Technology strategies in converging technology systems: Evidence from printed electronics

Technology strategies in converging technology systems: Evidence from printed electronics

Technology strategies in converging technology systems: Evidence from printed electronics

Annika Wambsganss, Stefanie Bröring, Søren Salomo, Nathalie Sick

kHUB post date: December 27, 2023
Originally published: July 21, 2023 (PDMA JPIM • Vol 40, Issue 5 • September 2023)
Read time: 55 minutes

Access the Full Article

Novel technology systems, such as “fiber optics” and “printed electronics,” increasingly emerge at the interface of hitherto unrelated technology areas. As such, new technology systems often arise through technology convergence, characterized by integrating technology components and knowledge from different technology systems, resulting in a novel system architecture. This phenomenon is of utmost societal relevancy but simultaneously poses tremendous challenges for firms' technology strategies. Firms must not only cope with unrelated knowledge rooted in hitherto different technologies but also have to decide deliberately how systemic (i.e., complete technology system) versus focused (i.e., single component of the technology system) their engagement in technology development in the converging technology system ought to be. In addition, firms need to decide strategically to what extent to develop specialized or design knowledge. Extant concepts of technology strategy fall short of capturing this complexity inherent in converging technology systems. Therefore, to address how technology strategies co-evolve along with the emergence of new technology systems, this study adds a systems perspective to technology strategy by developing the concept of technology system coverage. This novel dimension of technology strategy is formed by the scope (i.e., focused vs. systemic coverage of the technology system) and type of technological knowledge (i.e., specialized or design knowledge). We empirically apply this novel angle of technology strategy to the convergence field of printed electronics. Based on a longitudinal set of 828 patents over 30 years, 74 relevant corporate actors are identified. The underlying taxonomy enables us to reveal four technology strategies and develop five propositions. The results indicate that all firms build design knowledge over time, whereas not all firms build specialized knowledge, no matter what technology strategy is pursued. In sum, this work advances literature by understanding technology strategy in emerging complex technology systems, introducing a systems perspective.

Practitioner points

  • Technology convergences create complex technology systems that emerge through recombining and integrating components from previously unrelated technology areas. It is crucial for managers to recognize that these complex technology systems present new challenges impacting their technology strategy.
  • Engaging in the development of technology convergence presents managers with the dilemma of whether to prioritize individual components or adopt a comprehensive approach addressing the entire technology system. Accordingly, they need to determine the knowledge base (i.e., degree of design knowledge) to invest in and establish mechanisms for dynamic adjustment throughout the technology development.
  • Another important insight for managers is that all companies that initially engaged in specialized knowledge components have been observed to accumulate design knowledge over time. Thus, our findings emphasize the significance of design knowledge as a facilitator in understanding the interdependencies between components, enabling sustained participation, and potentially allowing for the orchestration of development.
  • This study introduces the concept of technology system coverage and its dynamics as a relevant dimension of the technology strategy. It can assist managers in navigating the increasingly complex and uncertain environment surrounding converging technology systems effectively.

What did you think of this post?

Start a conversation with your peers by posting to our kHUB Discussion board! Browse trending posts and reply to other thought leaders OR start your own discussion by clicking "Post New Message."

Start a Discussion

If you don't have an account with us, create a guest account or become a member today and receive exclusive access to all PDMA member benefits. Please note that both members and non-members are welcome to participate in the kHUB.