One-Page Reading Summaries

Significant time for student participation and discussions will be built into each class. Students will be expected to read the articles or chapters listed for each class, as listed under Readings. All students for each class will email at least a day in advance to the instructor and student discussion leaders, a one-page summary in bullet-point outline form of all the readings for that class—please put your name, date and the class number on the top. This summary should list three or four key points about each reading and below that list two or three key questions about each reading.

In addition, particular students, rotating around the class, using the students’ one-page summaries, will be asked to lead class Q&A discussion on the readings for each class—so each class will have one or two student discussion leaders. Starting with the first class, please submit your one-page reading summaries emailed to the instructor in advance of class; the instructor will go over the discussion leader system at the first class and name initial discussion leaders, starting with the second class. So starting with the second class, please email your reading summaries to both the instructor and discussion leaders. The discussion leaders will use your questions in leading the class discussions of the reading.

Research Paper

The course will require a major research paper. The paper must be approximately 12 single-spaced pages, combine considerations of science and technology with social sciences approaches, particularly focused on innovation policy, and consist of an inquiry based on original research. In the paper, you should make extensive use of the innovation systems framework we studied and applied in class (and look, particularly, at Chapters 11 and 12 of the Technological Innovation in Legacy Sectors text). The paper should include an international dimension, or be applicable to an international or global problem. The paper should go beyond a summary or synthesis of the literature by arguing for an original theme, thesis, and argument based on well-thought-out argumentative points based on evidence. Analysis of some primary sources is an important aspect of the paper. (e.g. particularly original interviews but also potentially surveys, archival records, or other primary source information) or, when applicable, quantitative data analysis (e.g. statistical analysis of existing data collected by the student).

Students will write about:

  1. A particular governmental U.S. or international innovation agency, sub-agency, or institution, new or established (such as the NCATS program at NIH, or the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany or the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) or ARPA-E at the U.S. Department of Energy or the new Manufacturing Institutes program, or the new Biological Technologies Office at DARPA); the paper would then examine this institution’s place in the innovation system and its effectiveness in promoting technology advances, elaborating on its national and technology innovation system context, or
  2. A highly innovative firm, in the U.S. or another nation (such as First Solar, Solar Cities, or Genentech in the U.S. or Vestas in Denmark) and its key innovation(s), placing it in its overall technology innovation system context, or
  3. A particular sector of emerging innovation technology (for example, solar photovoltaics, photonics, genome-based medicine, or next generation nuclear), and then explore the steps by which that technology might emerge at scale, in the U.S. and internationally; such an examination would include the R&D support, incentives and regulatory requirements that may be required, or
  4. A nation (not the U.S.) and an innovation area it is strong in, such as energy, biotechnology, or advanced manufacturing, and examine the innovation area, the institutions in, and elements of the innovation system for that national sector (including technology “push” or support for R&D and the front-end of the innovation process, and market “pull” or strategies to create demand for technology implementation and the back-end of the innovation process).

All papers should include a national and international innovation perspective for the technology involved, discuss the key technologies evolving from the entity or group, and discuss issues directly related to the subjects and areas covered in this class, systematically applying the innovation systems framework used in class. The paper must examine front- and back-end innovation elements, and relevant innovation design models, from pipeline through innovation organization. The outline and final paper should make frequent use of headings following an outline-type format, to assist the reader. Footnotes and a bibiliography listing primary, secondary, and original sources must be included, in both the paper outline and final paper.

A detailed 3+ page single-spaced outline will be due at Class 9, and the final paper will be due after Class 12. Late outlines and papers will result in lower grades.

Structuring and Organizing Your Paper:

  • Please single-space your paper, follow an outline type format, inserting frequent headings in outline format that help the reader follow your points, as noted above.
  • Use footnotes to cite your sources for your findings. 
  • Include a list of the references (including in footnotes) at the back of your paper. 
  • If at all possible, as part of the original research aspect for the paper, speak by phone or in person to someone fluent with or who works in the technology or sector you identify or for your company or agency or nation. Include references and footnotes to these discussions.

Additional Directions for Topics:

  • Topic 1: A U.S. (or other nation’s) specific agency or institution, public or private, established or new, which has a significant role in the innovation process. For example, in the U.S.:

    • The SunShot Initiative within the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
    • The ARPA-E program (focus on a specific program area there since there is now literature on the ARPA-E model).
    • The NCATS program in translational medicine at NIH.
    • An office in DARPA (such as the new Biological Technologies office).
    • An Innovation Hub within the Department of Energy or the Department of Defense programs (within the Office of the Dep. Undersec, Facilities and Environment or the equivalent offices in the military services) that are installing energy efficiency technologies in its vast array of facilities and operations.
    • One of the new manufacturing institutes.
  • Topic 2: A highly innovative company in the private sector (in the U.S. or another nation). For example:

    • In energy, a start-up company like Ambri in the energy storage space, or a larger but still new company such as Tesla or First Solar or a division (ex., wind or nuclear) of a very large company, such as General Electric.
    • In health science, Genentech or Biogen, or a biotech startup like Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.
    • In space, Space-X.
    • In robotics, i-Robot or Rethink Robotics.
    • In entertainment, Pixar.
    • In IT, Google.
  • Topic 3: A particular sector of innovative technology. For example:

    • In energy, power electronics, solar thin film photovoltaics, offshore wind turbines, storage, or next generation nuclear or modular reactors.
    • In life science, synthetic biology or advanced medical devices, or in manufacturing, 3-D printing, photonics.
    • In IT, advanced robotics for production.You will need to explore the steps by which that technology might emerge at scale in the U.S. (or abroad); such an examination would include the R&D support, incentives, and regulatory requirements that may be required. The technology you select should be emerging, and in the innovation phase, not an established, fully commercialized technology.
  • Topic 4: An innovative nation (not the U.S.) strong in an innovation area, such as energy, biotechnology, or advanced manufacturing, and the innovation area, the institutions in, and elements of the innovation system for that nation. For example: 

    • The innovation system for advanced manufacturing in Germany.
    • Korea’s innovation system in semiconductors and IT.
    • Switzerland’s biotech sector.
    • Denmark’s wind sector.
    • Brazil’s aviation sector.
    • Finland’s IT sector (post-Nokia).

