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Technology convergence: What developmental stage are we in?

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Abstract

Despite the enthusiasm for technology convergence seen over the last decade in society and the broad consensus on its considerable impact, there is neither any substantive evidence that technology convergence occurs overall nor any objective explanation of the domains where it may be found. By using patents filed to the KIPO from 1996 to 2010 and demonstrating trends based on co-classification analysis at the entire technology domain level, we elucidate the extent of technology convergence in a technological innovation system and its change in status over time. Furthermore, our paper uses network analysis based on patent data to identify the occurrence of technology convergence in terms of its technological domains. Our findings are as follows: (1) the diffusion of technology convergence has been ongoing since the early 2000s; (2) technology convergence is evolving into a more complex and heterogeneous form; (3) convergent technology has a wider scope but requires more effort to develop than does non-convergent technology; and (4) evidence for the strong consistency of converged domains over time exists. These results support the numerous initiatives of governments and firms to promote technology convergence and illustrate the future form of technology convergence.

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Notes

  1. Technological performance can eventually lead either to creative destruction or to the reinforcement of the position of industry leaders, depending on whether technological innovation devalues their complementary assets (Tripsas 1997); therefore, we carefully discern the relationship between technology convergence and existing complementary assets of industry leaders when it comes to the potential impact of technology convergence on structural change in industry.

  2. Adapted from Karvonen and Kässi (2013).

  3. Even the combination of the previously mentioned methods has been attempted (Palmer 1999).

  4. A few studies are exceptions in that they employ unique taxonomy in the given research field (e.g., Tijssen 1992) or use the names of academic departments to which the authors belong (e.g., Porter et al. 2007).

  5. Generally, scholars tend to use the subject categories of either Web of Science or Scopus (Wagner et al. 2011).

  6. Curran et al. (2010) use self-defined industry specifications.

  7. Consequently, some researchers enjoy using a specific orientation of technology classification based on the IPC such as WIPO’s catchword index (e.g., Curran and Leker 2011).

  8. The table can be accessed at http://www.wipo.int/ipstats/en/statistics/technology_concordance.html, and its principle is explained in Schmoch 2008.

  9. Besides, IPC is a function-orientated classification system while USPC is a more application-oriented system; in an analysis of technology convergence, IPC is better suited than USPC.

  10. In contrast, use of journal subject categories, which science convergence studies depend on, is relatively imprecise in that a large proportion of subordinate articles show disagreement with the subject categories (Rafols et al. 2012).

  11. For this reason, our networks consist of undirected links; thus, we refer to the characteristics of undirected links when calculating indicators.

  12. As of 2010, the top ten foreign countries in regards to the share of patents filled at the KIPO are as follows: Japan (8.4 %), the United States (6.8 %), Germany (2.0 %), France (0.9 %), Switzerland (0.6 %), the Netherlands (0.5 %), Taiwan (0.4 %), United Kingdom (0.3 %), Sweden (0.3 %), and China (0.3 %).

  13. Because this patent is a unique case, we exclude it in Fig. 4.

  14. AAGR is equal to the arithmetic mean of individual growth rates.

  15. For that reason, the count of convergent patents at the technological field level is always larger than or at least the same as that at the sector level.

  16. To precisely trace the advance of technology convergence in previous periods, we do not apply the criterion for visualization, that is, in this analysis, the weight of a link does not need to exceed 1.00 to be tailored.

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Correspondence to Jae Young Choi.

Appendices

Appendix 1

See Table 4.

Table 4 Technology-IPC concordance table

Appendix 2

See Table 5.

Table 5 The samples of convergent patents

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Jeong, S., Kim, JC. & Choi, J.Y. Technology convergence: What developmental stage are we in?. Scientometrics 104, 841–871 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-015-1606-6

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