Configuring absorptive capacity as a key process for research intensive firms

William E Patterson, Veronique Ambrosini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Absorptive capacity is a dynamic capability which creates new firm resources by searching, acquiring, assimilating, transforming and exploiting external knowledge with internal resources and act as a process framework for innovation. Despite being one of the most frequently cited strategic management concepts, absorptive capacity as a dynamic capability has limited empirical evidence with unverified assumptions. The concept is at risk of reification. With this study we contribute to the literature by providing empirical evidence for absorptive capacity which challenge the assumptions of how the construct is configured. We follow the strategic factor of intellectual property rights (IPR) in European biopharmaceutical firms using a qualitative process study with temporal bracketing. By tracking IPR, we found evidence for absorptive capacity in all firms we studied, but the process framework in use is different to Zahra and George s (2002. Acad. Manage. Rev. 27, 185-203) and Todorova and Durisin s (2007. Acad. Manage. Rev. 32, 774-786) theoretical models. Based on our evidence and literature review we develop some theoretical insights and propose a modified absorptive capacity model. This new model puts a greater emphasis on assimilating knowledge from outside the firm and provides more clarity on how research intensive firms might use absorptive capacity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77 - 89
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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