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This study is aimed at analyzing the fit, or matching, between technological goals that lead a firm to choose a particular technological partner and the impact of that partner on the firm's innovation performance. We hypothesize that, when designing their alliance strategy, firms take into account exploration or exploitation motivations. An adequate design of this strategy is critical because each technological partner will exert a different impact on firm's innovation outcomes. Using data from a representative panel of Spanish manufacturing firms comprising 1,300 firms across 5 years, we find that the motivation in forming alliances with vertical partners is to exploit existing competences which is reflected in an increased likelihood of obtaining product and process innovations. The main driver behind the selection of institutional partnerships, a type of collaboration which has a greater propensity to patent, is the exploration of new ideas. Finally, horizontal collaboration is motivated by the desire to carry out pre-competitive research, which explains the null impact of this type of alliance on innovation outcomes. The implications of these findings as they apply to management practice, economic policy and future research are discussed.