Co-Innovation in Bioplastic Packaging
: An exploratory study of supplier-customer collaboration for product innovation

  • Liliani Liliani

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis aims to develop a conceptual understanding of the process and mechanisms ofco-innovation in the context of bioplastics packaging product innovation, focusing on thebusiness to business (B2B) supplier-customer relationship between the bioplastics packagingmanufacturers and product manufacturers. Following the critical realism paradigm, this studyplaces the inter-firm co-innovation experience within a framework grounded in the relationalview theory and the absorptive capacity theory as theoretical lenses. This study adopts amultiple case study strategy to explore how co-innovation occurs in real situations, theproblems arising during the bioplastic packaging implementation and essential factors withinthis particular context. The case selection is theory-driven, focusing on developing andpackaging application processes for consumer goods, among the biopolymer producers,converters and product manufacturers in the UK and Indonesia. Data from semi-structuredinterviews and documentation were analysed using template analysis.The findings of this study illustrate the co-innovation processes in two stages: development ofa packaging prototype and further development for specific bioplastic packaging applications.This study presents a framework, which built upon the integrated joint activities, joint resourcesand relationship management as the key mechanisms. These mechanisms are driven by anintensive knowledge transfer, signifying the supplier-customer absorptive capacity infacilitating successful co-innovation, while there is limited creation of specialised assets forbioplastic packaging. In addition, this study presents possible approaches to co-innovationpartners in penetrating the packaging market, working in complex development and cultivatingsupplier-customer interdependency. The research reveals that co-innovation improvesbioplastic material, bioplastic packaging quality and the customer’s manufacturing processesto work with the bioplastic packaging. More importantly, this study suggests that a successfulco-innovation should be followed by creating relational benefits that contribute to the partner’ssustainability agenda and commercial benefits, which would preserve partnerinterdependence for the long term.The primary contribution of this thesis lies in extending the conceptual understanding of coinnovation, emphasising collaborative work and exclusivity among co-innovation partners,bringing forward the concept of relational benefits, enforcing innovation and sustainablevalues, which bind the partnership in the long-term. This study extends the relational viewtheory within an interlinked network of stakeholders and indicates a slight anomaly within astrong existing ‘regime’ of the plastic packaging industry. It also provides a framework thatpotentially brings bioplastic packaging to a broad implementation while acknowledging thechallenges in developing and commercialising bioplastic packaging and penetrating a well established packaging industry. It therefore adds a valuable reference for sustainable product development studies and managerial practices.
    Date of AwardMay 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorBenny Tjahjono (Supervisor) & Dongmei Cao (Supervisor)


    • co-innovation
    • bioplastics
    • sustainable packaging
    • product development
    • supplier-customer collaboration
    • relational view theory
    • case study

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