In Germany, industrial collective research (ICR) provides a unique framework for research collaborations: an industry-supported network of firms and research institutes conducts research for firms in low- and medium-technology branches. The research projects are mainly financed by a publicly funded program. Based on two surveys, one for research institutes and one addressing firm representatives, we analyze for the first time the institutional features and interactions in ICR. We ask how business firms are involved in network activities and how they benefit from the knowledge created. The results from research in ICR are usually relevant for several firms (e.g. results related to new norms and standards). The network also provides a framework for research on high-tech applications by enabling collaboration across different sectors and technology fields. ICR has proven rather successful in achieving the balancing act between aims of the network and diverging interests of the actors.