Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Business and Management.

Publication Details

Thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), School of Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Technological University Dublin, October 2022.


Absorptive Capacity (ACAP) is a construct introduced by Cohen and Leventhal in 1990 to describe the process by which an organisation recognises and absorbs new external knowledge to increase its current stock of knowledge, thereby giving it increased capability to create value for its customers, stakeholders and wider society. ACAP, as a construct, has gained widespread acceptance within academia and the construct has been further refined and developed over the last thirty years. However, the application and testing of the construct, is in practice, still in the early stages of development. The aim of this exploratory study was to investigate the role and contribution of varying levels of ACAP for the commercialisation of knowledge in indigenous firms in a small open economy. The Republic of Ireland was utilised in the study as an exemplar case.

This study employs a multiple case study approach to explore the core research question cited above. These cases were selected on the geodemographic criteria of age, size, location and sector to provide a representative sample of the indigenous firms in the internationally traded sector in Ireland. A descriptive case study of each firm (n=19 cases) was produced from secondary and primary research. The data from each of the cases was coded and analysed using process and pattern coding and thematic analysis. A cross-case analysis was then conducted within the three cohorts of firms – Young (n=4), Adolescent (n=6) and Mature (n=9) – to identify variations in levels of ACAP between performing and non-performing firms within each cohort. Finally, a cross-cohort analysis was conducted to analyse how levels of ACAP differ across the stages of development of the firms in the study.

It was found that ACAP, as a Dynamic Capability of the firm, underpins the innovation process in indigenous firms. Higher levels of ACAP were found in the more successful firms across all three stages of development, as defined in the study. The 5-Loop framework developed in the study from the extant literature, was able to identify varying levels of ACAP in firms using the diagnostic and evaluative instrument developed from this framework. This 5-Loop framework and instrument will be particularly beneficial to firm leadership and policymakers who wish to improve commercialisation results through improving key aspects of the firm’s innovation process.