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Disruptive Technologies and the Emergence of Competition


  • Ron Adner

    () (INSEAD)

  • Peter Zemsky

    () (INSEAD)


We formalize the phenomenon of disruptive technologies that initially serve isolated market niches and, as they mature, alter industry boundaries by displacing established technologies from mainstream segments. Using a model of horizontal and vertical differentiation, we show how the threat of disruption depends on rates of technological advance, how many firms use each technology, relative market segment sizes, and firms' ability to price discriminate. We characterize the effect of disruption on prices, market shares, social welfare, and innovation incentives. We show that the possibility that mergers trigger disruption and thereby alter industry boundaries is important for assessing their impact on social welfare and profits.

Suggested Citation

  • Ron Adner & Peter Zemsky, 2005. "Disruptive Technologies and the Emergence of Competition," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(2), pages 229-254, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:rje:randje:v:36:y:2005:2:p:229-254

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ufuk Akcigit & Murat Celik & Daron Acemoglu, 2014. "Young, Restless and Creative: Openness to Disruption and Creative Innovations," 2014 Meeting Papers 377, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. repec:bla:stratm:v:38:y:2017:i:5:p:995-1017 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Westland, J. Christopher & See-To, Eric Wing Kuen, 2007. "The short-run price-performance dynamics of microcomputer technologies," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 591-604, June.
    4. Francisco Ruiz-Aliseda & Jianjun Wu, 2012. "Irreversible Investment in Stochastically Cyclical Markets," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 21(3), pages 801-847, September.
    5. Marion Debruyne & David J. Reibstein, 2005. "Competitor See, Competitor Do: Incumbent Entry in New Market Niches," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 24(1), pages 55-66, December.
    6. Zhang, Jun & Guo, Ruey-Shan, 2016. "The D-Day, V-Day, and bleak days of a disruptive technology: A new model for ex-ante evaluation of the timing of technology disruptionAuthor-Name: Chen, Chialin," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 251(2), pages 562-574.
    7. Grégoire ROTA-GRAZIOSI & Magnus HOFFMANN, 2010. "Endogenous timing game with non-monotonic reaction functions," Working Papers 201017, CERDI.
    8. Funk, Jeffery, 2009. "Components, systems and discontinuities: The case of magnetic recording and playback equipment," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(7), pages 1192-1202, September.
    9. Reinhardt, Ronny & Gurtner, Sebastian, 2015. "Differences between early adopters of disruptive and sustaining innovations," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 137-145.
    10. Matt Marx & Joshua S. Gans & David H. Hsu, 2014. "Dynamic Commercialization Strategies for Disruptive Technologies: Evidence from the Speech Recognition Industry," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 60(12), pages 3103-3123, December.
    11. Paul Windrum, 2013. "Multi-agent framework for understanding the success and failure of ServPPINs," Chapters,in: Public–Private Innovation Networks in Services, chapter 4, pages 88-112 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    12. Ashish Sood & Gerard J. Tellis, 2011. "Demystifying Disruption: A New Model for Understanding and Predicting Disruptive Technologies," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 30(2), pages 339-354, 03-04.
    13. Pascal Le Masson & Armand Hatchuel & Benoit Weil, 2010. "Modeling Novelty-Driven Industrial Dynamics with Design Functions: understanding the role of learning from the unknown," Post-Print hal-00696970, HAL.
    14. repec:eee:tefoso:v:126:y:2018:i:c:p:186-193 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Funk, Jeffrey L. & Magee, Christopher L., 2015. "Rapid improvements with no commercial production: How do the improvements occur?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 777-788.
    16. Huang, Xiao & Sosic, Greys, 2010. "Analysis of industry equilibria in models with sustaining and disruptive technology," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 207(1), pages 238-248, November.
    17. Joshua S. Gans, 2014. "Negotiating for the Market," NBER Working Papers 20559, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Gilbert, Brett Anitra, 2012. "Creative destruction: Identifying its geographic origins," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 734-742.
    19. Schmidt, Arne & Walter, Sascha G. & Walter, Achim, 2010. "Contingency Factors and the Technology-Performance-Relationship in Start-ups," EconStor Preprints 37082, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.

    More about this item


    Market Structure; Firm Strategy; and Market Performance: General Antitrust Policy: General Business Economics: General - market definition; mergers; threat of substitutes;

    JEL classification:

    • L10 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - General
    • L40 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - General
    • M20 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Economics - - - General


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