Commercializing Nascent Technology: The Case of Laser Diodes at Sony

  • Wood S
  • Brown G
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Abstract

To develop really new products, a company often needs to get a handle on really new technologies. Although some breakthrough products simpiy combine existing technologies in novel ways, other innovations require the successful commercial— ization of nascent technologies. In other words, such innovations depend on entirely new structures and methods that have been demonstrated in a research environment but have not yet been refined to the point where they are ready for production. The path from nascent technology to full-scale production presents numerous managerial challenges that must be overcome if a company is to develop really new products that involve really new technologies. Samuel Wood and Gary Brown discuss these challenges, and they describe methods for managing the successful commercialization of nascent technologies. They illustrate these methods by examining Sony’s commercialization of laser diodes—semiconductor devices that play an important role in the operation of CD players and other Optical disk readers. They divide the process of commercializing nascent technology into three stages: appropriation, implementation, and manufacture. The first stage—approu priation—involves monitoring, assessing, and capturing new technologies. Sony handles this stage with a small, loosely structured research organization, sepa— rate from the development organization. In this stage, management must ensure that the objectives pursued by the research organization support the development organization’s long—term goals. To foster coordination between research and development, Sony employs such network—building techniques as internal re— search symposia and technology expositions, orientation periods for researchers, transferring managers between research and development, and transferring re- searchers to development and other functions. The implementation stage involves transferring knowledge to development, as well as refining the technology to the point where it is reproducible, testable, and documented. Sony facilitates technology commercialization by transferring project team members from research to development and making those people responsible for implementation. To reach the final stage, manufacture, the firm must find the means for devel0ping and refining mass production tools and procedures. Meeting this challenge requires close interaction and integration between process and production engineers.

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Authors

  • Samuel C. (Stanford University) Wood

  • Gary S. Brown

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