Multiplicity of alliance learning in the entrepreneurial process: strategies of early-stage biotech firms

Published: 16 March 2022

Authors: Yuanyuan Wu and Paola Perez-Aleman

Publication: Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Forthcoming (view online)


Entrepreneurial firms depend on knowledge variety and the ability to manage alliance-network learning for knowledge acquisition, which are both challenging. Some studies argue reliance on one key alliance partner is more effective for entrepreneurial firms with limited resources as it is less demanding than collaborations with multiple ones, while others demonstrate that alliances with different organizations significantly benefit them. Firm strategies and mechanisms of the alliance-network learning with multiple partners remain unclear, and illuminating this puzzle is relevant for understanding small and young firms creating innovations. Focusing on the early stages of human health biotech firms in Canada, this paper examines how they use the alliance-network to identify learning opportunities and pursue knowledge accumulation over their successive developmental stages. Adopting the multiple case study method and analyzing the focal firms’ collaborations and learning outcomes, this research advances a processual model of multiplicity of learning. The model identifies firm-specific strategies combining a variety of knowledge building mechanisms and multiple partners guided by organizational goals to innovate. The study contributes to the intersection of entrepreneurial development and alliance learning literatures with a novel view of early-stage firm learning strategies, and offers insights to entrepreneurs, small firms, and policymakers for innovation.

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