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Optimal modularity: A demonstration of the evolutionary advantage of modular architectures

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  • Koen Frenken
  • Stefan Mendritzki

Abstract

Modularity is an important concept in evolutionary theorizing but lack of a consistent definition renders study difficult. Using the generalised NK-model of fitness landscapes, we differentiate modularity from decomposability. Modular and decomposable systems are both composed of subsystems but in the former these subsystems are connected via interface standards while in the latter subsystems are completely isolated. We derive the optimal level of modularity, which minimises the time required to globally optimise a system, both for the case of two-layered systems and for the general case of multi-layered hierarchical systems containing modules within modules. This derivation supports the hypothesis of modularity as a mechanism to increase the speed of evolution. Our formal definition clarifies the concept of modularity and provides a framework and an analytical baseline for further research.

Suggested Citation

  • Koen Frenken & Stefan Mendritzki, 2011. "Optimal modularity: A demonstration of the evolutionary advantage of modular architectures," Working Papers 11-03, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies, revised Jun 2011.
  • Handle: RePEc:ein:tuecis:1103
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    Cited by:

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    2. Mastrogiorgio, Mariano & Gilsing, Victor, 2016. "Innovation through exaptation and its determinants: The role of technological complexity, analogy making & patent scope," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(7), pages 1419-1435.
    3. Marta Gancarczyk & Jacek Gancarczyk & Joanna Bohatkiewicz, 2017. "SME Roles in Modular Value Chains: Perspectives for Growth and Innovativeness," Entrepreneurial Business and Economics Review, Centre for Strategic and International Entrepreneurship at the Cracow University of Economics., vol. 5(3), pages 95-117.
    4. Luo, Jianxi, 2018. "Architecture and evolvability of innovation ecosystems," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 132-144.
    5. Sunghoon Nam & Jongsik Yoon & Kyungrai Kim & Byungjoo Choi, 2020. "Optimization of Prefabricated Components in Housing Modular Construction," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(24), pages 1-22, December.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Modularity; Decomposability; Near-decomposability; Complexity; NK-model; Search; hierarchy;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D20 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - General
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D

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