Chapter 1 - Research problem introduction (p. 1-2)
Audi is a German-based car manufacturer well-known for luxury sedans and station wagons. The Audi A4 and Audi A6 street versions were already on the productions lines when the idea of adding an off-road version to the product portfolio arose. At the time, the development resources within Audi were limited. Audi had never before produced an off-road vehicle on their own, for which reason they looked for a capable partner to jointly develop and produce the Audi all-road Quattro, a cross-over between luxury driving comfort and offroad adventure. Magna Steyr, an Austrian-based automotive supplier company, appeared to be an appropriate partner to help Audi to overcome shortcomings in their technological knowledge portfolio on 4-wheel drive technology and provide development resources.
Audi and Magna Steyr had already worked on joint development and production projects during the 15 years previous to the launch of this collaboration. Additionally, this vehicle concept required the integration of a new gas-filled spring device that none of the partners had been able to develop up to that point. Therefore, the project consortium was extended by another partner2 company, which provided the missing technological knowledge to realize the new device. All three partners involved held knowledge assets the other partners were lacking in order to realize the car on their own.
Developing and producing the Audi all-road Quattro idea required the combination of the partners' capabilities (luxury car development and manufacturing expertise, 4-wheel drive technology, spring technology) in an efficient way to make the product a success. The challenge of the project then appeared to be the ways and processes to get the knowledge and capabilities from the project team members of the partner companies and deploy them in order to realize such an ambitious project. This opening chapter introduces the research focus of the thesis, the knowledge sender`s capabilities and her impact on the success of the knowledge transfer.
Nowadays, in the field of product development (PD), organizations strive to realize the potentials of joint work such as overcoming resource and competence limitations, increasing flexibility, leveraging their capabilities as well as sharing risks and costs. One important issue arising from joint work is the need to transfer knowledge and skills. The thesis at hand takes this challenge into account and seeks to contribute to an understanding of the mechanisms underlying the knowledge transfer process. Particularly, the impact of the knowledge sender and her capabilities to transfer know-how are of interest.
The motivation for collaboration in PD and the need for knowledge transfer are outlined first (1.1). This is followed by a review of existing research on this topic (1.2), after which the current research gap is delineated (1.3). Subsequently, research questions are derived (1.4). The chapter closes with the formulation of the research goals, the contributions (1.5), and the thesis structure (1.6).
1.1 Research relevance
Since the 1980s, we have seen a significant increase in the number of organizations cooperating with external partners in order to achieve competitive advantage and to create value (Axelrod 1984, Hamel 1991, Hagedoorn 1993, Parkhe 1993, Teece, Pisano, and Shuen 1997). According to Hagedoorn and Osborn (2002) and Miotti and Sachwald (2003), cooperating in product development is a dominant strategy. The phenomenon of inter-firm R&,D was first recognized in the mid-seventies (about 50 partnerships established each year).