This chapter focuses on the gap between the speed of proliferation of theoretical and empirical contributions and the speed of accumulation of the acquired scientific knowledge regarding absorptive capacity. To contribute to narrowing this gap, we will in particular review the conceptual developments of the absorptive capacity construct. Based on the seminal contributions of Cohen & Levinthal (1989, 1990) we will provide a brief overview of the various conceptual attributes of this construct, like the definition, antecedents and consequences, and levels of analysis involved. Next, we will assess the refinements, extensions and reconceptualizations of this construct in the literature. Furthermore, from the perspective of viewing models as mediating instruments between theory and empirical phenomena (Morgan and Morrison, 1999), we will analyze efforts to build conceptual models. Finally, we will address the progress made, select key problems and we will formulate future research directions to improve the multilevel and transdisciplinary characteristics of absorptive capacity.

absorptive capacity, innovation, knowledge
Information and Product Quality; Standardization and Compatibility (jel L15), Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior: General (jel L20), Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting (jel M)
ERIM Report Series Research in Management
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

van den Bosch, F.A.J, van Wijk, R.A.J.L, & Volberda, H.W. (2003). Absorptive Capacity: Antecedents, Models and Outcomes (No. ERS-2003-035-STR). ERIM Report Series Research in Management. Retrieved from