How do industry specialist intermediary organisations (SIOs) intermediate dynamic industry transitions?

Rowena Vnuk
University of South Australia

Associate Professor Allan O'Connor
University of South Australia

Abstract
How do industry specialist intermediary organisations (SIOs) intermediate dynamic industry transitions? An industry comprises a number of firms and each firm in its own right operates at a level of competitiveness. Competitiveness is defined by either greater efficiency with which to compete on price with others in the market place or unique market positioning with innovative products and services and distinctive performance relative to the market place. This conceptual paper seeks to explore how certain SIOs may perform particular functions to enable clients to transition towards higher competitiveness, considered through gains in either efficiency or innovativeness, with the intent of changing an industry level profile.
There is considerable literature on the construct of industry transition (eg Porter, 1990; McGahan, 2000a,b; Geels, 2002). However, how an SIO manages their role in facilitating industry transition has received little attention. This occurs largely due to the cross-level analysis requirement of such a study and cross-level analyses are relatively rare (Terjesen, Hessels & Li, 2013;Turnheim, et al, 2015). It is possible, for example, that specialist intermediary organisations could take leadership using intermediary activities as key value propositions with which to influence actors within an industry or industry sector. Strong leadership and sound decision-makers are required to achieve this outcome and consequently, relationships and feedback loops/events between economic actors and the environments (or systems) in which they operate warrant academic examination.
Conceptualising meaningful constructs (and sourcing sound empirical evidence) of how increased levels of firm competitiveness may result in industry transitions from intermediary activities initiated by SIOs is an ongoing problem for policy-makers, industry leaders and/or academics alike. Secondly, relationships between partners change dynamically. Therefore, this paper explores whether increased levels of competitiveness driven by the activities of SIOs may be seen to equal industry transitions and how it is these specialist intermediary organisations manage the process.
This conceptual paper seeks to answer these questions in two parts: Part One seeks to further explore literatures from multiple perspectives to:
1) define and describe intermediary organisations and their functions;
2) gain insights about how IOs use information, knowledge bases and feedback loops to provide leadership to their clients through negotiations with partners and/or sponsors; and,
3) how IOs potentially may use this leadership towards industry transitions through their own innovation strategies.
Part Two theorises how a nexus could occur between SIOs and industry transition through multiple transformation processes, using a paradox where SIOs could simultaneously be understood as an entity (noun) and as an organiser of processes (verb) involving intermediary actions. An output of this paper is an attempt to typify SIOs for research purposes, and to suggest how an SIO may be observed to influence industry transitions through their efforts to assist multiple firms gain higher levels of competitiveness. Key literatures used to position this conceptual paper include RBV and ERBV of the firm, economic learning, Dynamic Capabilities, entrepreneurial innovation systems and industry transition models.
An output of this paper is an attempt to typify SIOs for research purposes. An attempt is also made to theorise for future empirical research a nexus between SIOs and dynamic industry transition by appreciating organisations both as an entity and as an organising agency using transformation processes to achieve change. Several questions arise with respect to SIOs’ strategies in the creation, validation and consolidation of key intermediary activities and leadership outcomes forming a set of research propositions for future research purposes. By positioning a conceptual model based on how an SIO could create, validate and consolidate key intermediary functions, and take leadership to influence other organisations within dynamic industry sector marketplaces, this conceptual paper suggests how a SIO may be observed to intermediate industry transitions, at least in part, through their efforts to assist multiple firms gain higher levels of competitiveness. This conceptual model will provide some direction for future research.