Technology transfer challenges in asymmetric alliances between high-technology and low-technology firms

Chris Simms, Johan Frishammar

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Low-technology firms face an increasingly disruptive innovation landscape as new legislation and changing market demands force them to dramatically reduce emission levels to become more sustainable. However, successfully developing and implementing sustainable technologies frequently presupposes alliances between low-technology firms (such as process industry companies) and high-tech firms (such as their specialized technology providers). Such alliances are asymmetric and problematic because of differences in approaches to learning, knowledge bases, collaboration routines, and high cognitive distance between high- and low-technology firms. Against this background, we performed a multiple case study of six asymmetric alliances operating in the food and food packaging sectors in the UK. The analysis reveals that technology distance asymmetry, technology integration complexity, and innovation capability incompatibilities prohibit technology transfer effectiveness. By mapping these themes across three phases of technology transfer, we identified a total of nine unique problems that hamper technology transfer effectiveness and, therefore, risk delaying or distorting the implementation of novel sustainable technology. The paper provides theoretical implications for the literature on innovation in LMT firms and for the literature on sustainability alliances along with practical implications for improving technology transfer between high-tech and low-tech firms considering climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104937
Number of pages20
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number3
Early online date17 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2024


  • Low-technology industries
  • Doing using and interacting innovation
  • Sustainable Innovation
  • Technology transfer
  • Alliance

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