University of Leicester

Competing with networks: a case study on the 3D printing.

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conference contribution
posted on 2015-04-21, 14:19 authored by Marta Gasparin, R. Micheli, M. Campana
This paper aims at describing how firms can engage intermediaries in order to increase competitiveness. Competitiveness is intended as delivering superior quality products, beating the competitors and making a surplus (Porter, 1985). Firms are involved in changing environments (Siggelkow, 2001), and they need to react by acting on their design, innovation, and they need to react by innovation processes, distribution system and processes (Nadler and Tushman, 1997), in order to react and create value. Recent literature has argued that it can be achieved by involving the users in the innovative processes (Von Hippel, 1986). Specifically, it can be achieved by involving communities for new product development (Lilien et al., 2003), open – source software development (Bagozzi and Dholakia, 2006; Von Krogh and Von Hippel, 2003) and highly technological products (Jeppesen and Frederiksen, 2006), showing the importance of users as contributors to the innovative process, and suggesting their involvement as a consequence of the changes in business ecosystems (Iansiti and Levien, 2004). Research has shown that the business ecosystem of many industries has been widely reshaped by the fast development of new technologies, the spread of social networks and the diffusion of Internet connectivity (Brews and Tucci, 2003; Rothaermel and Sugiyama, 2001). This paper aims at answering the research question: is the network around a firm and its innovation a source of competitiveness? What factors and actors actually lead to a firm’s competitiveness? Specifically, changes in the competitive environment have provided users with faster and more effective ways to exchange knowledge and with increased possibilities to access communities respect to the past (Jeppesen and Frederiksen, 2006), leading to a not research field of the relations between network and competitiveness. Researchers in innovation field has highlighted that the diversification of the users constituting communities has increased, requiring companies to adopt various strategies for exploiting the knowledge that they exchange (Porter and Donthu, 2008). However, the full understanding of the drivers leading to be competitive by motivating the adoption of an innovation is still missing and it is difficult to understand how companies can leverage on their knowledge. The topic deserves further attention, in order to draw overarching conclusions on how companies from users’ interactions to enhance innovation (David and Shapiro, 2008) can increase their competitiveness. In this paper, we aim at providing an understanding of the topic, by analysing with an historical case study (1) how the community starts, (2) why users join the community and (3) how firms can be competitive by adopting a network approach. The community that constitutes our empirical setting is the 3D printing. The 3D printing communities involve users belonging to different groups, including initiators, sponsors, entrepreneurs and technology experts; this multifaceted portfolio of users calls companies for considering several aspects when exploring the reason of the success of the network around the innovation. By leveraging on the multi - dimensional connectedness of the 3D printing community, we looked at the different interactions, trying to understand how to explain the process that such an innovation was adopted, adapted to local needs and became competitive.




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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SOCIAL SCIENCE/School of Management


Proceeding 1st International Competitiveness Management conference, EIASM, Copenhagen


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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Associated authors

Cinimo, V.; Fuentes, B. J.

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