Organizational Dynamics and the Evolutionary Dilemma between Diversity and Standardization in Mission-Oriented Research Programmes: An Illustration
The American NASP programme - National Aero Space Plane - is a good illustration of the evolutionary dilemma between variety and standardization in management of mission-oriented R&D. This dilemma relates to the trade-off between the need to explore the technological diversity in order to avoid the risk of being locked-in on the wrong technological option, and the need to share the knowledge produce through the experiments. In this regard, two main organizational designs can be considered: -the 'mainlining' strategy gathering all the partners in an 'club', exploring the potential of one alternative, allowing the sharing knowledge, and -a network of simultaneous competing technological projects, allowing a synchronic exploration of the technological variety The NASP programme was dedicated to the design of radical technology innovation system, and then was basically characterized by a structural uncertainty arising from the structural change it involved in the technological basis. In this case the lack of guide mark resulted from technological discontinuities in the innovation process. Moreover, the research activities were impeded by strong indivisibilities in the research outcomes needed for the design and demonstration of an hypersonic airbreathing propulsion system. This situation was due to the specific properties of the knowledge about hypersonic technology- strong compacity, low scalability and low analogic connections with other scientific and/or technological fields. This creates a strong need for the production of new infratechnologies, instrumentalities and research infrastructures, i.e. infrastructural knowledge and infrastructure facilities. In this case, the adoption of the "mainlining approach" in the management of the programme can be justified.
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