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Successful Product Development after Firm Acquisitions: The Role of Research and Development


Address correspondence to: Christoph Grimpe, Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), L7, 1, D-68161 Mannheim, Germany. Tel.: +49-621-1235-381. Fax: +49-621-1235-170. E-mail:


A major reason for carrying out a merger and acquisition (M&A) is to gain access to technological knowledge and to increase new product development (NPD) capabilities. To achieve the desired effect of improving a firm's capacity for innovation, this knowledge must be combined with the acquiring firm's existing resources. Previous research, however, has made it clear that M&A transactions tend to disrupt a company's innovation processes, resulting in reduced investment in research and development (R&D) activities as well as a lower innovative output in terms of patents and new products introduced to the market. In this regard, a successful postmerger integration of the firms' R&D units plays a decisive role. Conceptually, this exploratory article distinguishes between the strategic approach to integration and the integration instruments or measures to be employed within the approach. Whereas the former sets the general strategic direction of the integration or, in other words, establishes some kind of acquisition posture, the latter describe the relevant fields or dimensions to be addressed during integration. These integration strategies and instruments are subsequently investigated in a sample of 35 M&A transactions. It is shown that companies typically revert to three distinct integration strategies, depending on the need for strategic interdependence and organizational autonomy: symbiosis, absorption, and adjustment. Together with the integration instruments that relate to structural linking, process redesign, systems standardization, and culture building, the integration strategies are analyzed using seemingly unrelated regression models. It turns out that technological success and, hence, NPD capabilities benefit most from a symbiosis and an absorption strategy. Apparently, only wide-ranging reorganization efforts in R&D focussing on common structures, processes, and systems can fully realize the benefits from a combination of resources. To achieve economic success or high integration quality, an adjustment strategy appears to be the best choice as reorganization efforts are rather limited. With respect to the integration instruments, the research shows that the structural linking exhibits a great impact on technological and economic success but no effect on integration quality. Obviously, common structural patterns and interlinked structures within the R&D units have a positive effect in that they facilitate better collaboration and research outcomes. A common organizational structure hence serves as a basis for realizing innovative resource combinations and streamlining the NPD process. A standardization of systems exhibits strong positive links with all success variables. Apparently, a consistent unification, offering orientation and comparability, is of high importance to achieve the best possible implementation of the integration and to foster innovative capabilities. Significant effects of culture building can be substantiated for economic success. Moreover, there tends to be a positive effect on integration quality. This underpins the importance of measures to encourage the build-up of a common corporate culture. To sum up, the research provides a couple of insights on how to strengthen NPD capabilities following a merger.