Between Technology and Science: Exploring an Emerging Field
Knowledge Flows and Networking on the Nano-scale
This dissertation addresses emerging developer communities in a new field of science and technology as well as methods to capture exchange processes between them. It contributes to the discussion about a new mode of knowledge production and a changing division of labour between public research, industry, and government by investigating 'nanotechnology' – an emerging area between science and technology. To explore exchange processes in this field, the study applies various methods. In particular, it uses patent citation analysis.
The methodological contribution is a new interpretation of this indicator, which sees patent citations as information flows that point to reciprocal exchange processes and potential overlaps between science and technology. This is in contrast to the received interpretation, which suffers from the application of a framework that was developed in the context of scholarly citation and does not fully appreciate that a patent citation is established by the patent examiner – a party external to the inventive process.
Various formats of patent citation analysis describe 'nanotechnology' as a set of instrument-driven scientific fields on their way towards science-related technologies. Even though nanotechnology patents contain more patent citations to the scientific literature than other technical fields, the science and technology systems are relatively autonomous. What links them in the case of nano-science and technology is a common interest in improving techniques of nano-scale measurement and manipulation.
Another finding is that both countries and firms exhibit relatively strong path-dependencies. While nanotechnology comprises a key set of technological areas – instrumentation, electronics, and pharmaceuticals/chemicals – nano-scale activities vary considerably from country to country. Also knowledge-building activities of firms follow a strong technological path-dependency. As a result, 'social capital' seems to be confined to chiefly technological or scientific trajectories. Hence, 'social capital' appears not to be very useful in explaining how knowledge is accumulated and integrated at the nano-scale.
Given the central role of instrumentation and the mediated nature of exchange between science and technology at the nano- scale, public policies should be directed towards supporting education and infrastructure in the area rather than more 'direct' transfer mechanisms.
About the Author
Martin Meyer has been working with the Institute of Strategy and International Business (Helsinki University of Technology) in various capacities since 1999. Most recently, as a senior researcher, he managed a major study on knowledge flows in the Finnish innovation system. Over the past two and a half years, he helped set up the Flemish Centre for R&D Statistics at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, with special responsibility for patent analysis. He has also acted as Research Director for the Finnish Institute for Enterprise Management. Apart from academic positions at the aforementioned institutions and Linkoping University, Sweden, he has also worked as consultant for Technopolis Innovation Policy Associates.
More recently, Dr Meyer has been appointed Gatsby Fellow for Technology Transfer at SPRU, the world-leading research centre for science and technology policy at the University of Sussex. He has published in international peer-reviewed journals, such as Research Policy, Scientometrics, R&D Management, Economic Systems Research, and World Patent Information. He has been a guest lecturer at a number of institutions in North America, Asia and Europe. Dr Meyer has served as rapporteur for a European Commission special expert group on mapping networks of excellence and has advised the Finnish Parliament. Originally a student of business, economics and sociology at Dortmund University (Germany), he completed his master s degree in the field of marketing and technology management at Uppsala University (Sweden) in 1996. His master's dissertation was entitled "Nanotechnology and its Industrial Applications". Dr. Meyer subsequently obtained a doctoral degree from SPRU in science and technology policy studies.