This paper pays attention to the performance of knowledge acquisition after the premature termination of R&D alliances, and examines how the termination event affects firms’ knowledge search channel. Based on the knowledge-based view and the resource dependence theory, this paper conducts an analysis of the differences in the knowledge search activities and resource dependency conditions of firms before and after alliance termination. We argue that firms can perceive the possibility of alliance termination according to the changes in alliance activities and thus shift their knowledge search mindset. In addition, the social relationships and behavioral habits of firms do not change rapidly with alliance termination and will still play a role in the subsequent knowledge search process. We thus incorporate knowledge search and alliance routines into the same research framework, which constitutes the theoretical framework of “early termination of R&D alliances – alternative search behavior – knowledge acquisition”.
We use a questionnaire survey to collect data, and eventually obtain 286 valid data from firms belonging to high-tech industries in the Yangtze River Delta region of China. The empirical test results are as follows: First, the knowledge acquisition of firms increases after the early termination of R&D alliances. Second, the early termination of R&D alliances stimulates alternative search behaviors of firms, which enhances the utilization intensity of external resources by conducting local and cross-border searches, and thus acquires a large amount of heterogeneous knowledge. Third, the stronger the alliance routines, the more obvious the impact of cross-border search on knowledge acquisition; while the strength of alliance routines does not affect the relationship between local search and knowledge acquisition.
Management insights are as follows: When R&D alliances deteriorate, it is more beneficial for firms to terminate them to gain more knowledge; firms should attach importance to each alliance experience, actively establish relationship ties, timely summarize and reflect on cooperation experience, and constantly establish and improve alliance routines; firms should be highly sensitive to the internal and external environment and grasp the possibility of the dissolution of alliances, so that they can timely carry out alternative search behavior and take the initiative of knowledge acquisition.
The contributions include that: The knowledge acquisition consequences of the early termination of R&D alliances are investigated, which extends the alliance theory system; local search and cross-border search are found to play a bridging role in the knowledge acquisition process after the early termination of the alliance, which expands the application scenario of the knowledge search theory; alliance routines that originate from the alliance are not parasitic on the alliance structure, rather, they can be absorbed and used by firms to internalize into their own behavioral norms and continue to guide their behavior even after the early termination of the alliance.