What is an Emerging Technology?
47 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2016
Date Written: February 11, 2015
Despite the growing interest around the emergence of novel technologies, especially from the policy-making perspective, there is still no consensus on what classifies a technology as ’emergent’. The present paper aims to fill this gap by developing a definition of ’emerging technologies’ and a framework for their detection and analysis. The definition is developed by combining a basic understanding of the term and in particular the concept of ’emergence’ with a review of key innovation studies dealing with definitional issues of technological emergence. The resulting definition identifies five attributes that feature in the emergence of novel technologies. These are: (i) radical novelty, (ii) relatively fast growth, (iii) coherence, (iv) prominent impact, and (v) uncertainty and ambiguity. The conceptual effort is then used to develop a framework for the operationalisation of the proposed attributes. To do so, we identify and review major empirical approaches (mainly in, although not limited to, the scientometric domain) for the detection and study of emerging technologies (these include indicators and trend analysis, citation analysis, co-word analysis, overlay mapping, and combinations thereof) and elaborate on how these can be used to operationalise the different attributes of emergence.
Keywords: emerging technologies, conceptualisation, definition, operationalisation, scientometrics, indicators
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