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Abstract

Networks become increasingly important as external sources of innovation for firms. Through networks firms get in contact with different actors with whom they can exchange information and collaborate. A firm’s ability to be a successful network actor depends on its network competence. This term can be defined as having the necessary knowledge, skills and qualifications for networking as well as using them effectively. In this paper we investigate the link between a firm’s network competence and the benefits resulting from it in a two-way direction. First, the network competence of the firm facilitates the adoption of information from other network actors which may lead to innovation success. Second the perceived network benefits shall in their turn influence the network competence of the firm. Consequently, firms will adapt their network strategy corresponding their experiences. The objective of this paper is to investigate the dynamics of networking and its influence on the firm’s network competence. For this exploratory research 3 Belgian networks are examined. In-depth interviews are used in combination with semi-structured interview guides to conduct the research. Our results indicate that some firms perceive benefits from their network efforts, for others it is more a burden. Furthermore, in some of our cases we found that positive experiences with clear benefits motivate the firm to enhance its network competence. This is illustrated by the fact that collaborations are more frequently initiated, trust is more easily build, firms are more open to communicate information and the confidentiality threshold is overcome.

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