Virtual teams

Virtual (or dispersed/global) teaming is a phenomenon which is gathering increasing pace in recent years. Simply put, virtual teams are groups of people, separated physically and not necessarily sharing time-zones or any organizational ties but working together with the help of information and communication technologies. With the increasing process of globalization virtual teams are seen by businesses as a disruptive mean for organizing innovation and creating value. From an Open Innovation perspective, virtual teams pose a new organizational form for collaboration and value creation.

In the commercial sector virtual teams have enabled firms to procure the best talent without geographical restrictions. They have also allowed small companies to conduct an effective working process with slim real estate costs and easier allocation of human capital. Although a lot of research has been done on virtual teams, and their feasibility of productive work, dependent on the psychological effects, imposed by the total lack of direct communication (trust-issues, cultural differences, low levels of transactive memory, etc.), virtual teams have proved to be of considerable value in the field of open source. Some[1] find reasons behind this in the ideological motives of team members, the instant peer-recognition of one’s work accompanied by pride, and the overall voluntary character of the work. This state of “symbiosisin open source micro-societies makes the topic of virtual teams strongly tied with the Open innovation concept.

Collaborative R&D Consortia

Industrial research consortia often get formed when firms pool their interests towards a common goal and assume they can both cooperate but still compete with each other by supporting their independent products. Smilor and Gibson (1991)[2] describe a consortium as often being composed of companies (i.e., shareholders) that seek mutually beneficial co-operative research while remaining competitors in the marketplace. Additionally, consortia members could also be universities, national laboratories, etc. Consortia are formed for a wide variety of purposes, such as: to share risk/costs; to avoid duplicate R&D efforts, and to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, human capital or infrastructure.

A central concern for collaborative R&D consortia remains how firms can opportunistically misappropriate the technology of their partners and use it outside of the construct of the entity.

Joint Development Laboratories

Joint development laboratories, on the other hand, are often formed by a more limited number of members and for specific purposes. Joint development laboratories could either be newly formed entities, jointly controlled by at least two parent firms, whose main purpose is to engage in shared research activities, or already existing clusters of scientists and academia (universities, i.e.), whose work is funded by a limited number of stakeholder firms.

A joint development laboratory can be either of limited duration and intended to conduct research related to a specific project with well-defined milestones or longer lasting with large membership to conduct more generic and long-term research.

[1] Eckstein J., Agile Software Development in the Large: Diving Into the Deep (2013), Addison-Wesley Professional

[2] Gibson D. V., Smilor R. W., Key variables in technology transfer: A field study based empirical analysis. (1991), Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 8(3-4): p. 287–312.