Call for submission

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Call for submission and participation to the PDW on

Big Science Centers in a new era: Challenges and opportunities for research and practice

associated with a Special Issue in Technovation

Guest editors:

Jason Li-Ying, Technical University of Denmark

Wolfgang Sofka, Copenhagen Business School

Philipp Tuertscher, VU Amsterdam

Background

The impact of public research on the economy and society has been long a central concern for economists and management scholars (Cohen et al., 2002; Kokko et al., 2015; Marroto et al., 2016). Different from universities and other national research institutes, Big Science centers are a unique type of scientific institutions by its sheer size, level of complexity and uncertainty in technology development and the way how scientific and project management staff work together. Big Science centers also have a large network of suppliers and collaborators in science, government and business, making it a complex system with permeable boundaries that retain opportunities to open up for technology transfer, knowledge accumulation and business creation (Kollmer and Dowling, 2004; Link et al., 2007). A number of examples of Big Science centers in the past and at present, such as the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) in the 1960s, CERN, European Spallation Source (ESS), European XFEL, Crick Institute, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and so on, have shown their importance in technological breakthrough and to economies and the society.

The extant literature has shown increasing interest in the impact of Big Science centres on technological innovation, learning, coordination, collaborative innovation process with suppliers, and other spill-over effects (Schmied, 1977; Autio et al., 2003; Autio et al., 2004; Vuola and Hameri, 2006; Tuertscher et al., 2014). Most recent research paid a special attention to the challenges and opportunities of Big Science centers with regard to project management (Schimel and Keller, 2015), governance (Smart et al., 2012), and data management (Bicarregui et al., 2013). Although these works surely informed policy makers, scientists, project managers, and technology suppliers about the complexity of managing Big Science centers as a unique system, our knowledge on the challenges and opportunities in managing Big Science centers in the context of new economic, technological and societal environment is yet fragmented.

Such fragmentation, on the one hand, calls for immediate effort to work on theoretical and conceptual integration, and on the other hand, provides economists and management scholars alike with a great opportunity to engage in more in-depth research on Big Science centers from various theoretical perspectives and create a richer foundation for future theoretical and conceptual integration. We should welcome both approaches of future research.

Big Science center design is a subject of system engineering, project management, organizational learning, the tension between efficiency and effectiveness in economics, and the tension between science and politics. Based on our knowledge, we can at least suggest a number of potential paths for future research. For instance, from an open innovation perspective (Chesbrough, 2003), Big Science centers are open systems towards suppliers and collaborators with a clear organizational boundary, making it a perfect case to research about the sensitivity of openness in innovation (Dahlander and Gann, 2010); from an organizational learning perspective (Cyert and March, 1982; Simon, 1991), the strategic balance between technological and market exploration and exploitation for both the Big Science center and a supplier firm is at central to the organization’s survival (March, 1991; Li et al., 2008); from a technology transfer perspective (Bozeman, 2000; D’Este and Patel, 2007; Wright et al., 2008), it is questionable how different Big Science centers are from universities with regard to collaborative research, resource allocation, relational management, and IP management, as universities are under the transformation towards entrepreneurial ones; and from a business model perspective, it will be also interesting to explore new forms of business model for Big Science centers themselves (Pisano, 2006) and the supplier firms in the markets with alternative application of technologies, which are developed for the Big Science centers.

In sum, Big Science centers are increasingly central components in a complex system of innovation, learning and business creation but our current understanding of their management and impact is underdeveloped in theory and in practice. New activities at some major Big Science centers, such as CERN and ESS, all provide great opportunities for researcher to critically apply existing theories, build new theoretical frameworks, suggest useful guidance to practitioners and policy makers. Therefore, we are organizing a special issue in Technovation, with the following overall scope of interests.

Relevant topics

This Special Issue is interested in all issues related to the challenges and opportunities of Big Science centers both from the centers’ perspective as well as from the perspective of collaborators and stakeholders (suppliers, government, intermediaries, and specialized engineering firms, etc.). Some examples of possible research topics are shown below (however, interested authors should not be limited to these examples):

  • A considerable body of research covering Big Science centers has emerged in the past, yet it is fragmented across a variety of disciplines and fields. This gives rise to an opportunity to generate a systematic synthesis of extant research (or part thereof) and develop a conceptual framework of managing Big Science centers from a particular (or more than one) theoretical foundations.

  • To address the tension between the scope and resources of Big Science centers, where the former is highly related to scientific leadership and the latter is dependent on project management and sponsors.

  • To build and develop experiments at a Big Science center, the Big Science center specify requirements for suppliers to meet. Here, the requirements on the one hand create opportunities for potential suppliers and engineering firms to innovate and the on the other hand may impose a locked-in effect for the suppliers by making the technologies developed for the Big Science center difficult to be applied to alternative products and markets. This potential dilemma is important to resolve, as it is related to organizational learning, innovation strategy, organizational design, and risk management. In this sense, research designs exploring the role of Big Science centers as sources for incremental innovation (exploitation), radical innovation (exploration) or business model innovations by suppliers or collaborators will be welcome. Important insights may also emerge from considering regional effects.

  • To address the learning mechanisms between Big Science centers, collaboration universities, suppliers, and project management. The learning perspective can be investigated both at the organizational level by studying the transfer of codified technologies within a certain governance framework and at individual/group level by observing technicians employed at Big Science centers, scientists from collaboration universities (who do experiments at the Big Science center), managers and engineering staff of supplier firms, and project management teams. Thus, theories and research approaches from a technology transfer perspective and knowledge management perspective can be both employed.

