Scientific discovery and technological innovation in various areas evolve in coherence but in a nonuniform manner. This process leads to domains of scientific convergence, technology integration, and divergence of knowledge and applications into new fields. This cycle brings about synergism, which stimulates further discovery and innovation. The convergence–divergence cycle is a typical process in science and technology (S&T) development. It consists of four phases: (A) creative assembling of contributions from multiple fields leading to new concepts or ideas, (B) system integration leading to a new assembly or invention for known uses, (C) technological innovation outputs leading to new products and applications, and (D) spin-off outcomes that lead to solutions not possible before and that produce new competencies, tools, and applications. Each cycle and each phase generally follow each other in a quasi-exponential growth pattern. This cyclic process originates organically from human brain functions for problem-solving and serves an intrinsic human need to pursue intellectual advancement and achieve material progress. Understanding and facilitating the full convergence cycle in various S&T areas have increased in importance in today’s densely populated, globally networked, and richly interactive society as means of addressing the world’s increasingly complex and interrelated social, economic, environmental, and political needs. Recommendations are given for how the convergence–divergence cycle can be considered in governance of science and technology.
KeywordsCoherent process Science and technology Convergence process Divergence process Creative phase Integration phase Innovation phase Spin-off phase Discoveries Inventions Innovation Knowledge confluence Knowledge diffusion Unity in knowledge Governance Research programs Megatrends in science and engineering S&T cycle
This manuscript was written in conjunction with the NSF/World Technology Evaluation Center (WTEC) 2013 international study on Convergence of Knowledge, Technology, and Society. The content of this chapter does not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF) or the US National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET), which is the principal organizing body for the National Nanotechnology Initiative.
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