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Knowledge management capabilities in R&D: a UK‐‐Japan company comparison

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This paper uses a ‘knowledge‐based’ approach to compare the management of R&D in two leading chemicals companies, one British (ICI plc) and one Japanese. It describes key differences in the ways they integrate the ‘near‐market’ knowledge of business units and the scientific knowledge and technical expertise of R&D personnel in central R&D facilities. It shows that the same management practices that underpin superior ‘integrative capabilities’ in the Japanese firm, including central funding of R&D, job‐rotation and career structures and multidisciplinary project teams, also result in significant R&D weaknesses. The comparison demonstrates that different organisational mechanisms are needed to support (1) the development and (2) the leveraging of specialist knowledge within different innovation contexts. Firms must be able to strike a balance between integrative and specialist capabilities to get the most from their R&D. Moreover, the above characteristics which underpin these capabilities are often ‘embedded’ in the broader organisation making them difficult to emulate when they represent ‘best‐practice’ but also making them difficult to change in response to new threats and opportunities.
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Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: Warwick Business School, The University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK, [email protected]

Publication date: 2001-07-01

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