The dynamics of competence building in European and Japanese firms : the case of optoelectronics.
The central aim of this thesis was to examine the dynamics of
competence building processes at the firm level in an international
sample of companies engaged in the field of optoelectronics. The
development of empirical measures to assess the dynamics of
competence building is crucially important both for management practice
and the modem theory- of the firm. The concept was derived from the
notion of firm specific competencies which are closely related to the
firm's intangible assets and its accumulated technological bases.
The principal argument has been that in the development of
technological competence. firms would view a radically new opportunity
offered by an emerging new technology such as optoelectronics from
different angles, shaped to a large extent by their different technological
bases and business interests. Competence building is a painstaking,
lengthy arduous process. characterized by uncertainty, trial and error.
and requires continuous learning. Several factors affect the rate and
direction of competence building, chief among them being: primary
markets, top management strategy and the evolution of the R&D
organization, management of the linkages between systems, key
components and component generic technologies, organizational learning
and economies of scope.
Two main investigation techniques were employed to support my
argument. The first consisted of statistical analysis of bibliometric
scientific publications data and US patent data of the firms involved. The
second consisted of in-depth interviews with the firms' researchers and
R&D managers, who provided data on the historical account of the firms'
optoelectronics competence building processes. A novel pioneering
technique was developed to measure competencies using the three types
The analysis showed that within large firms, variation existed in the
scope of competence building depending on the range of prior
capabilities. The areas of strength and weakness within optoelectronics
could be used to group the firms into three groups of 1, communications
driven 2, consumer and industrial electronics driven 3, evenly balanced