Literature review Collaboration readiness for innovation in single organisations

A view of the night sky through conifer trees.

Earlier blog posts discussed the why and how of university-business cooperation, technology readiness measuring tools, and the knowledge and technology transfer process. This blog post is a summary of the desktop review conducted by UIIN and examines the concept of ‘readiness’ with the focus on innovation from the perspective of a single organisation.

To understand what it entails for an organisation to be “ready” to innovate and collaborate for innovation, we first dive into the antecedents and indicators of the internal readiness for organisational change in organisations, with a focus on the organisational structure, its culture and the leadership dimensions. We further briefly discuss the concept and tenets of absorptive capacity for an organisation to recognise and uptake the innovation and technology. Lastly, this will lead us to the examination of the facets of readiness for collaborative activities both from behavioural, resources and competences-based perspectives.


Internal readiness for organisational change and innovation

Readiness for change involves different processes and occurs on different levels within an organisation. There are two types of processes that we can distinguish: cultural and technological processes[1],[2]. The cultural process deals with the soft issues that are required for a successful organisational change. These are for example the organisational culture, attitude towards change on both an individual and organisational level, trust, incentive structure and soft performance measures[2]. On the other side we have the technological process – the hard issues. These are for example the resources required, and IT infrastructure[2].

We can also distinguish between two or three different levels on which these processes take place: the individual, work group, and organisational level[3] or rather a more basic division between the individual and organisational level. These levels are intertwined and influence each other.

The antecedents can be divided into several categories: structure and culture, leadership, resources, local determinant analysis, communication, and ‘innovation’ champion/leader. The overview shows that by far the largest part of the antecedents relate to the organisational structure, its culture and the leadership.

Within the existing literature on challenges, there is a strong focus on individual readiness for change, rather than a combination with organisational readiness. The barriers are very diverse and most often occur in the categories structure and culture, resources, and communication.


Technological readiness and absorptive capacity

To assess to which extent a particular technology is “mature”, a company can use the technology readiness levels (TRLs) using a nine-point scale (1-9) where level 1 is reached once research has begun and level 9 is reached once the technology has been “flight proven”[4]. TRLs can be modified to comprehend the capabilities and resources that are necessary to create a technology at different phases of its development and can be used to understand the advancement of the technology[5].

Throughout the development of a new technology, new knowledge and information is created that can be taken up by businesses, whether the business is able to do so will depend on the business’ absorptive capacity. Absorptive capacity can be defined as “the ability of a firm to recognise the value of new, external information, assimilate it, and apply it to commercial ends”[6]. Thus, it is necessary for a company to have such capabilities to successfully incorporate knowledge and information from external sources.

The absorptive capacity can be increased by the company’s technological and organisational capabilities, and its organisational culture[7]. In 2002, Zahra and George[8] introduced the concept of absorptive capacity consisting of two different components: potential absorptive capacity (PAC) and realised absorptive capacity (RAC). PAC encompasses the knowledge acquisition and assimilation capability of a company, while RAC comprises the company’s transformation and exploitation capabilities.


Collaboration readiness for innovation

The concept of collaboration is difficult to define and implement, and often used interchangeably with related terms such as cooperation, partnerships, alliances, joint ventures, and research consortia[9]. Within this literature review, we understand “collaboration” as an umbrella term that encompasses various forms and levels of collaboration including cooperation, partnerships, alliances, joint ventures, and research consortia.

There are several theoretical frameworks operationalising collaboration readiness and its tenets on an individual level. The most commonly cited are those gravitating towards larger behaviour characteristics analysis[10],[11] and competency/resources analysis[12],[13].

According to the behaviour-based approach [11], there are three factors considered as the underlying foundation for collaboration readiness These are the collaboration preparedness, competencies fitness, and willingness to collaborate.

According to the competency/resources-based approach [12], “collaboration readiness can be defined as the evidence of readiness reflected in the provision of staff, budget, training, technology and other resources to support collaboration based-on the quality and effectiveness of past and current collaborative activities across organisational boundaries”. The competency-based approach does not exclude the behavioural characteristics. Transferring towards more collaborative environments requires a well-developed collaborative culture which includes openness, commitment, leadership, trust-building, self-learning, continues training, long-term & global vision, effective communication, knowledge sharing and innovation[14].

