An Enemy for a Friend – A study on coopetition leading to sustained competitive advantage of Swedish SMEs in the Cleantech Industry
Abstract: The field of study on coopetition has been given a growing emphasis in the recent years by researchers and business practice. Coopetition is a term integrating the notions of cooperation and competition happening as an intensive simultaneous process where actors seek to leverage the value created by other companies in their business network. These complex and paradoxical interactions are acknowledged as needing further research about the effects of coopetition and the different types of coopetitive interactions involved when firms coopete. The business network highlighted in the current study concerned the Swedish Cleantech industry. It offers an interesting ground as Sweden has been investing substantial amounts in environmental protection technologies. Moreover, SMEs in Sweden play an increasingly significant role in the national economy by their rapid technological development. Nonetheless, these SMEs battle to sustain opportunities and are facing many challenges such as lack of key resources, a limited market presence, and liabilities of newness. Thereby, collaboration is essential among Cleantech SMEs in order to overcome these challenges and sustain competitive advantages. This study sets out to fill this gap through the following objectives: by describing the cooperative and competitive activities happening of SMEs inside the Swedish Cleantech industry, by understanding how SMEs select their cooperative relationship with their competitors inside their business network, and by analyzing how coopetition can be implemented by SMEs as a strategy to develop sustainable competitive advantage. This research was conducted through a qualitative case study and semi-structured interviews of seven Swedish SMEs operating in the Cleantech industry. The findings underline that coopetition can be used as a matching strategy between the internal and the external environment of the firm. Further, before coopetition can lead to sustained competitive advantages, companies first need to develop societal advantages in the form of economic value, social value, and natural value.
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