External technology sourcing through alliances or acquisitions : an analysis of the Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASIC) industry

W.P.M. Vanhaverbeke, G.M. Duysters, N.G. Noorderhaven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

253 Citations (SciVal)


In today's turbulent business environment innovation is the result of the interplay between two distinct but related factors: endogenous R&D efforts and (quasi) external acquisition of technology and know-how. Given the increasing importance of innovation, it is vital to understand more about the alternative mechanism—such as alliances and acquisitions—that can be used to enhance the innovative performance of companies. Most of the literature has dealt with these alternatives as isolated issues. Companies, however, are constantly challenged to choose between acquisitions and strategic alliances, given the limited resources that can be spent on research and development. This paper contributes to the literature because it focuses on the choice between innovation-related alliances and acquisitions. We focus on the question of how the trade-off between strategic alliances and acquisitions is influenced by previous direct and indirect ties between firms in an industry network of interfirm alliances. We formulate hypotheses pertaining to the number of direct ties between two companies, their proximity in the overall alliance network, and their centrality in that network. In so doing, we distinguish between ties that connect firms from the same and from different industry segments, and those that connect firms from the same or from different world regions. These hypotheses are tested on a sample of strategic alliances and acquisitions in the application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) industry. The findings show that a series of strategic alliances between two partners increases the probability that one will ultimately acquire the other. Whereas previous direct contacts tend to lead to an acquisition, this is not true of previous indirect contacts, which increase the probability that a link between the companies, once it is forged, takes the form of a strategic alliance. In the case of acquisitions, firms that are more centrally located in the network of interfirm alliances tend to be acquirers, and firms with a less central position tend to become acquired. These findings underscore the importance of taking previously formed interfirm linkages into account when explaining the choice between strategic alliances and acquisitions, as these existing links influence the transaction costs associated with both alternatives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)714-733
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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