The Successful Commercialization of Emerging Technologies from a Multi-stakeholder Perspective: Empirical Evidence from Blockchain Technology

多利益相關者視角下成功實現新興技術商業化的研究:區塊鏈技術的經驗證據

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date18 Sep 2020

Abstract

Emerging technologies are featured with radical novelty and tremendous potential. The commercialization of emerging technologies will bring revolutionary changes to the industry and daily life as well. However, because of various reasons, large quantities of emerging technologies fail to reach the marketplace and to achieve successful commercialization in the end, which is called the “Valley of Death (VOD)”. How to cross the “Valley of Death (VOD)” and to achieve successful technology commercialization has become a big headache both in theory and in practice for a long time. To disentangle the key to successful commercialization of emerging technologies, this thesis begins with defining the commercialization of emerging technologies clearly and then identifies “Technology Development” and “Product Development” as weak stages during commercialization. It has also revealed main challenges that confront these two weak stages including expertise shortage, liability of newness, and financial resource constraints. Furthermore, by integrating the new context of digital economy and the special features of emerging technologies, this thesis has investigated the roles of three key stakeholders including the online crowd, start-ups and investors in catalyzing emerging technologies to cross those two weak stages of “Technology Development” and “Product Development”, as well as to achieve successful commercialization in the end with three consecutive studies. The research on commercialization of emerging technologies from the multi-stakeholder (i.e. the online crowd, start-ups, and investors) perspective is conducted mainly based on three theories including “Functional Leadership Theory”, “Optimal Distinctiveness Perspective” and “Organizational Learning Theory”. In the whole thesis, blockchain has been studied as a typical kind of emerging technology.

More specifically, first of all, one of the biggest challenges for the “Technology Development” stage during the commercialization of emerging technologies is the shortage of emerging technology related expertise. The first study (i.e. Chapter 2) in this thesis mainly investigates how the online crowd in the era of digital economy can contribute to the “Technology Development” stage of commercialization through online based open collaborative innovation. Online based open collaborative innovation has huge application potential for technology development during the commercialization of emerging technologies; nevertheless, such kind of “crowd intelligence” is also confronted with problems of difficult coordination and high failure rate. Extending traditional functional leadership theory into the online contexts, this thesis contends online leadership can effectively coordinate open collaborative innovation activities of the online crowd and thus promote the success of emerging technology related open collaborative innovation projects. This thesis distinguishes between the effects of task-oriented and relation-oriented leadership behaviors, then further investigates the moderation effects of openness orientation of these projects. Moreover, in the “Product Development” stage, emerging technology-based start-ups as the core stakeholders face double “liability of newness”, which seriously harms legitimacy attainment of emerging technologies and progression of technology commercialization. Classical institutional theory emphasizes “legitimation through isomorphism”, which overlooks the accompanying problems of fierce competition. Drawing on optimal distinctiveness perspective, the second study (i.e. Chapter 3) of this thesis continues to propose that emerging technology-based start-ups can overcome “liability of newness” and attain legitimacy through “optimal” strategic positioning; in this way, emerging technologies can survive the “Product Development” stage of commercialization. Meanwhile, venture age, media attention and country-level ICT development as contingency factors have also been investigated. At last, regarding the prevalent financial resource constraints during both “Technology Development” and “Product Development” stages of commercialization, the third study (i.e. Chapter 4) of this thesis continues to examine the investment decision making of investors, in expectation of providing helpful guidance on external financing for the commercialization of emerging technologies. For investors, it’s a kind of decision making under high risk and great uncertainty to invest in emerging technologies; prior investment experience counts much for the decision making. Juxtaposing the viewpoints of “absorptive capacity” and “learning myopia (or competency traps)” in organizational learning theory, this thesis proposes a pair competing hypotheses that investment experience of investors can boost their investment in emerging technologies, but may also discourage the investment. Moderation effects of two social evaluation factors (i.e. investor reputation and investor status) are further investigated. This thesis has collected secondary datasets of blockchain open source projects, blockchain related start-ups, as well as funding rounds targeted at blockhain from multiple sources such as GitHub and CrunchBase. Empirical analysis has been conducted to examine those viewpoints above, which generates some new and important research conclusions. Henceforth, we thus have a better knowledge of the critical roles of three key stakeholders including the online crowd, start-ups and investors in the commercialization of emerging technologies in the era of digital economy.

