Inderscience Publishers

Leveraging in-house R&D competencies for a new market: how Corning pioneered fibre optics

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This paper examines how established firms create new (radical) technologies by re-deploying existing knowledge into other domains than those in which that knowledge was originally accumulated. Drawing from the strategy and the innovation research, the analysis focuses on some of the mechanisms firms can use in developing a new technology. More specifically, we study the following mechanisms: the role of internal vs. collaborative R&D; the breadth of firm's search behaviour; the scope of this firm's R&D activity; the importance of individual inventors relative to the teams of inventors in new technology developments. We trace Corning's invention and the development of fibre optics over the period of 1970-1995 using multiple sources of data and information. The analysis shows that Corning developed fibre optics mostly in-house by leveraging its stock of knowledge into a new application domain, i.e., long-distance telecommunications. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

Keywords: fibre optics, incumbents, knowledge transfer, patents, technological innovation, in-house R&, amp, D, research and development, new markets, Corning, radical innovation, search behaviour

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