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The Complementary Roles of Applied and Basic Research: A Knowledge-Based Perspective

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While a great deal of scholastic effort has gone into discovering the multifaceted relationships between applied research initiatives and subsequent performance, relatively little empirical research addresses the performance impact from firm investments in basic research initiatives. Even less addresses the interactive roles of both types of research. The authors conceptualize and empirically evaluate the interactive relationship between applied and basic research initiatives and firm performance. Applied and basic research projects are knowledge creation activities in a product development domain, and both initiatives enhance the stored knowledge of a firm. Stored knowledge is the fuel that drives the product development engine. Applied research initiatives assimilate and exploit stored knowledge to develop new products. Basic research initiatives contribute to and enhance the stock of knowledge from which the applied initiatives are drawn. This expanded base of stored knowledge has positive ramifications for subsequent applied research initiatives. Results indicate that firms that engage in moderate or higher levels of applied research will see enhanced performance returns from additional investments in basic research. Conversely, firms that engage in relatively lower levels of applied research see no performance enhancement at any level of investment in basic research. Firms that rely on a flow of product innovations to provide a continued income stream must certainly invest in applied research initiatives. However, additional investment in directed basic research initiatives will augment future applied projects and could become the source of sustainable competitive advantage.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-11-01

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