Global supply chains offer a range of expertise to suppliers interested in generating innovative new products through capitalizing on the closeness of their working relationships with other firms. However, current knowledge on whether and how relational capital between firms can be leveraged for innovation is equivocal, conceptualizing little of the underlying processes responsible for mobilizing relational capital, as well as yielding mostly contradictory empirical results. This study proposes and tests the intermediate mechanisms of proactive customer orientation and joint learning capability as two distinctive capabilities that may account for how relational capital drives relationship-based innovation. Our conceptual model posits that the relational capital–innovation link is neither simple nor direct. An empirical test on 204 Taiwanese suppliers demonstrates the complexity of the innovation generation process. Two pathways from relational capital to innovation are revealed: joint learning capability fully mediates the link, whereas the role of proactive customer orientation is moderated by aspects of the suppliers' ties to their international customers; our theory is thereby largely confirmed. Finally, implications for the theory and practice of innovation in global supply chain relationships are drawn.
Journal of Business Research, Volume 80, Pages 127-140