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Romaric Servajean-Hilst PhD defense

Relational approach of vertical innovation cooperation: performance factors of client-supplier cooperation in innovation

Thesis defended on the 8th of September at 8:45pm.


The question now is no longer whether clients and suppliers need to cooperate in innovation; it is: how to make such vertical cooperation relationships successful? The challenge is that the issues related to innovation are coupled with those linked to the client-supplier relationship – whereas traditionally they are managed separately.

The objective of the thesis is to understand the dynamics of vertical innovation cooperation performance, considering inter-firms and intra-firms interactions. In order to do so, we mobilized a theoretical framework based on resource-based views, transaction cost theory and relationship marketing, and mixed qualitative and quantitative methods.

Using literature and data gleaned from interviews with practitioners, we first built a conceptual model made up of four intertwined elements: the dyad configuration, the relationship atmosphere, the innovation project and the relationship performance. Thanks to a survey with 160 answering suppliers describing a cooperation with one of their clients, we tested this model and validated it statistically. We then took part, in a twenty-month participating-observation, of a vertical innovation cooperation, embedded within the Innovation-Purchasing Direction of the client-firm. This cooperation was narrated and analyzed using our conceptual model.

The first contribution of the thesis is the conceptual model that (1) characterizes a vertical innovation cooperation based on appropriate variables, and (2) iteratively explains its dynamic. It is completed by a proposal of relationship performance measurement. Another contribution is to have demonstrated the complementarity between trust and interfirm control mechanisms.

This thesis extends the realm of vertical innovation cooperation governance beyond the analysis of the innovation project. It also characterizes Innovation-Purchasing as a new developing function which is found to be important in such contexts. Therefore, this thesis provides some keys to better understand the management


Richard Calvi Professeur des Universités, IAE Savoie Mont-Blanc, Université de Savoie rapporteur
Carole Donada
Professeur, ESSEC rapporteur
Hubert Delatte Directeur des Achats-Innovation, Faurecia FAS examinateur
Christophe Midler Professeur, Ecole polytechnique
Directeur de recherche au CNRS
Wim Vanhaverbeke Professeur, Hasselt University examinateur
Sihem Ben Mahmoud Jouini Professeur associé, HEC Paris
Chercheur associé au CRG, Ecole polytechnique
directeur de thèse