Roles of inter-firm relationships in R&D: the case of NTT in the Japanese telecom industry
The value and scope of telecom services have increased substantially in the decade from the mid 1990s. The telecom companies have offered not only telephone services but also data exchanges for example streaming services. Therefore, they now offer telecom services as packaging into which layered services are integrated. The number of actors involved in the market has increased due to the expansion of business areas, while rapidly changing technological trends have altered R&D methods. The thesis shows that the adoption of the marketing concept and the development of complex inter-firm technology based relationships underpin the creation and management of new telecom services. The relationships have originated from an exchange of technological knowledge and specialized skills. This research uses the NTT-centred collaboration system in Japan, which features relational exchanges and high mutual dependence. This case shows that inter-firm relationships greatly contributed in the development of technological resources in two ways; collecting advantageous technologies from others and mediating in the introduction of new technologies. In addition, developments in technology resulted in an expanded domain of applicability. Consequently, not only the market structure was changed but also the relationship between marketing and R&D changed. With increasing integration of the market, the number of related firms increased as firms concentrated on specific technologies, with additional firms having superior competitive advantages in each layered business area. The case in the thesis also shows mechanisms of changing inter-firm relationships under dynamic business circumstances; indirect exchanges occurred when inter-firm relationships changed. Inter-firm relationships are changed, keeping existing but adding new relationships. The study also indicates a new direction to study service marketing. As the new trend of service development in ICT industry develops so the integration abilities and the management of inter-firm relationships in supply-sides become more focused. The thesis points to the importance of these upstream activities (coordinating inter-firm relationships in a service-oriented approach) and advocates the presence of a facilitator who can bridge both upstream and downstream activities. The results should contribute to both marketing and technology management in academia as well as business practices in R&D management.