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Local emergence and global diffusion of research technologies: An exploration of patterns of network formation



Grasping the fruits of “emerging technologies” is an objective of many government priority programs in a knowledge-based and globalizing economy. We use the publication records (in the Science Citation Index) of two emerging technologies to study the mechanisms of diffusion in the case of two innovation trajectories: small interference RNA (siRNA) and nanocrystalline solar cells (NCSC). Methods for analyzing and visualizing geographical and cognitive diffusion are specified as indicators of different dynamics. Geographical diffusion is illustrated with overlays to Google Maps; cognitive diffusion is mapped using an overlay to a map based on the ISI subject categories. The evolving geographical networks show both preferential attachment and small-world characteristics. The strength of preferential attachment decreases over time while the network evolves into an oligopolistic control structure with small-world characteristics. The transition from disciplinary-oriented (“Mode 1”) to transfer-oriented (“Mode 2”) research is suggested as the crucial difference in explaining the different rates of diffusion between siRNA and NCSC.