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Systems, Components and Technological Discontinuities: The Case of the Semiconductor Industry


  • Jeffrey Funk


This paper uses the semiconductor industry to describe a model of technological change that sheds light on the mechanism by which many technological discontinuities occur. The model combines two arguments: (1) incremental improvements in a system's components impact on the performance and design of systems; and (2) these incremental improvements in components can lead to discontinuities in system design through their impact on the design tradeoffs that are inherent in all systems. Components are defined loosely as any subsystem in a nested hierarchy of subsystems where the most important component in the semiconductor industry is semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Improvements in this equipment and the processes they are used in have changed (and continue to change) the tradeoffs that firms make in their choices of semiconductor materials, transistor designs and system designs, and thus led to a number of technological discontinuities. The model is described using the discontinuities that are the most widely emphasized in histories of the semiconductor industry.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeffrey Funk, 2008. "Systems, Components and Technological Discontinuities: The Case of the Semiconductor Industry," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(4), pages 411-433.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:indinn:v:15:y:2008:i:4:p:411-433 DOI: 10.1080/13662710802239489

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Lucio Cassia & Tommaso Minola & Stefano Paleari, 2011. "Entrepreneurship, technology and change: a review and proposal for an interpretative framework," Working Papers 1103, Department of Economics and Technology Management, University of Bergamo.
    2. Gilbert, Brett Anitra & Campbell, Joanna Tochman, 2015. "The geographic origins of radical technological paradigms: A configurational study," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 311-327.
    3. 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.
    4. Carlsson , Bo, 2016. "Industrial Dynamics: A Review of the Literature 1990-2009," Papers in Innovation Studies 2016/3, Lund University, CIRCLE - Center for Innovation, Research and Competences in the Learning Economy.
    5. Gilbert, Brett Anitra, 2012. "Creative destruction: Identifying its geographic origins," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 734-742.


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