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Title: Integrating technological obsolescence into innovation theory : the case of the PC sector
Author: Ford, S. J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2007
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In his famous account of ‘creative destruction’, Josef Schumpeter described how innovation was the engine of the capitalist process, with new technological forms and industries emerging to displace the old. While the importance of novelty creation has been recognized and seized upon in generations of further study, comparatively little attention has been paid to the process of this displacement, technological obsolescence. This thesis seeks insights into the processes through which technological obsolescence arises and the subsequent patterns of change it causes in the socio-economic system. As an exploratory study, an inductive approach to theory construction is pursued, with a focus on the PC sector as a case exemplar. Drawing on relevant prior literature in innovation, evolutionary theory, complexity theory and technological obsolescence, two distinctive dimensions of technological obsolescence are identified: the market obsolescence of technology and the physical obsolescence of technology. Insights into the former are gained through study of the early and mature stages of the PC industry, discontinuities in the hard disk drive industry and a disruptive threat to the PC. Exploring the physical obsolescence dimension sees insights derived through analysing change in the reverse supply chain for PCs, at the market’s adaptive response to the growth of waste PCs and to policy intervention from the European Parliament. This focus on technological obsolescence highlights the fact that innovation is not a linear process but one that involves many interlinkages between the end of the technology lifecycle and the initiation of subsequent cycles. In beginning to unpack these interlinkages, this investigation reveals how as a co-evolutionary process, obsolescence creates and reflects asynchronies between supply and demand, giving rise to new opportunities for entrepreneurial response and value creation, which in turn brings about market self-organization and the emergence of new industries.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available