On the whole, theoretical contributions and innovative points of this thesis are mainly in four aspects below. First, it constructs a multi-stakeholder (i.e. the online crowd, start-ups and investors) research framework on the commercialization of emerging technologies. By going deep into specific processes of commercialization and identifying the weak stages and core stakeholders, it can provide more comprehensive and more fine-grained solutions for the commercialization of emerging technologies than previous studies. Some of existing studies only regard technology commercialization as a phase of the innovation chain, leaving the specific processes and internal mechanisms of technology commercialization alone. Other studies, especially those about technology transfer in universities and research institutes have begun to investigate the specific processes of technology commercialization; nevertheless, constrained by the identities of public research organizations, these studies haven’t drawn a full picture of technology commercialization. This thesis is conducted from the standpoint of emerging technologies themselves instead of other emerging technology related players, and defines the commercialization of emerging technologies as a process of value creation and value capture which consists of four stages including “Research & Invention”, “Technology Development”, “Product Development”, and “Sales & Marketing”. Based on social backgrounds and existing literatures, “Technology Development” and “Product Development” are identified as weak stages that are most likely to fall into the “Valley of Death (VOD)”. Furthermore, it discusses and examines the roles of the online crowd, start-ups and investors in promoting the commercialization of emerging technologies with empirical methods. Therefore, this thesis can provide better guidance for emerging technologies to achieve successful commercialization in the end.

Second, this thesis integrates online based open collaborative innovation into research on the commercialization of emerging technologies; meanwhile, traditional functional leadership theory is introduced into the online contexts, which thus extends research on the commercialization of emerging technologies, especially its “Technology Development” stage in the era of digital economy. On the one hand, existing research on technology commercialization emphasizes the roles of universities and research institutes in technology development, but overlooks the fact that online crowd can also participate in technology development through online based open collaborative innovation platforms in the era of digital economy. On the other hand, a lot of studies insist leaders no longer exist in online based open collaborative innovation, or even doubt on the effectiveness of leadership in the online space. This thesis contends that online leadership can effectively coordinate the open collaborative innovation activities of the online crowd, thus promoting emerging technologies to survive the “Technology Development” stage of commercialization. After collecting data of blockchain open source projects on GitHub by means of web crawling and conducting statistical analysis, it discovers relation-oriented online leadership behaviors can promote the success of emerging technology related open collaborative innovation projects; the influence of task-oriented online leadership behaviors is not prominent. Meanwhile, it further reveals that the positive influence of relation-oriented leadership behaviors becomes more prominent when the openness orientation of emerging technology related open collaborative innovation projects is of high level. The new and critical implications for emerging technologies to cross the “Technology Development” stage of commercialization in the era of digital economy are as follows. Online based open collaborative innovation is a critical channel for the continuous advancements of emerging technologies; nevertheless, only if online leadership is effectively utilized can emerging technologies cross the “Technology Development” stage of commercialization smoothly.

Third, this thesis discovers “optimal” strategic positioning facilitates emerging technology-based start-ups to attain legitimacy and to survive the “Product Development” stage of commercialization, which renews the traditional beliefs of “legitimation through isomorphism”. According to the classical legitimacy theory, an organization can obtain legitimacy by means of isomorphism, but overlooks the fierce competition brought by isomorphism. This thesis proposes optimal distinctiveness perspective can solve the legitimation problems for emerging technology-based start-ups well. By utilizing a relatively new text mining method (i.e. topic modeling) and measuring “Business Proximity” with datasets of blockchain start-ups, this thesis discovers an “inverted-U” shaped relationship between business proximity of emerging technology-based start-ups and legitimacy attainment, which is consistent with optimal distinctiveness perspective. Meanwhile, further research reveals media attention and country-level ICT development will attenuate the “inverted-U” shaped relationship. The new and important implications for the “Product Development” stage of the commercialization of emerging technologies are as follows. When making strategic positioning, emerging technology-based start-ups should maintain high-level conformity to their peers but also should be distinctive enough at the same time. Such kind of “optimal” strategic positioning helps emerging technology-based start-ups attain legitimacy and promotes emerging technologies to survive the “Product Development” stage of commercialization.

Fourth, when investigating investment decision making patterns of investors in the fields of emerging technologies based on organizational learning theory, this thesis discovers the existence of the “dark sides” of organizational learning with empirical evidence, namely “learning myopia” or “competency traps”. Therefore, it not only helps understand organizational learning dialectically, but also brings new thinking on external financing during “Technology Development” and “Product Development” stages of the commercialization of emerging technologies. The majority of existing studies based on organizational learning theory usually concentrate on the positive influence brought by prior experience and research on its “dark sides” is relatively scant, which results in incomplete understanding of organizational learning. This thesis uses datasets of funding rounds targeted at blockchain to conduct empirical analysis; it discovers that prior investment experience negatively influences investors’ investment in the fields of emerging technologies, which demonstrates “learning myopia” or “competency traps” indeed exist during investment decision making. What’s more, it further reveals that social evaluation factors such as reputation and status may exacerbate the situation of “learning myopia” or “competency traps”. In this way, it provides some new and important implications for overcoming financial resource constraints which widely exist in both “Technology Development” and “Product Development” stages of the commercialization of emerging technologies as follows. The enthusiasm of experienced investors to invest in the fields of emerging technologies is not as high as expected. Therefore, building a diversified and “tolerant” financial capital market is beneficial for emerging technologies to cross the “Valley of Death (VOD)” and to achieve successful commercialization.

    Research areas

  • Emerging technologies, Commercialization, Valley of death, Blockchain, Digital economy, Online based open collaborative innovation, Start-ups, Investors