A new round of technological and industrial revolution with internet as the core is brewing and rising, and the competition of individualization, quality and diversification of market demand intensifies. This requires that the enterprises can no longer simply rely on the traditional single technology development model, but should broaden the original technological foundation and carry out technology research and development and knowledge exploration in many fields. It can be seen that diversification strategy has become a key way for enterprises to break through technological constraints, cope with market changes and achieve innovative development. In recent years, the research on the relationship between technological diversification and innovation has attracted wide attention from scholars at home and abroad, but the conclusions of the research have been divergent. This paper holds that the causes of the differences may mainly come from two aspects. First, there is no specific distinction between the characteristics of diversified technology, which conceals the effect of different types of technological resources.
In the past, most scholars only analyzed technological diversification as a whole, or simply discussed it from the perspective of technological breadth and depth, while few studies distinguished the impact of related and non-related technological diversification on enterprise technological innovation performance. This may be one of the important reasons for the controversy of empirical test results. On the other hand, in the analysis of the relationship between technological diversification and innovation, the existing research neglects the important role of technological standardization ability in the process of Technological Development. As a tool to implement technical connection and specification, technical standards reflect customers’ compatibility requirements for integration and alternate use of multiple products. Although technological diversification can broaden the knowledge base of enterprises and improve the possibility of innovation, it only prepares a variety of technological basic resources for enterprises’ innovation activities. If enterprises want to realize the synergistic effect of various technologies in the process of market globalization, they need the coordination and guarantee of technology standardization ability.
This paper empirically analyzes the relationship between related/unrelated technological diversification and firm technological innovation performance, and examines the moderating effect of technological standardization capability on the relationship between them. We empirically test our hypotheses by using random-effect negative binomial regression model with a panel data of 200 enterprises in China automobile industry from 1996 to 2010. The results show: (1) The related technological diversification has a positive effect on firm innovation performance. This indicates that when an enterprise accumulates more relevant knowledge within the same scientific category, its capability in mastering and applying its core technical knowledge will become stronger, which is conducive to increase the output of enterprise technological innovation. (2)There is an inverted u-shaped relationship between the enterprise’s unrelated technological diversification and its technological innovation performance. This shows that when enterprises dig diversified knowledge in fields with significant differences in basic scientific principles, their technological innovation performance will be improved in the initial stage; However, when the level of enterprise unrelated technological diversification exceeds a critical value, the continuous increase of diversified and heterogeneous knowledge will have an negative impact on enterprise innovation performance. (3) technological standardization capability has a signification negative moderating effect on the relationship between related technological diversification and enterprise innovation performance. That is to say, when enterprises explore diversified technical knowledge in fields with similar basic scientific principles, increased technological standardization capability will hinder enterprises to leverage diversified related technical knowledge to improve innovation performance. (4) technological standardization capability has a signification positive moderating effect on the positive relationship between the unrelated technological diversification and the performance of technology innovation. That is to say, when enterprises excavate diversified knowledge in the field of non-related technologies, strong technical standardization ability can effectively coordinate and prevent the arbitrariness and disorder of technological development that arising from increased unrelated technology diversification. Therefore, strong technical standardization ability can strengthen the positive effect of unrelated technology diversification on enterprise innovation performance.
Based on the technical characteristics of enterprises, this paper divides technological diversification into two different categories, related and unrelated diversification, providing a new way to explain the conflicting results of existing research and extending the research framework of the impact of technology diversification on innovation. By analyzing the contingent influence of technological standardization ability on the relationship between two types of technological diversification and enterprise innovation performance, this paper deepens our understanding of the role of technological standardization in technological innovation activities. In terms of the implication for management practice, this paper provides the following guidance for Chinese enterprises to construct a reasonable diversified technology base: first, with the continuous development of knowledge economy and economic globalization, enterprises should broaden the original technology base, conduct technology R&D and knowledge exploration in multiple fields, and capture cross-market development strategic opportunities; Secondly, in the process of allocating technology resources, enterprises are bound to grasp the direction and focus of technology development, and pay attention to the dynamic balance between related technology exploitation and unrelated technology exploration. Finally, enterprises should pay attention to the cultivation of technological standardization ability, and give full play to the leading role and bridge role of technological standardization ability in enterprise technological innovation.
While this article enriches the existing research results on the theory and practice, this paper, due to the difficulty of data acquisition, also has certain limitations: (1) our findings reveal the inverted u-shaped relationship between related technical diversity and innovation performance, which suggest that there exists an optimal value of related technical diversification for maximizing the enterprise technological innovation performance. But this article is not given the optimal value of the related technical diversification level, further research can address this limitation. (2) technical standardization capability is a complex concept. Future research can further expand data sources and measure technical standardization capability from multiple levels and perspectives. (3) the empirical analysis is conducted based on data from a single industry. In the future, it can be combined with a comparative study of different industries to provide more universal suggestions for enterprises to construct a reasonable diversified technology base.