Technology Forgiveness: The Different Institutional Resilience of Polymer and Metal Additive Manufacturing in Portugal
Posted: 29 Nov 2017
Date Written: November 23, 2017
Institutional support can play an important role in supplementing private investment in innovative activities, especially in latecomer countries. This prospect can be particularly challenging in nations not leading the technological frontier, which suffer from higher resource scarcity than technology leaders. We study the case of the adoption of polymer (PAM) and metal (MAM) additive manufacturing technologies in the Portuguese molds industry, both of which offer important benefits for competitiveness. Leveraging archival data (about the history of Portugal and the technologies); insights from 45 interviews across academia, industry, and government; and 75 hours of participant observations, we develop insights about why institutional instability in Portugal affected the adoption of Polymer Additive Manufacturing (PAM) and Metal Additive Manufacturing (MAM) differently. In both cases, Portugal invested in the technology relatively early. While PAM has been widely adopted, including increasingly in high-tech applications, MAM adoption has been modest despite MAM’s potential to greatly improve the performance and competitiveness of metal molds. From the comparison between PAM and MAM, we generate theory about technological and contextual factors that affect ‘technological forgiveness’, defined as the resilience of a new technology’s adoption to institutional instability. We conclude by proposing a generalizable framework for ‘forgiveness’ in different industrial contexts.
Keywords: additive manufacturing, technological uncertainty, institutional instability, latecomer countries, technology adoption, technological upgrading
JEL Classification: O250, O310, O320, O330, O380
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