Relative absorptive capacity as a booster of innovation in an automotive cluster

Laura Zapata-Cantu*, Josep Rialp, Ana Olga Rodríguez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This study aims to address the relevance of the mediating role of the relative absorptive capacity (ACAP-R) in the relation between absorptive capacity and innovation, contributing to a better understanding of innovation in a business network. Participants’ firms in this study are part of the supply network of an automotive cluster. Design/methodology/approach: The study is developed in 225 companies that are part of the supply network of an automotive cluster in Mexico. A survey was applied to key firm informants who had been involved on processes of innovation, quality or continuous improvement. During data analysis, structural equation modeling was implemented with the support of SmartPLS 3.0 to understand the mediation role of relative absorptive capacity as a novel insight of innovation in a Mexican cluster. Findings: The results demonstrate the partial mediator role of the ACAP-R among the absorptive capacities and the level of innovation of the companies that make up the network studied. The findings represent an approach to the understanding of one of the key dynamic capacities in the innovation process and, thus, to the competitiveness of organizations, which has scarcely been studied from the perspective of business networks. Research limitations/implications: The limitations of the research focus on the fact that the source of information in the surveys comes, in most cases, from the opinion of a key informant per unit surveyed, which is why there is a certain margin of subjectivity that could be reduced if there is more than one source of information in the same organization. It is also considered important that the information offered by the suppliers could be complemented by the opinion of clients. This would provide a more complete view of the circularity of information involved in inter-organizational exchanges. Originality/value: The findings provide useful insights not only in terms of understanding the link between absorptive capacity and innovation, but also how to improve levels of innovation through knowledge exchanges that occur during the participation of suppliers and customers in a business network. Firms with high levels of ACAP are more likely to recognize the opportunity to benefit from external knowledge and to participate intensely in collaborative efforts. That is, technological similarity or similar knowledge base between source or recipient firms impacts their innovation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)175-193
Number of pages19
JournalCompetitiveness Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Absorptive capacity
  • External Knowledge
  • Innovation
  • Relative absorptive capacity
  • Structural equation modeling


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