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Friday, July 1, 2011

Technology Management

What is technology management ? How technology development progress from invention to innovation ? Explain citing one such example.
Many factors make up the technology development framework and there are several ways of condensing these into a manageable number of grouping. These factors are grouped around six broad dimensions (as in figure-1) :
1.       Objective
2.       Decision Criteria
3.       Time
4.       Constraints
5.       Activities
6.       Mechanism

Fig-1 : Dimensions of Technology Management

Obviously these dimensions  are interlinked and a proper management of technology requires a systematic consideration of all of them.
According to Soleman, technology management is the capacity of a firm, a group or society to master management of the factors that condition technological change, so as to improve its economic, social, and cultural environment and wealth. That technology management is important, becomes obvious if one considers both what the economist  call the ‘input‘ and the ‘out put’ aspects of technological change, namely sources of modern technology on one side and its pervasive impact on society on the other. These facts are obvious for all countries . however technology management is more important for those countries which do not participate directly in ‘input’ aspects or do so less intensively than the industrialised countries and therefore necessarily less well prepared to adjust to and master the ‘output’ aspects. This is the case today in most developing countries. According to Stephen Millett the following four general factors are considered to successful R & D management :

1.       A responsiveness to the needs of clients and customers.
2.       Regular top-down and bottom-up communication
3.       An awareness that technology alone are not products &
4.       Recognition that non-technological factors have profound impact on R & D.

Technology development from Invention to  Innovation
Managing technology is taking risks, in novel products and developing new markets. In the world of rapid technological process and changing competitive environments and market needs, firm must pay increasing attentions to developing new innovative products for domestic and world markets, and therefore an efficient technology management system is important for them.
Let us first clarify the distinction between innovation and invention. Since invention is only the beginning of innovation. The steps required to transform invention into innovation can be illustrated in the famous Xerox Story.
The Xerox Story : in 1935, Chester Carlson was working in the patent office of Mallory Company. His technical background included work as a carbon chemist, printer and then as patent lawyer. He became concerned about the errors in copying patents for public dissemination and the costs involved in copying. Using his chemistry and printing background, he began experimenting the new way to create a copying process. His basic idea was-
a)    To project the image of a typed paper onto a blank sheet of paper coated with dry ink.
b)    To hold the ink temporarily at spaces of typed letters by static electrical charges included by the light and
c)    Finally, to melt the ink into the paper by backing the paper. This would produce a quick dry reproduction of a typed page and the process came to be called as Xerography.
Carlson succeeded in obtaining a crude image, thereby reducing his idea into practice. He filed for a patent. Yet like all new inventions, it was still not commercially efficient, cost effective or easily usable. It required development. Development of a new techno logy usually costs a great deal of money, takes time and requires skilled resources. All inventors face similar problem-first conceiving the invention, reducing it to practice, obtaining a patient, them obtaining support for development and commercialisation.
Carlson went from company to company seeking support. He was turned down, again and again. By 1942, he has obtained the valuable patent on the basic process. Then a venturesome group at Battelle Memorial Institute agreed to work on the development in return for a share in potential royalties.  Battelle was a non-profit research and development organisation with a range of advanced technological research capabilities.  Finally he invention pieces for Carlson began to fall in place-invention, patent, development and commercialisation. In 1945, while Battelle began development of Xerography process, a small company named  Haloid learned of Carlson patents. Joseph Wilson, president, was a risk taker and was looking for new products. Wilson produced the first Copier, using Carlson’s patent and Battelle’s development.
The rest of the story became business history. That company became Xerox, creating a new industry on office copying products. Xerox grew tremendously, keeping a technological an marketing dominance over the industry for almost three decades.
The interesting questions to ask are : how many companies missed out on the Xerography patents? Why did it take R & D outfit like Battelle to see the technological potential in Carlson’s invention? What leadership qualities do innovative, risk taking manager like Joseph Wilson possess?
Effective technology management in various countries have led to several technological advancements in the past. And if correctly synchronised with business process could dominant in terms of growth and wealth creation.


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