  • The literature is rich on technological transfer from university to industry and how collaborations between the two sides can be managed. Traditionally, Big Science centers are viewed as different from universities with regard to their financing structure, the purpose of science and technology development, and contracting mechanisms with external partners. However, as more and more universities are in the process of transforming towards entrepreneurial style of management and hosting some large research institutes (such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed by California Institute of Technology), to what extent are the collaborative relationships and learning with Big Science centers different from collaboration and learning with universities?

  • Prior research has focused on the dyadic relationship between Big Science center and suppliers. As innovation is often an open process, through which ideas may be developed elsewhere and key technologies can be bought in from others, it is important to have a close look of the relationships among different types of stakeholders (Wang and Li-Ying, 2015; Li-Ying, 2016). How can a Big Science center be run systematically as an open innovation platform?

  • What are the signaling effects of collaborations with Big Science centers for new ventures, suppliers or collaborators? Can employees of Big Science centers acquire and signal unique human capital that will propel their future careers?

  • In an open innovation system, appropriation of intellectual property (IP) has been a central concern for knowledge partners (Laursen and Salter 2014). What are optimal IP strategies for Big Science centers and its partners?

  • Public procurement has impacts on the success of innovations in general (Aschhoff and Sofka, 2009). Can public procurement through Big Science centers drive market success of innovations? Under which conditions?

  • The complexity of the project associated with its sheer size, multidiscipline and multiple stakeholders is intensified with the tension between scientific leadership and political agenda. Thus, the project management challenges in such a complex context can be a fruitful area for new research.

Submission process to the PDW

To help interested authors prepare and develop full papers to submit to a special issue, which will be announce later by Technovation, we are organizing a paper development workshop (PDW).

First, interested authors should submit an outline of their research ideas (no longer than two pages) to indicate the tentative research question, theoretical foundation, methodology and possible results (if any) by email to Jason Li-Ying (yinli@dtu.dk) no later than Oct 15, 2017. At this stage, it is absolutely fine if the authors have not yet developed a full-fledged paper.

Next, we will evaluate the submitted research ideas and select the proposals that we believe have the highest potential for developing a manuscript with substantial relevance and contribution. The authors of those proposals will be invited to a paper development workshop (PDW) at the European Spallation Source at Lund (Sweden). The PDW will take place on Nov 28-29, 2017. The cost of hotel (one or two nights, depending on each participant’s arrangement) is covered by Technical University of Denmark, the PDW sponsor. However, the invited authors are requested to cover their own expenses of travelling to Lund. On the PDW, experts in Big Science Management and top management of ESS will be present and sharing insights with the invited authors. More information on the program and logistics will follow.

After the PDW, a call for submission to a special issue in Technovation in the same theme will be announced. Authors then should submit completed manuscripts via Technovation’s online submission system by a deadline to be specified later by the journal. We will ensure there is sufficient time for paper development between the PDW and the deadline of submission to Technovation’s special issue.  Please note that the authors of papers that were not invited to participate in the PDW in Lund are also welcome to submit the full paper to the special issue, as all submitted full papers will be subject to Technovation’s double-blind review process.

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the submission, please contact Jason Li-Ying (yinli@dtu.dk) who is serving as a lead guest editor.

Short biographies of guest editors

Jason Li-Ying is associate professor at the Technology and Innovation Management division of DTU department of Management Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, which is a member of the European Spallation Source (ESS). Jason has research interests in technology & innovation management, organizational learning, strategic management, and technology transfer. His work has been published in scientific journals such as Long Range Planning, Journal of Product Innovation Management, Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Technovation, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, R&D Management, Journal of Knowledge Management, Journal of technology Transfer, etc. Jason acts as a strategic advisor or a board member for a number of innovative companies. Jason is also the member of journal ranking committee for the Danish Ministry of Education and Research (in the economics and business disciplines).

Wolfgang Sofka is associate professor at the Strategic Management and Globalization group, Copenhagen Business School. His research interests include, among other, innovation, knowledge search, and strategies for value capture in open innovation. He has publications in Academy of Management Journal, Research Policy, Long Range Planning, Journal of International Business Studies, and Journal of Product Innovation Management.

Philipp Tuertscher is associate Professor of Technology and Innovation and a member of the Knowledge, Information, and Networks research group at the VU University Amsterdam. Philipp’s research explores collaborative innovation across a variety of settings such as large-scale scientific collaborations at CERN, open source software projects, online communities, crowdsourcing initiatives, and science-industry collaborations. Using a mixed methods approach, he combines detailed field studies with methods such as archival research, computer linguistics and field-experiments to provide a deeper understanding of mechanisms that enable collaborative innovation activities. His research has appeared in Organization Science, Information Systems Research, Organization Studies, and Academy of Management Annals.

Reference

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Aschhoff, B. and Sofka, W. 2009. Innovation on demand – Can public procurement drive market success of innovations? Research Policy 38, 1235-1247.

Autio, E., Bianchi-Streit, M., Hameri, A.-P., 2003. Technology Transfer and Technological Learning Through CERN’s Procurement Activity. CERN Scientific Information Service, Geneva.

Autio, E., Hameri, A.-P., Vuola, O., 2004. A framework of industrial knowledge spillovers in big-science centers. Research Policy, 33, 107–126.

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