    You may get some ideas on technologies and companies from the recent MIT-Stanford book Game Changers on energy technologies or read their summaries which have some quick updates on where technologies stand. DARPA’s website and ARPA-E’s website will have useful summaries of where their research is going, and EERE’s wesbsite will have additional energy technology ideas—for example, in solar, look at DOE’s Sunshot. For nations, you could look at the “Knowledge Economy” series of books issued by the World Bank on particular nations, such as India or China.

If you select a large agency, firm, or nation, e you should consider choosing a particular technology program within the selected agency, such as in energy, sustainable manufacturing efficiency in EERE, or wind in GE or the Fraunhofer system in Germany. Examine this institution’s (or national focus) specific role in the energy innovation system and its effectiveness in advancing innovation advances. As part of this examination, look at problems/challenges that the institution may be encountering in advancing the energy innovation process (e.g., insufficient capitalization for a start-up; an oscillating budget for a public institution; weak links/connections on the front- or back-end of the sector’s innovation system).

As part of your paper, examine whether and how the technology, or the agency or firm or nation, will be able to press a program through to commercialization at scale, or whether there are gaps in its innovation system efforts (e.g., lack of testbeds for demonstrating and proving building efficiency technologies). Provide specific policy suggestions as to how these problems can be rectified, through public or private-sector or joint efforts.

Below are recommendations for a logical organizational framework for your paper on one of these four topics—be sure to cover these issues in your paper. I strongly suggest as background for framing your discussions you read over chapters 2, 4, 5, 11, 12, and 14 (especially 11 and 12) in the class text, Technological Innovation in Legacy Sectors (note: also, chapters 6 through 8 and 10 may also provide ideas on possible technology sectors to write about).

  1. Introduction: Clearly and specifically set out the paper topic and basic issues you will cover—introduce and summarize point by point your key findings up front in the introduction. You need a clear thesis for your paper stated right at the close of your introduction. 
  2. Technology Overview: Provide an overview of your technology or your entity’s technology strand that you are focusing on (e.g., thin film PV’s), or nation’s technology program. Discuss where this technology stand now in both R&D stage and technology implementation? Where does it need to go—what are the critical technology challenges for your technology strand to advance? 
  3. Innovation Organization - Review how the innovation system is organized for your technology or your entity’s or nation’s technology strand. Who are the major innovation actors? The innovation system, of course, includes the firms, not only the government support role. Explore the firms in this technology sector and the leading firms that make it up—who are the technology leaders and what progress are they making to commercialize at scale, with what barriers?
        Also, where relevant and it at all possible, do an international comparison—what countries are standing up technology efforts (for example, in energy, PV thin film firms), with what success? What is the picture for international competition—what other nations/firms are making advances in this technology area that will affect your agency/firm? Chapter 11 of the Technological Innovation in Legacy Sectors text should be very relevant in this section.
  4. Matching Launch Paths to Policy Packages (look at Class 10 readings): In general, apply the framework in Chapter 12 of Technological Innovation in Legacy Sectors. You need here to also set out the cost structure for your technology or your entity’s technology against other competing technologies, and explore how far your technology is coming down the cost curve and how fast. Also, you need to examine the cost of the technology not only at the production stage but the installed cost, and see if there are ways to drive down the latter and through what mechanisms. The pattern of existing governmental interventions—for example, tax incentives for renewables - needs to be spelled out, if possible and relevant.
        This “technology economics” discussion is critical, but should be part of a larger discussion on “Matching Launch Paths to Policy Packages”(be careful to review the discussion of this in the Energy Class 10 readings, and, as noted, especially chapter 12 of the Legacy Sectors book). In other words, put the economics discussion into the review of the existing innovation system and its strengths and weaknesses, with the economics as a key to the tech evolution. Look at the launch pathways for your technology or your entity’s technology, and the support mechanisms and incentives available for its launch, and consider what the missing elements may be.
        If you are writing about an agency, or a tech focus, in a nation consider whether the agency or focus is more directed to breakthrough technologies than support for incremental advance at existing firms; ask what other support elements may need to come to bear—for example, if it is an energy agency, what part of DOE is at work here—would EERE or an applied DOE agency likely be needed for support in your technology area?
  5. Identifying Institutional Gaps (on the front-end and on the back-end): Summarize in this section the innovation system’s institutional and policy gaps—and this includes discussion of the gaps on both the front-end and back-end of the emerging innovation system you are reviewing.
        A summary (or simple chart) of various agency programmatic elements and funding that could help your technology or commercial entity would be useful here. If you selected an agency, spell out its menu of technology support. Material to help frame this section can be found in Chapter 12 of the Legacy Sectors text.
  6. Proposed National and Other Policies: Summarize the federal, national, and other policies that may be needed here for public or private entities or sectors or nations. The U.S. and many nations are in a difficult budget climate—make your policies politically realistic, not extravagant or unrealistically ambitious.
  7. Conclusion: A strong and detailed conclusion is needed that recapitulates each of your key points and answers your thesis questions.
  8. Bibliography: You should insert both footnotes in the text and a bibliography listing reference sources at the close.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2017
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Videos
Written Assignments
Lecture Notes