Lehrstuhl für Gründungs- und Innovationsmanagement

Cooperation & Networks

Prof. Dr. Achim Walter with Prof. Dr. Thomas Ritter (CBS)


Course contents

The management of inter-firm cooperation and networks is one of the most important and challenging aspects of modern organization. Business relationships, strategic alliances, R&D cooperation, and inter-organizational learning networks are fundamental drivers of competitiveness and play a large role in improving a firm’s innovation performance. This course teaches master students an understanding of various definition and examples of inter-firm cooperation and networks from existing management literature and from example cases that illustrate collaborative strategies in different settings and markets. This course also looks at why and how inter-firm cooperation and networks create value based on empirical studies. Among the topics covered are:

  • What inter-firm cooperation and networks are, why companies use them.
  • The role of inter-firm cooperation and networks in business competition and in different industrial settings.
  • The design of strategic alliances and networks, including the choice of partner and of structure.
  • How inter-firm cooperation and networks are managed over their lifetime.


Learning outcomes

The objectives for this course are:

  • To help students to develop a deeper understanding of the meanings of the different types of inter-firm cooperation and networks and to gain insights into several companies' use of business relationships and networks.
  • To provide students an understanding of what makes inter-firm cooperation and networks strategic and critical to achieving a sustainable competitive advantage.
  • To underscore the importance of basics in effectively approaching and addressing the complex nature of cooperative strategies.
  • To recognize what are the key ingredients of a ‘learning through partners' strategy and apply them to different functional areas and different fields.
  • To learn a variety of concepts and frameworks concerning the choice of a business partner, the functions of business relationships, and some sub-processes of partnership development (trust building, adaptations).
  • To provide access to tools that students can use in their future careers for effectively designing, managing, and evolving inter-firm cooperation and networks.



Required readings will consist of cases (e.g., HBR), book chapters, and research articles. Further Information will be given in the first class.


Teaching methods

This is an interactive and applied, case-based course. Conceptual understanding is developed through:

  • Lectures by instructor.
  • Readings from books and articles on the theory and practice of inter-firm cooperation and networks. Students will be required to familiarize themselves with the breadth and depth of readings on inter-firm cooperation and networks. Readings are also designed to provide a starting point for analyzing cases. An extension of ideas and concepts is encouraged, as they will be applied in an integrative fashion in the discussions.
  • Case studies of prominent cooperative strategies. Given the nature of the course, we will also apply the lessons from the cases to understand the challenges and implications of relevant recent and on-going inter-firm cooperation (e.g. strategic alliances).
  • Class discussions to help students practice and evaluate their effectiveness at strategic problem solving and decision making in a setting that approximates management teams typically entrusted with cooperation and relationship management tasks.
  • Team case analysis intended to give you the opportunity to apply your learning from this course to relevant and interesting contexts.


Assessment methods

Assessment is by final test (max score: 60). The final written exam will cover all the assigned readings used throughout the course. It will not include case details but it will include conceptual issues covered during case discussion.


click here for the OLAT course.