Department of Management and Economics, Linköping University, Sweden
This chapter discusses the role of systems integration in a large technical system—the electrical power system. It examines how innovation activities have been organized along the system's historical trajectory. In other words: how does the innovation context change as a large technical system matures? One prominent feature of large technical systems is its systemic character, with components connected in a network (Hughes 1983 ; Davies 1996). This chapter focuses on both the evolution of the system as a whole, and also on specific inventions that made 'component connections' possible in the system. Innovation in systems technologies requires an understanding of specific component technologies, the functioning of the system as a whole, as well as the various components in the system design that need to be connected. These are the crucial aspects of systems integration that are investigated in the historical overview of innovation in electrical power systems given below.
The chapter suggests that large technical systems follow a general pattern of historical development. The evolution towards increasingly complex systems is accompanied by a shift from (a) an emphasis on individual human creativity, ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and vision in an initial system building phase to (b) more collective and organized patterns of corporate-led innovation in components, subsystems, architectures, and their integration in maturing systems (cf. Davies 1997). The chapter attempts to specify some critical issues in the management of innovative activities in large system technologies, in particular focusing on the cognitive abilities of man and organizations in understanding, as well as providing solutions to complex technical and social problems. This analysis points to issues related to the integration of systems, not only as they already exist, but also in the process when they are envisaged and invented.
The empirical context of the chapter is the evolution of the electric power system and the emergence of the electrical equipment manufacturing industry. 1 Electrical power systems consist of subsystems for generation,