W. Edward Steinmueller
SPRU—Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
The idea of complex products and systems has featured in a number of recent studies (Miller et al. 1995 ; Rycroft and Cash 1999 ; Hobday, Rush, and Tidd 2000). A central aim of these studies has been to identify the specific managerial, technological, and organizational issues that arise when engineering-intensive design processes are required to create systemic products or other complex artefacts such as civil engineering projects or sophisticated producer goods. Some of these studies use a specific term of art, complex products and systems (CoPS), to refer to a subset of these design-intensive activities that involve relatively small production 'runs' of unique design.
The organizational arrangements necessary for the creation of CoPS are a focus of recent research. It is recognized, for example, that the division of labour involved in CoPS often involves multiple technologies and competences that must be effectively integrated (Prencipe, Chapter Seven this volume). This division of labour often spans organizational boundaries and, in the words of one recent study, will 'depend heavily on continuously adaptive organizational networks that know how to do more than any individual can understand in detail' (Rycroft and Cash 1999 : 3), wording that mirrors, at an organizational level, Polanyi's (1962 : 87-95) discussion of the tacit components of personal knowledge. Issues of how knowledge is accumulated, modified, and applied in these organizational networks have become central features of the research agenda for understanding innovation.