Biotechnology and Telecommunications: Conditions and Processes for Emerging Technologies

Article excerpt

Biotechnology and Telecommunications: Conditions and Processes for Emerging Technologies McKelvey M and Bohlin E (Eds) (2005) eContent Management P/L, Maleny QLD; ISBN 0-9750436-7-6; PB; iv + 104 pages; AUD 99.00.

Biotechnology and telecommunications are emerging technologies of significant societal impact and consequence. Presently, researchers, policy makers and practitioners face the common challenge of understanding how and to what extent the development and outcomes of these areas can be anticipated, promoted and managed.

A recent and useful contribution to our knowledge of this broad and complex issue can be found in Volume 7, Number 1 of the 2005 special edition of Innovation: management, policy and practice (ISSN 1447-9338). Dedicated to biotechnology and telecommunications, this special edition presents an informative exploration of the conditions and processes for innovation in these areas. The special edition is a collection of five articles and an introductory and concluding commentary that provides useful insight into the state and latest findings of research on innovation in emerging technologies.

The editors of this special edition have gathered works that attempt to present examples of theory-driven empirical research that strive for systematic and comprehensive comparison of innovation practices across technologies and industries. This, the editors argue, is vital in uncovering the conditions and characteristics that are common to all innovation processes and those that are unique to the specific technological or industrial context. This understanding is imperative if we are to aid policy makers and practitioners to better stimulate and manage innovation. The special edition showcases works that attempt to grapple with the complexities of innovation and thereby move towards a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of its nature in emerging technologies.

The articles within the special edition are linked in their sharing of three key themes. Succinctly described, the themes include: (1) evolutionary long-term processes; (2) the role of infrastructure; and (3) industries, firms or products. The first of these themes relates to innovation characterised as an evolutionary long-term process. The second key theme, the role of infrastructure, draws attention to the infrastructure-dependent nature of both biotechnology and telecommunications, and its impact on innovation freedom. The third theme, industries, firms or products, considers the analytical tension inherent in viewing biotechnology and telecommunications as either technologies or industries, as well as the implications of these views on the objectives and design of innovation policy.

Combined, the papers identify key questions such as:

* How can we create optimal conditions for innovation, and what is the potential role of policymakers and regulators in accomplishing this?

* Is collaboration - and if so under what circumstances - a pre-condition for innovation?

* What is the relationship between the knowledge-creation of individuals and growth based on emerging technologies?

* Which methodologies can be applied in future research on innovation in emerging industries?

The first paper by Daniele Masica, Mats Magnusson, and Americo Cicchetti titled 'Network prominence and innovation: An empirical analysis of corporate backed biotech spin-offs' explores corporate venturing as a new means for pharmaceutical companies to enhance their innovative capacity. Particular focus is placed on understanding the structure and impact of the academic and scientific networks that pharmaceutical companies are able to access through their relationship with academic spin-offs. In their empirical study of 97 corporate backed spin-offs, the authors find that investment in academic spin-offs prominently positioned in R&D networks significantly contributed to innovativeness of investors.

The second paper by Ashveen Peerbaye and Vincent Mangematin titled 'Sharing research facilities: Towards a new mode of technology transfer? …