“SRDI” (specialized-refinement-differential-innovation) enterprises highly focus on a market segment to form a unique competitive advantage, but also face the problem of specialization “lock-in” caused by the limited capacity of the market segment. How such enterprises search for innovation opportunities based on their existing advantages to break through the development bottleneck is still not fully explained. Based on the perspective of innovation search, this paper selects four “SRDI” enterprises to conduct a multi-case comparative study, and explores the mechanism by which these enterprises break through the dilemma of specialization “lock-in” through innovation search.
The findings of this paper are as follows: First, innovation search becomes the logical starting point for “SRDI” enterprises to break through the dilemma of specialization “lock-in”, showing the characteristics of combination, heterogeneity, and cooperation. Based on the differences in innovation search behaviors of “SRDI” enterprises, their search behaviors can be summarized as responsive, forward-looking, and integrated. Second, faced with the limitation of resources, “SRDI” enterprises aggregate their strength through the leverage actions of “resource borrowing” and “resource amplification” to promote the implementation of innovation search solutions. Due to the lack of internal scientific research force or the lack of key resources, enterprises can boost their development by borrowing external resources. Resource amplification emphasizes not only the deep and efficient utilization of key resources, but also the synergistic effect formed by resource combination. With the help of resource leverage and amplification mechanism, the leverage effect of “SRDI” enterprises presents linkage, extension, and diffusion. Third, the balance strategy based on R&D and demand is an important path for “SRDI” enterprises to break through the dilemma, including three categories: demand driving R&D, R&D driving demand, R&D and demand driving both ways. In the process of breaking through the dilemma and realizing value creation, “SRDI” enterprises integrate internal technology R&D with external market demand insight. However, in different dilemma breakthrough paths, the push-pull balance between R&D and demand has a different dominant position.
The theoretical framework formed in this paper not only broadens the explanatory boundary of innovation search theory, and provides a unique theoretical perspective for the research of “SRDI” enterprises to break through the dilemma of specialization “lock-in”, but also has strong practical guiding value.