Technology transfer can be seen as a collaboration dimensions among knowledge-driven organisations. It can constitute a form of collaboration or employ collaborative approaches between knowledge-intensive institutions, that are “ready” to move their innovative potential further or uptake new technology/knowledge. Technology transfer can occur in a number of ways, namely through spin-offs, licencing, publications, meetings where technical information is exchanged, and co-operative R&D agreements[15].

Success factors of technology transfer include organisational capabilities such as being able to recognise the value of a technology for the company, to be able to undertake inter-organisational interactions i.e. collaboration[16], and having an open organisational attitude towards innovation[17]. Barriers to transferring research or technology into practice can be attributed to organisational factors such as “leadership attitudes, staff resources, organisational stress, regulatory and financial pressures, management style and tolerance for change”. Furthermore, the “risk tolerance and positive self-concept” of managers have been found to be most predictive of whether employees will accept large-scale changes within an organisation[18].



Authors: Fleur Schellekens, Catherine Hayward, and Alexandra Zinovyeva


Blog editors: Alexandra Zinovyeva (UIIN) and Fleur Schellekens (UIIN)


Header photo by Michael L on Unsplash



[1] Williams I. (2011). Organizational readiness for innovation in health care: some lessons from the recent literature. Health services management research, 24(4), 213–218. doi:

[2] Carrillo, P. M., Robinson, H. S., Anumba, C. J., & Bouchlaghem, N. M. (2006). A knowledge transfer framework: The PFI context. Construction management and economics, 24(10), 1045-1056.

[3] Rafferty, A. E., Jimmieson, N. L., & Armenakis, A. A. (2013). Change Readiness: A Multilevel Review. Journal of Management, 39(1), 110–135. doi:

[4] Mankins J.C. (1995). Technology Readiness Levels [White  Paper]. NASA, Office of Space Access and Technology.

[5] Rybicka, J., Tiwari, A., & Leeke, G. A. (2016). Technology readiness level assessment of composites recycling technologies. Journal of Cleaner Production, 112, 1001-1012.

[6] Cohen, W. M., & Levinthal, D. A. (1990). Absorptive capacity: A new perspective on learning and innovation. Administrative science quarterly, 128-152.

[7] De Wit-de Vries, E., Dolfsma, W. A., van der Windt, H. J., & Gerkema, M. P. (2019). Knowledge transfer in university–industry research partnerships: a review. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 44(4), 1236-1255.

[8] Zahra, S. A., & George, G. (2002). Absorptive capacity: A review, reconceptualization, and extension. Academy of management review27(2), 185-203.

[9] IBHE (2007). Understanding collaboration. A resource paper prepared for the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

[10] Camarinha-Matos, L. M., & Macedo, P. (2007, September). Towards a conceptual model of value systems in collaborative networks. In Working Conference on Virtual Enterprises (pp. 53-64). Springer, Boston, MA.

[11] Rosas, J. A. D. (2008). Assessing organizations collaboration readiness: a behavioral approach.

[12] Romero, D., Galeano, N., & Molina, A. (2009). Mechanisms for assessing and enhancing organisations’ readiness for collaboration in collaborative networks. International Journal of Production Research47(17), 4691-4710.

[13] Boucher, X., & Lebureau, E. (2005, September). Coordination of competencies development within networks of SMEs. In Working Conference on Virtual Enterprises (pp. 57-66). Springer, Boston, MA.

[14] Romero, D., Galeano, N., & Molina, A. (2008). Readiness for collaboration assessment approach in collaborative networked organisations. In International Conference on Information Technology for Balanced Automation Systems (pp. 47-56). Springer, Boston, MA.

[15] Kirchberger, M. A., & Pohl, L. (2016). Technology commercialization: a literature review of success factors and antecedents across different contexts. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 41(5), 1077-1112.

[16] Tatikonda, M. V., & Stock, G. N. (2003). Product technology transfer in the upstream supply chain. Journal of product innovation management, 20(6), 444-467.

[17] Heslop, L. A., McGregor, E., & Griffith, M. (2001). Development of a technology readiness assessment measure: The cloverleaf model of technology transfer. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 26(4), 369-384.

[18] Simpson, D. D. (2002). A conceptual framework for transferring research to practice. Journal of substance abuse treatment, 22(4), 171-182.

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