In the literature on interorganizational collaboration in product development, considerable attention is given to supplier role classifications. Such classifications often link to a supplier's position in the overall supply chain, but the claim that this position has a substantial impact on its product development activities has seldom been empirically validated. The results from the present survey among Swedish automotive suppliers demonstrate that supplier product development activity is significantly affected by the position of the supplier in the supply chain and the supplier's strategic focus on innovation. While the latter has a stronger impact on product development activities, there is also an interaction effect implying that the effects of a supplier's innovation strategy are contingent on its supply chain position. Contrary to expectations, customer development commitment does not have any significant direct effect on supplier product development activities. Instead, this relation is fully mediated by supplier innovation strategy. These findings imply that, in contrast to conventional wisdom, product development activities are not strictly organized in "chains." Although supply chains can be useful metaphors for understanding the distribution of regular production activities between firms, they arguably apply less to the distribution of product development activities.

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Journal Journal of Product Innovation Management
Wynstra, J.Y.F, von Corswant, F, & Wetzels, M. (2010). In chains? An empirical study of antecedents of supplier product development activity in the automotive industry. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 27(5), 625–639. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5885.2010.00741.x