The French National Research Agency Projects for science

Voir cette page en français

ANR funded project

Open Research Area in Europe (ORA) 2010
Projet MDET

Mapping the dynamics of emerging technologies

This proposal aims to deepen our understanding of how new technologies emerge. To do so, we investigate the knowledge communities formed during the process of technology creation, and their institutions, visions and expectations. Understanding these communities is important because they are the main structures through which scientific knowledge is generated, integrated and transformed into practical outcomes. Their importance is increasing as public policy emphasises innovation-driven growth, and the translation of scientific research into commercially disruptive technologies.

Technologies are developed in distributed networks that align and misalign to varying degrees. In the case of emergent fields, desirable technological developments are often hindered as a result of this lack of alignment because there is much uncertainty and researchers or industrialists do not fully understand or agree on the potentials or downsides of the technologies. Hence there is a role for public policy for supporting the coordination of the networks. However, currently there is no methodology for examining these emerging knowledge communities across various dimensions. This project aims to fill this evidence gap and map how these networks develop, align and misalign, to understand:

1) How do epistemic communities come into being?
2) What are the mechanisms underlying the process of community integration?
3) How can the development of communities be effectively managed and influenced by public policy?

To answer these questions, we will build on a large body of previous work to construct a theoretical and methodological framework for mapping community integration. For this, we combine quantitative methods for analysing social and cognitive networks using publication data, with novel mixed qualitative-quantitative approaches to capture institutional developments and the visions, values and shared expectations of the researchers. These techniques will allow us to better understand the co-evolution of knowledge and communities and how they are influenced by institutions and visions.

The investigation will carry out a total of six case studies of emerging technological fields with potential widespread societal applications, such as ‘nanocrystals for photovoltaics’, ‘lab-on-a-chip for diagnostics’ or ‘asynchronous logic in chip design’. These fields have been chosen for their social relevance, and their relative spread across sciences and industrial sectors, thus allowing for comparisons. They are also exemplary cases of a shift towards more hybrid, socially robust forms knowledge production.

The project aims to make three academic contributions. First, it aims to provide new empirical evidence on the ongoing debate on the shift in knowledge production according to which science and technology are becoming more embedded in social contexts than they were in the immediate postwar period. Second, we aim to reveal in a systematic way the role that institutions, visions and expectations play in the emergence of technologies. Third, with the evidence acquired, we aim to investigate the portfolio of policy instruments that may be appropriate for supporting (specific) emerging technologies. Since this last element has strong practical implications for non-academics, an important part of the project will be devoted to discuss the results and tools developed in the study with research managers and policy makers.



ANR grant: 229 998 euros
Beginning and duration: - 30 mois


ANR Programme: Open Research Area in Europe (ORA) 2010

Project ID: ANR-10-ORAR-0007

Project coordinator:


Back to the previous page


The project coordinator is the author of this abstract and is therefore responsible for the content of the summary. The ANR disclaims all responsibility in connection with its content.