The co-evolution of societal issues, technologies and industry regimes: three case studies of the American automobile industry

Penna, Caetano C R (2014) The co-evolution of societal issues, technologies and industry regimes: three case studies of the American automobile industry. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis contributes to closing a gap in the field of science, technology and innovation (STI) policy research: despite many theoretical advances in the field, we still do not know why some urgent societal issues (or ‘challenges’) remain unaddressed, notwithstanding the technological advances that could potentially address them. In particular, radical technological innovations – innovations that depart from the established technological trajectory – would offer greatest potential to address societal challenges. While the source of radical innovations is often new entrepreneurial firms, established firms (‘incumbents’) are likely to play an important role in developing them because of the vast resources and complementary assets they possess. Incumbents however, face few immediate incentives to develop radical innovations in response to societal
challenges.

The analytical puzzle of this thesis is thus to explain how, when, and why industries change (or not) their strategies (in particular, their technological strategy) in order to address a societal problem. This puzzle is disentangled into interrelated research questions:

A) How do societal issue­‐related pressures (on the incumbent industry) from different domains (namely, civil society, science, political arena, economy) evolve?

B) How does the incumbent industry respond to changing pressures around societal issues, in terms of technological, political, cultural and economic strategies?

C) In particular, when and why do industry actors decide to develop substantive technological responses?

To answer these questions, the thesis develops a new analytical perspective that combines insights from (a) issue life­‐cycle and issue attention cycle theories (from the Business & Society field) with (b) the so­‐called ‘Triple Embeddedness Framework’ and (c) concepts from business strategies, innovation management, corporate political strategies, and technology policy. This novel perspective represents an ideal­‐typical model of issue evolution (‘issue life ­‐cycle’). The model, which I call the Dialectic Issue Life­‐Cycle (DILC) model, is applied to three case studies of the American automobile industry’s responses to various societal problems (local air pollution, auto and highway safety, and climate change). Combining qualitative and quantitative research methods in an original way, the case studies aim not only to investigate the validity of the framework, which also provides conceptual answers to the research questions, but also to further refine it and nuance the conceptual answers. By explaining how incumbent industry actors respond to societal challenges, this thesis ultimately contributes to the practical policy debate of how incumbents can be stimulated to develop radical innovations that help address societal challenges.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labour > HD2350.8 Large industry. Factory system. Big business
T Technology > TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics > TL0001 Motor vehicles.Cycles
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2015 11:11
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2016 12:56
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/51834

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