Doctoral dissertation

Jonna Hjelt: R&D departments of big companies create growth ja secure continuity with ways of systemic interaction

Jonna Hjelt
The general strategic objective of companies is to produce sustainable competitive advantage. This means in the research and development (R&D) department perspective the capability of promoting the profitable growth of the company. The objective of the doctoral study of M.Sc. (Admin) Jonna Hjelt has been to resolve, what systemic ways of interaction R&D departments use when promoting the corporate strategy.

Profitable growth has be seen to require competitive and high-performance resources as well as processes that can be used to drive a variety of innovations. The question is about the companies’ ability to renew and ensure continuity through variable innovations. When changes in the competitive environment are rapid and different actors are connected in many ways, circumstances have challenged strategic thinking and made predicting events and responding to them rather complex.

Strategic research has discovered that in fast changing situations, R&D departments have made use of their dynamic areas of expertise while promoting the corporate strategy. In strategy research dynamic areas of expertise are called dynamic capabilities which can be used to detect changes, seize opportunities as well as modify and change the value-creating entity of the company. Any changes in the value-creating entity of the company require systemic interaction from the R&D activities.

Historically, it has been possible to observe that technological advances have driven significant economic growth, the progress of which is described by the S-curve. In large companies, R&D departments have often been set up to promote technological innovation. They are a support service for large companies and strive to promote corporate strategy. In this role, their main objective has been to produce in particular technological innovations, which they balance in their research and development activities.

The purpose of balancing is to secure both the present and the future of the company, and R&D activities specialise in long-term strategic thinking. However, R&D units alone are not able to innovate to reshape and innovate a company’s business, but need systemic interaction to do so. The point is that, in addition to and in support of technological innovations, previous studies have also identified social innovations being used by R&D departments to promote corporate strategy.

The R&D departments of large companies use systemic interaction to advance the corporate strategy. The question is about the ability of R&D units to purposefully use the dimensions of systemic interaction related to their activities, such as 1) strategic thinking, 2) creating polyphony, 3) using knowledge structures, 4) promoting development activities, and 5) customer interaction. From the R&D department point of view, these dimensions of systemic interaction include two different subsystems that are direct and indirect means of serving the corporate strategy.

It is a question of the ability of R&D departments to promote different types of change and renewal in companies through these subsystems. Subsystems describe the systemic interaction of R&D departments not only as contradictory but also as mutually supportive entities. All in all, the study reveals that the dialectical process of the subsystems used by R&D departments contributes to the corporate strategy.

The material has been obtained by interviewing 26 R&D directors of 23 large companies in Finland. The material has been analysed by using content analysis. The companies are from a number of industries, including the electronics, metal, forest, machine, glass processing and pharmaceutical industries.

As a result of the analysis, it has been possible to identify the subsystems utilized by the R&D departments in order to enable the renewal and continuity of companies. In renewal, it is important to safeguard competitiveness and continuity while promoting performance. In order to ensure the competitiveness of enterprises, R&D departments make use of the subsystem of indirect means of systemic interaction, which is about 1) strategic renewal, 2) handling tensions of change, 3) generating information, 4) applied research and 5) utilizing renewing customer relationships. To safeguard the performance of companies, R&D departments make use of the direct means subsystem of systemic interaction, which is about the ability to promote 1) strategic choices, 2) multi-professional collaboration, 3) information management, 4) product development, and 5) established customer relationships.

The doctoral dissertation of M.Sc. (Admin) Jonna Hjelt in the field ofi administrative science titled Tutkimus- ja kehitysyksiköiden suorat ja epäsuorat keinot suurten yritysten strategian edistämisessä: T&K-yksiköiden systeeminen vuorovaikutus will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Mangement and Business of Tampere University at 12 o'clock on Friday 7 May. Docent Mika Nieminen from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland eill be the opponent while Professor emeritus Risto Harisalo will act as the custos.

The event can be followed via remote connection

The dissertation is available online at
http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-03-1936-6

 

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