Ancillary actor relations : The case of EU’s leading defence primes

Abstract: This longitudinal research project in industrial marketing seeks to understand ancillary actors, specifically what they are, their characteristics, relations and impact on focal relations based on the empirical case of the cross-border relations of EU’s largest defence equipment producing firms (called “primes”). Ancillary actors are approached on four arenas: i) the political setting for EU defence equipment production, ii) the “primes” business relations, e.g. their market, iii) an issue community for setting up a single EU defence company and iv) a collaborative project, the Eurofighter.Ten analytical propositions with potentially common attributes for ancillary actors are that ancillary actors 1) have a role flexibility, where they may simultaneously act within a business and political setting assuming supportive, coercive, adaptive and influential roles, 2) emerge from focal actors’ legitimacy and commitments, 3) help to support, organise or mitigate collaboration between business and political actors, 4) create, facilitate and support cross-border political and business ties on political and protected markets that help to overcome market impediments, 5) may project actor strategies into other markets and settings, 6) may balance political actors’ control, transfer of knowledge and work share distribution, 7) are often more lasting than business actors and political actors, bridging time, 8) may seek to expand and move into the focal relation, 9) need to be transparent, which risks hampering efficiency and 10) risk being inefficient and ineffective. Empirical observations are that after more than half a century of political integration, EU has established legitimate ancillary actors for defence equipment. New protectionism and disintegration however risk being underestimated in this setting. Although the EU defence equipment market is frequently characterised as fragmented, EU defence business actors are intertwined by stable cross-border relations since decades, where primes may project influence of states into foreign markets. Ancillary actors for EU defence equipment have been criticised for being costly and ineffective, yet they promote common values, standardisation and knowledge sharing. Within ancillary actors, there are however risks, such as bleeding through, knowledge tapping and lack of innovativeness. Ancillary actors may foster integration and permanent bodies, in business as well as politics.