What is an Emerging Technology?

47 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2016

See all articles by Daniele Rotolo

Daniele Rotolo

SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit), University of Sussex

Diana Hicks

Georgia Institute of Technology

Ben Martin

SPRU, University of Sussex; University of Cambridge - Judge Business School - Centre for Science and Policy (CSAP) and Centre for Business Research (CBR)

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Date Written: February 11, 2015

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Rotolo, Daniele and Hicks, Diana and Martin, Benjamin R., What is an Emerging Technology? (February 11, 2015). SWPS 2015-06. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2743186 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2743186

Daniele Rotolo (Contact Author)

SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit), University of Sussex ( email )

Jubilee Building - Room 383
Brighton, Sussex BN19SL
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.danielerotolo.com

Diana Hicks

Georgia Institute of Technology ( email )

Atlanta, GA 30332
United States

Benjamin R. Martin

SPRU, University of Sussex ( email )

The Freeman Centre, Jubilee Building
Falmer
Brighton, Sussex BN1 9SL
United Kingdom
01273 873562 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/people/lists/person/1716

University of Cambridge - Judge Business School - Centre for Science and Policy (CSAP) and Centre for Business Research (CBR)

Top Floor, Judge Business School Building
Trumpington Street
Cambridge, CB2 1AG
United Kingdom

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