Learning and the Creation of Innovation Capabilities in Argentina’s Auto Parts Industry
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The purpose of this article is to find out about the main sources and the learning and skills accumulation modalities in innovation among Argentine auto parts manufacturers. In particular: a) the way the firms follow to introduce new products, processes and organisational forms and the way in which, later on, such processes are improved; b) the procedures and characteristics of the relevant knowledge in each instance. The quantitative analysis based on the results of the sector’s 89 surveyed firms has been used in combination with a qualitative analysis consistent with the case study of 5 of the surveyed firms. The starting idea states that the competitiveness process via innovation introduces characteristics which are typical of this sector: it is one of the sectors that least registers patents related to R&D activities; the international high-tech sales to independent organisations are few, except those which incorporated inputs and capital goods; the sector is strongly influenced by the strategies of key agents defined within the competitive global - not only domestic - process framework, and others. Also, attention is drawn to the existence of an important group of firms with a long history of skills accumulation for adapting and/or suiting the products and processes to the actual conditions of the firms and the domestic markets. Beyond the diversity of the existing situation and conditions, the analysis made illustrates the complexity and richness of the learning and skills accumulation processes for innovation in the Argentine auto parts firms, and also helps to reach some general conclusions which tend to confirm the hypotheses initially introduced. The main conclusions are The firms resort to a wide variety of sources in search of new knowledge. These sources tend to vary according to the characteristics of the technology used, the structure, competences and management style of each firm and of the policies implemented by the automotive manufacturers. Although it is not possible to define a "better way" to approach the learning and the competences acquisition processes valid for all or for most of the firms, the results of the study confirm the convenience of achieving an adequate complementation between internal and external knowledge and between codified and tacit/specific knowledge of the firms. Although the growing implementation of electronic equipment helps to codify part of the tacit knowledge, the importance of this kind of knowledge continues to be essential. The learning processes and the development of new capabilities differ greatly according to products and processes.