Business model innovation and ambidexterity in Industry 4.0


  • Marco Paiola University of Padova
  • Roberto Grandinetti
  • Francesco Schiavone University of Napoli Parthenope



Business model innovation, Ambidexterity, I4.0, BtoB manufacturing firms, Italy


Framing and purpose. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (I4.0) is dramatically affecting firms’ strategies, disrupting their business models. In particular, a bunch of technologies like IoT (Internet of Things), cloud platforms, big data, and data analysis are offering firms the possibility to manage products functions, remotely and globally, kick-starting the design of innovative business models. The aim of this paper is to investigate how business model innovation occurs in BtoB manufacturing firms that are exploring the I4.0 scenario.
Methodology. The paper fulfils its purposes by the means of a qualitative investigation, discussing empirical evidence coming from a cross-case analysis of 25 Italian SMEs and medium-large enterprises, selected crossing secondary data and indications coming from a specific panel of ten industry experts.
Results. The impact of I4.0 technologies on firms’ business models depend heavily on the access to user-firms’ data. 21 firms are involved in non-disruptive modifications of the business model; 4 firms are conducting more sophisticated experimentations in result-oriented product-service systems. These firms, that we have named “challengers”, are in a privileged position in order to unleash the potential of I4.0, introducing advanced services directly related to the customers’ needs.
Implications and originality. The paper proposes an original framing that contributes theoretically to the literature interfacing business model innovation and ambidexterity management. Moreover, the main empirical finding of the study is that all the challengers adopt a particular form of contextual ambidexterity in which the exploration activities involve specifically selected (key) customers.


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