Abstract: Corporate Networks in the European Data Processing Industries in the Early 1970s: The Case of UNIDATA, 1973-1975

Susanne Hilger


Economic network research deals with the character, causes, and consequences of such organizations, which are based on contractual arrangements and can be seen as "managed economic systems." In the following, we define "network" as a loose kind of cooperation or a decentrally regulated cooperative arrangement of autonomous participants, as opposed to ‘formal' corporate organizations such as combines. Why do they occur? What are the reasons for their implementation and which consequences do they cause on an organizational and economic level? This will be the main subject of the paper. The paper focuses on the example of UNIDATA. Founded in 1973 by Siemens, Philips, and the French Compagnie International pour l'Informatique (CII), UNIDATA can be seen as an early example of a transnational corporate network in the emerging European data processing industries. It was not a merger but a joint venture of legally independent partners. With a view toward the Common European Market, cooperation was pushed by the national governments, particularly that of the German Federal Republic and France. Yet, it had already failed by 1975 because of differing political points of view and deviating economic targets within the individual companies. Using unpublished material from corporate and public records, the paper deals with the intentions, competitive preconditions, policies, and strategies of the companies as well as of the national governments that led to this European network and which in the end caused its failure. In doing so, the paper intends to contribute to the current discussions on the network concept in economic and business history.