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Strategic Management of Emergent Nanotechnologies

Final Report Summary - SMENATECH (Strategic Management of Emergent Nanotechnologies)

The research conducted within the SMENATECH project investigated the multifaceted nature of management of emergent technology by adopting different conceptual perspectives as well as different levels of analysis. The research project shifted between addressing technology innovation system, firm and individual agency as levels of analysis.

1.1 EU nanotechnology policy
Collaborative diversity is, arguably, an intrinsic characteristic of research networks built on the emergence of general-purpose technologies such as nanotechnology. European research policy creates arrangements that institutionalise the development of internationally and institutionally diverse research networks. Motivated by concerns that a high degree of collaborative diversity may create managerial challenges for network members in sharing knowledge across national and institutional border this research project studied the configurations of collaborative research networks and considered their international and institutional diversity. Research concludes that nanotechnology research networks are indeed characterised by a significant degree of collaborative diversity, which in turn exposes a need for participating members to develop strategic capabilities to manage research within diverse networks.

1.2 Entrepreneurial searches in nanotechnology
Recent studies confirm nanotechnology is in infancy with a very amorphous network of agents interested in exploring and influencing its potential use. In the midst of this burgeoning technological field it would seem reasonable to assume the existence of intensive search activity on both demand and supply sides. From the assumption that search activities are animated by the identification and pursuit of hitherto unrecognised opportunities, this research argues these processes can be characterized by different temporal phases: open, transformative and directional. Patterns from the case data suggest that in different phases search differs in respect to the availability of guidance provided by the available resources and this leads to creation of different types of opportunities.

1.3 Responsible innovation processes
This stream of research reports on an inductive study of the emerging phenomenon of responsible innovation, conducted in two research organisations. It introduces strategic agency and ethical agency as important elements of science-driven innovation, and recognises professional identity as a key foundation for the organisational capability to innovate responsibly. It suggests that, in the context of science-driven innovation, strategic agency and ethical agency cannot be separated; both are needed to transfer wider social aspirations into the development of the organisational capability to innovate responsibly. The research also suggests that relationships between strategic agency, ethical agency and professional identity depend on uncertainty of impact and the range of interests.

The insights gained in this research project are in the process of dissemination through traditional academic channels such as peer-reviewed publications and academic conferences. It is, however, important to single out two outcomes that were not explicitly mentioned in the original proposal, but are absolutely central to achieving impact with this research project.

The insights gained from this study are directly transferred into two newly developed Master modules. Moreover, this research enabled the researcher to be appointed as visiting professor at IE Business School and Faculty of Economics University of Ljubljana.

Perhaps more importantly the reintegration period enabled the researcher to build a network that applied for Marie Curie Initial Training Network. The ManETEI (Management of Emerging Technologies for Economic Impact) proposal was successful. Eighteen researchers will work on topics that enable better understanding of unique challenges for achieving social and economic impact of emergent technology.