An Examination of Inter‑Organisational Learning and R&DCapability through Open Innovation


  • Takuya Miyamoto


Open Innovation, Inter-Organizational Learning, Partnership, Delayed Effect, R&D Capability


This study illustrates how Toyota, one of the world’s largest automobile companies, emerged as a leading research and development (R&D) company in the rechargeable battery business in Japan. This study examines the 1990s–2000s period, during which Toyota accumulated substantial R&D capability in rechargeable battery technology. Several automobile companies, such as Toyota and Nissan, have engaged in research on rechargeable battery systems that are adaptable to electronic vehicles. Compared to Nissan, Toyota collaborated with several external partners. A time‑series analysis of patent data comprising 631 samples spanning from 1998 to 2003 shows that Toyota accumulated its R&D capability over time, absorbing technical expertise from partners and ultimately evolving into a leading company. Patent citation data (N = 353) between 2006 and 2009 can trace these patents back to the technologies of Toyota’s former partner, Panasonic. These results confirm that Toyota gained technological expertise from its partners and eventually initiated internal R&D. Earlier studies on open innovation focused on how partnership influences technological output alone. This study sheds light on the specific inter‑organisational aspects of learning via open innovation. Although open innovation is considered a direct outcome of technological output, open innovation for inter‑organisational learning broadens the theory regarding indirect outcomes for R&D capabilities and direct outcomes. From theoretical and practical perspectives, a company must exploit open innovation for the long term with respect to partnerships because it takes time for such partnerships’ influence on R&D activity to take effect. By cross‑correlating lagged patent data for Toyota and Nissan, this study documents the following. First, inter‑organisational learning effects are delayed, significant and persistent. Second, open innovation through partnerships for basic research and supply chain research generates learning effects. Finally, R&D capabilities gleaned from a core partnership and a long‑term partnership can lead to internal R&D enhancements.



1 Jan 2020