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Building trust in cross-sector R&D collaborations : the role of credible commitments

conference contribution
posted on 2006-01-01, 00:00 authored by Paul Couchman, L Fulop
This paper reports selected findings from a study of one form of cross-boundary relationship: cross-sector R&D collaboration under the Australian Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Programme. The study sought to explain project partners’ collaboration experience using a theoretical model which was empirically tested with a survey of CRC project leaders. It was hypothesised (H1) that the higher the level of relational trust (measured, following Sako, in terms of contractual, competence, and goodwill trust) amongst the partners in a collaborative project team, the more positive would be the partners’ experience of the project. The construct of credible commitments (the making of pledges, or the economic equivalent of the taking of hostages, which bind partners to a relationship) was posed in the model as an antecedent of relational trust. Accordingly it was hypothesised (H2) that the more that credible commitments are made by the project partners, the higher would be the level of relational trust between them. Data from the achieved sample (n = 156, 51% response rate) were analysed using PLS Graph. The results of the analysis provided support for hypothesis 1 but not for hypothesis 2. It was concluded that this latter finding could be due to the specific context of the study (cross-sector R&D collaborations under the CRC Programme differ markedly from inter-firm strategic alliances), or it could be due to the complex nature of credible commitments which was not adequately captured by our measure of this construct. Further research is required in this area to clarify the nature credible commitments, and the circumstances under which they contribute to a spiral of rising trust, in different cross-boundary contexts.



European Group for Organizational Studies. Colloquium (22th : 2006 : Bergen, Norway)


European Group for Organizational Studies


Bergen, Norway

Place of publication

[Berlin, Germany]

Start date


End date




Publication classification

E1.1 Full written paper - refereed

Copyright notice

2006, EGOS

Title of proceedings

EGOS 2006 : The organizing society. : Proceedings of the 22nd European Group for Organizational Studies Colloquium, Bergen, Norway, 6 - 8 July

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