The Challenge of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells
Edited by Stefano Pogutz, Angeloantonio Russo and Paolo Migliavacca
Chapter 3: Fuel Cells as Disruptive Innovation: The Power to Change Markets
3. Fuel cells as disruptive innovation. The power to change markets Paul Harborne, Chris Hendry and James Brown INTRODUCTION Christensen (1997) highlighted the ‘innovators dilemma’ – the need for managers to encourage radical technological innovation to win the technological ‘battles for dominance’ (Suarez, 2004), balanced against the intrinsic uncertainty of the radical innovation process. This chapter examines the development and commercialization of a radical new technology – fuel cells – in the automotive industry and explores whether it is a disruptive innovation as claimed by some industry experts (HFP, 2005). The analysis is based on a three-year study of firms developing fuel cells for application in three global markets, including automotive. Our study examined the activities – both successful and unsuccessful – of incumbents and new entrants along the whole supply chain in the automotive industry to understand issues and best practice for the wide range of stakeholders. It involved a combination of extensive secondary research together with semi-structured interviews with a wide range of stakeholders in each country (Hendry et al., 2008). Disruptive innovation studies so far have considered markets where success is driven solely by interest from customers. Fuel cell technology for the automotive industry adds a further consideration, that of government involvement, through a range of policy measures ranging from R&D funding, through legislation to fiscal incentives. UNDERSTANDING TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION Technological development can be distinguished by both its scale and scope. The scale of innovation is a continuum from minor/incremental to major/ radical (Chandy and Tellis, 2000; Garcia and Calantone, 2002)...
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