Tessa Van der Valk: Technology Dynamics, Network Dynamics and Partnering. The Case of Dutch Dedicated Life Sciences Firms. Utrecht 2007 (Nederlandse Geograische Studies 360). 141 S.
Compiling chapters that highlight different facets of collaboration in technology development, the book represents the cumulative dissertation of the author. Framed by an overarching introduction that sketches the broader line of argumentation and basic terminology, and a recapitulating discussion and conclusions at the end, four main chapters point out findings of different analytical approaches toward the central theme: the objective of identifying the factors that contribute to the proneness of Dutch life sciences (biotechnology) firms to collaborate with other organisations. Although all chapters may be read independently from each other, the author constructs a logical link between them. She connects the 'macro-level' perspective on technology dynamics and networking dynamics (overlooking the rather 'meso-level' qualities of the latter) as a context of partnering, on the one hand, with the 'micro-level' view on firms’ motivations to collaborate as an explanation for partnering, on the other.
All parts of the study draw on data from written questionnaire surveys of Dutch life science firms in the period 2002-2004 (belonging to the BioPartner Network), with usable sample sizes, ranging from a mere 40 to over 80 firms, depending on the research issue. This has been enriched by information from website research and interviews with nine firm managers. The main focus is set on formal analysis and modelling techniques, which somehow obscures crucial social and qualitative aspects. The first main chapter explores how the emergence of biotechnology firms has affected the scope of used technology fields, indicating technological diversification in the population of firms and a specialization of individual companies. The second chapter investigates changing patterns of collaboration among firms and confirms, not surprisingly, the pivotal function of research centres as networking hubs. The third part tries to reveal the role of certain resources, notably patents and venture capital acquisition, for the partnering behaviour of firms. The fourth one discerns motivations and selection procedures that determine firm partnering, also taking into account an amazingly non-spatial understanding of network embeddedness. The heterogeneity of findings for each approach in the end renders a convincing pulling together of all the strings nevertheless.
Eventually, readers wonder a bit how this text has found its way into a 'Geographical Studies' series. Throughout the book we neither see manifestations of a spatial perspective (the term 'location' is hardly mentioned at all), and links between networking structures and needs of proximity may, at most, only implicitly be drawn; nor is there any reference to prominent works of geographers on the collaboration behaviour of biotechnology firms (even PHIL COOKE's extensive writings on the issue are completely ignored). Geographers thus have to derive their own insights from the study, which alludes to several contemporary topics in modern economic geography, such as evolutionary developments, firm demography and population ecology, and the methodology of networking analysis.
Autorin: Martina Fromhold-Eisebith