Technological trajectories and industry evolution : the case of telecom switching industry

A. Martinelli

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    In this paper, we explore the relation between technological change and firm's competitive position. The evolutionary approach focuses on innovation and technological change, and in particular to its sources, rate and direction. In particular, theory has pointed out the local, cumulative, and irreversible nature of technological change, meaning that firms can explore only a limited portion of the existing search space. In this perspective the analysis of technological evolution can be tackled using the notion of technological paradigm and technological trajectories (Dosi, 1982). Firms have a primary role in the development of innovations and, depending on their position in the industry, have different technological preferences (Antonelli, 1995). For instance, incumbents want to fully exploit their legacy and capabilities whereas new entrants call for more centrifugal technologies (Antonelli, 1999). The aim of this paper is to look at the long-term technological change in the telecom switching industry. Furthermore, a special attention is devoted to the co-evolution of innovative process and firm’s innovative position. The industry considered provides an interesting case because telecom switches are complex devices whose development encompasses numerous phases (from proof of concepts to the actual production) and expensive R&D, and also because in the last decades it experienced numerous technological discontinuities. Recently, a renewed research effort has been devoted to give a quantitative representation of technological trajectories. In particular, if we identify technological trajectories as main flows of ideas, we can operazionalise the search of technological trajectories in the patent network as the search of the path that connect the major number of patents (Verspagen, 2005; Mina et alt., 2004). This method uses the "problem-solving" information embedded in a patent in order to show an ordered path of local, cumulative and irreversible technical change. The analysis of these trajectories includes the identification of key patents, their assignees and the reconstruction of their engineering and economic context. Besides the mapping of the technological development in the industry we are interested in showing how technological change affect firm's innovative strategy. Their innovative performance is evaluated over time and completed with information about their history. The analytical tool proposed can be also interpreted as an extension of some established techniques for patents' analysis. Following Grandstrand, Patel and Pavitt (1997) this approach can be seen as a dynamic version of the patent's portfolio analysis because the analysis of the connectivity structure encompasses time-development. This methodology is also complementary to a more conventional patents citations analysis because it uses information from the whole network and it is based on connectivity property (Fontana, 2006). The empirical analysis is carried out using patent data retrieved from the USPTO database and the technical validation is carried out with the use of extensive specialized technical books.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the DRUID-DIME Academy Winter 2008 PhD conference, January 17-21, 2008
    Place of PublicationAalborg, Denmark
    Publication statusPublished - 2008
    Eventconference; DRUID-DIME Academy Winter 2008 PhD conference, Aalborg, Denmark; 2008-01-17; 2008-01-21 -
    Duration: 17 Jan 200821 Jan 2008


    Conferenceconference; DRUID-DIME Academy Winter 2008 PhD conference, Aalborg, Denmark; 2008-01-17; 2008-01-21
    OtherDRUID-DIME Academy Winter 2008 PhD conference, Aalborg, Denmark


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