Keywords: plant biotechnology, cooperative research, Monsanto, complementarity, university-industry links, networks
Innovating through networks: a case study in plant biotechnology
This paper is based on the case study of a large firm, namely Monsanto, which created a new knowledge base to sustain a strategic diversification from agrochemicals to plant biotechnology. This in-depth analysis helps to belie the idea of spontaneous developments of links between university and industry. While informal relationships, mutual respect and reciprocity, appear to be necessary for the success of cooperative research, they are not sufficient. The analysis outlines the characteristics of a structure directed towards the management of the dynamic complementarity between internal and external knowledge. Two key elements warrant particular emphasis: the use of external sources of knowledge from a systematic search (which helps the firms not to be locked in a narrow network but to fully benefit from the flexibility of networks); and the strong coherence and integration capacity of the internal research organisation.