found that firms are likely to form new university relationships when (1) integrating new positions in the value chain, (2) diversifying their industrial base, or (3) internationalizing the manufacturing base. When firms narrowed their business and geographical scope, however, they reduced university links. We found that building an industry-university relationship was a gradual process. Periods of strategic stability and bidirectional people flows strengthened these relationships. Changes in the firm's CEO, however, signaled modifications in the firm's university relationships. These modifications were contingent on the strategy pursued by the firm and pre-existing industryuniversity systems. Based on those findings, we derive a framework to describe how industry-university relationships evolve with changes in firm strategy. The thesis shows that changes in corporate strategy affect the formation and evolution of university relationships, an idea generalizable to other industries. The strategic change process of forest products firms, however, has features that may be applicable only to large, commodity-grade capital-intensive industries. In particular when confronted by change, forest products firms did not always evolve towards higher positions in the value chain, sometimes moving down this chain divesting internal technological capabilities. These "competency-destroying" cycles tended to coincide with periods of economic downturn. Because of the dissimilarities in the time scale for change, universities can act as "knowledge buffers" for of these cyclical industries, helping firms to regain lost capabilities and allowing corporate technologies time to mature despite changes in firm strategy.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Engineering Systems Division, 2014.This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Cataloged from student-submitted PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 261-287).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Engineering Systems Division.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Engineering Systems Division.