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Radical innovation through internal corporate venturing: Degussa's commercialization of nanomaterials

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Internal corporate venturing enables radical innovation within established firms in mature markets. Without effectively designed and managed internal corporate ventures, the organizational constraints of established firms will strongly favour incremental innovation over radical innovation. This paper investigates the evolution of a successful internal corporate venture within a large, incumbent chemical firm, now known as Evonik Degussa, to reveal the challenges, organizational design, and management strategies of their commercialization of radical nanomaterials technology. The commercialization of nanomaterials technology is of great interest to incumbent materials and chemical firms and to independent ventures, but the radical, generic, and capital intensive nature of nanomaterials technology requires organizational and managerial innovation. This case study demonstrates a model to enable growth through radical innovation in nanomaterials, while taking advantage of an incumbent firm's capabilities and complementary assets. Organizational strategies include incubation from a risk-adverse culture, relatively long timelines for evaluation, and a high-level steering committee. Managerial strategies focus on product development, risk reduction, and active risk management.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Segal Graduate School of Business, Simon Fraser University, 500 Granville Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6C 1W6., Email:

Publication date: 2008-09-01

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