Exploring the microfoundations of external technology commercialization

Mattia Bianchi (Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy)
Vittorio Chiesa (Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy)
Federico Frattini (Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Publication date: 2 October 2009



External technology commercialization (ETC) refers to the firm's transfer of technological assets, disembodied from products, to another organization involving a contractual obligation for compensation. The purpose of this paper is to identify the managerial and organizational antecedents that are capable of explaining superior capabilities in ETC.


Starting from an in‐depth analysis of the literature about technology commercialization and adopting the dynamic capabilities strategic perspective, the study develops a theoretical framework that shows how a number of concepts (resources, capabilities and microfoundations) may affect performance in ETC. A case study analysis is conducted with illustrative purposes.


The paper shows that adequate management and organization of ETC activities are needed to successfully undertake ETC. Combining evidence from a case study and findings from prior studies, research propositions are developed regarding key process, organizational and human resource mechanisms that lie at the heart of superior capabilities in ETC.

Practical implications

The paper provides technology and innovation managers with a number of suggestions for organizing and managing ETC that are likely to improve performance.


Owing to the complexity of ETC related activities and the high transaction costs characterizing the markets for technologies, only few companies are reaping the gains from the commercialization of their technologies while the majority fail to realize their potential. This paper is the first attempt, to the best knowledge of the authors, which adopts the dynamic capabilities perspective to unearth the managerial levers driving superior performance in ETC.



Bianchi, M., Chiesa, V. and Frattini, F. (2009), "Exploring the microfoundations of external technology commercialization", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 444-469. https://doi.org/10.1108/14601060910996918

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