This paper aims to discover the key elements for generating and protecting innovations based on the customer-supplier relationship in industrial sectors.
This exploratory qualitative study was performed using semi-structured interviews with chief executive officers and innovation managers of 22 industrial firms and institutions from the machine-tool industry.
Key forms of knowledge must be shared by the two agents. Producers have to obtain in-depth knowledge about customers’ needs and customers need knowledge on producer’s absorptive capacity. Producers distinguish between three types of customers: reference customers, necessary for innovations with greatest scope, clientes amigos or test users, required to test innovations currently being developed, and traditional customers, associated with incremental innovations. The traditional means of protecting innovations is a detailed contract between customer and supplier; and patents are used for innovations of greater technological scope, as a form of defense against third-party patents and as a signaling element of absorptive capacity.
The paper draws on the direct experience of executives from companies whose innovation is based on a close relationship with customers to answer questions to which the literature has yet to provide definitive answers: What sort of information to be shared is relevant for the generation of innovations? Are all customers equal or are there profiles that contribute more effectively to the development of innovations? What attitude and mechanisms are most effective for protecting the knowledge and competitiveness generated through knowledge sharing?
Charterina, J., Basterretxea, I. and Landeta, J. (2017), "Collaborative relationships with customers: generation and protection of innovations", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 733-741. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBIM-02-2017-0052
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