Seeking coherence between barriers to manufacturing technology adoption and innovation policy

Jaime Bonnin Roca (Corresponding author), Eoin O'Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Manufacturing-enabling technologies (MET) play a key role in increasing the reliability of manufacturing processes, and help accelerate new product development and testing. Manufacturing firms are, however, often reluctant to develop MET themselves, as these may not be part of their core competencies nor easily appropriable. Government support can play a vital role in overcoming these barriers for firms. Ideally, this support should be tailored to the barriers associated with a specific technology. Existing studies do not provide insight into how these barriers differ across types of MET. Based on 26 interviews and approximately a hundred sources of archival data, we study the adoption of four types of MET for advanced composite materials in the aviation industry. We analyze what technology-level and market factors affect the adoption of each type of MET, and whether government programs have responded to industry's needs. We find significant heterogeneity in barriers to the adoption of different METs, and that government programs designed to foster manufacturing innovation do not readily adapt to these variations. In particular, they often do not account for factors such as MET technological interdependence, nature of learning (scientific versus trial-and-error), and the heterogeneity of the technology development community. Our findings, and recommendations for policymakers, can improve the alignment between the public support programs for MET and barriers to adoption.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107818
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Production Economics
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


This work was supported by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), under project reference CMUP-ERI/TPE/0011/2013 . We thank all the academic and industry experts who shared their insights. We would like to thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers, whose comments helped improve the paper. All the errors remain our own. Many of today's software companies owe their existence to university spinoffs. For instance, NASTRAN, probably the most important code for structural analysis using finite element methods, was created thanks to a grant awarded by NASA to MSC Software, a company funded by two CalTech PhDs ( MacNeal, 2003 ). STAGS, the software used to analyze shell structures, was developed at Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory with continuous funding from NASA covering at least three decades ( Almroth, 1978 ; Knight and Rankin, 2006 ). MARC Corporation was funded by a former lecturer at the Imperial College in London who moved to Rhode Island to work with another group of researchers at Brown University ( Öchsner and Öchsner, 2017 ).

FundersFunder number
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Gatsby Charitable Foundation
Portuguese Fundação para a Ciência e a TecnologiaCMUP-ERI/TPE/0011/2013


    • Aviation
    • Composite materials
    • Emerging technologies
    • Enabling technologies
    • Manufacturing
    • Technology adoption


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