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New article on "Strategic Technology Framing" published by Research Policy

last modified Nov 12, 2019 09:58 AM

A new article entitled "Why Matter Matters: How Technology Characteristics Shape the Strategic Framing of Technologies" has been accepted for publication by the journal "Research Policy". The article is co-authored by Joern Hoppmann (University of Oldenburg, Germany, and ETH Zurich, Switzerland), Laura Diaz Anadon (Cambridge University, UK, and Harvard University, USA) and Venkatesh Narayanamurti (Harvard University, USA). Research Policy is widely regarded as the leading journal in the field of innovation studies.

In the article, the authors investigate how the executives of the two largest research institutes for photovoltaic technologies – the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, USA and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE) in Freiburg, Germany – have made use of public framing to secure funding and shape the technological development of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies. The article shows that the executives used four framing dimensions (potential, prospect, performance, and progress) and three framing tactics (conclusion, conditioning, and concession), and that the choice of dimensions and tactics is tightly coupled to the characteristics of the specific technologies pursued by the research institutes.

Tailoring framing to particular technology characteristics allows actors to convey positive expectations about technologies, while distracting from material developments that favor alternatives. For example, Fraunhofer ISE has pursued more mature PV technologies and therefore focused on the present performance (rather than the potential) when publicly portraying PV. In contrast, NREL has pursued less mature PV technologies and therefore focused on the potential (rather than the present performance) when publicly framing PV.

By showing how actors portray technologies in a positive light, the results have important implications for practice, since they could help infer material developments from framing patterns, making it easier to identify exaggerated claims and technology hypes. If, for example, representatives of research organizations or firms continuously stress the potential—rather than the performance—of their technology over a long period of time, this may indicate a continued lack of a technological maturity, which may be problematic if stakeholders are interested in commercial/workable technologies. Particularly if stakeholders lack the expertise or information to independently check claims by technology developers, our study may help them avoid mis-investments and associated social costs.

The full article can be downloaded for free until December 30, 2019, here: