The virtual enterprise (VE) is a new collaborative intelligent manufacturing paradigm that pools the core competencies of its member enterprises through computer networks to exploit transient market opportunities. The successful operation of such an organization is strongly dependent on its information securities, in which cross-domain authentication among entities of different member enterprises is a crucial issue. This problem is particularly difficult in VEs because of their collaborative nature in terms of agility, market dynamics, low cost, and diversity of collaboration modes. In this paper, we put forward a novel virtual bridge certificate authority (BCA) trust model, based on which an efficient cross-domain authentication scheme is further presented. The proposed scheme is implemented by the distributed verifiable secret sharing protocol and the threshold elliptic curve cryptosystem signature algorithm. It has the same advantages of simple construction and short length of inter-enterprise certification paths as the BCA model but does not need to create and maintain a dedicated physical BCA. In addition, the proposed scheme has the merits of high bit security, high efficiency, low cost, conspiracy attack resistance, and adaptability to diverse collaboration modes of VE. Therefore, the scheme is suitable for cross-domain authentications in VEs, especially for resource-limited applications. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.