This paper outlines some of the theories associated with the development of collaborative relationships (partnering and alliances) between companies which have shared objectives. It then reviews research carried out at The Robert Gordon University on relationships between operators and their contractors in the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS) Oil and Gas Production Industry. Basic data has been collected on 175 relationship and more detailed data has been obtained on about 20 relationships by interviewing the people involved. There is a wide variety of relationships in place in the industry and they are at differing stages of development. Views on the benefits and practicality of collaboration vary across the industry. By and large, comments received from the people involved in creating and managing collaborative relationships confirm the messages arising from the theory. The importance of behaviour and attitudes of the people involved at all levels is emphasised.
There is uncertainty and concern among the smaller contracting companies about how the market is evolving and how to react to it. Current theory does not appear to provide much assistance with this problem. There is also concern that the current developments can lead to a stifling of innovation among the smaller companies. The paper summarises the comments received on this subject.