Knowledge the S curve of technology innovation

Even though the inception of a new technology appears to be random, its evolution over time after it arrives into existence exhibits a reasonably secure sample which can greatest be described in phrases of efficiency characteristic.

The efficiency characteristic refers to an component of fascination to a designer of a products or a user of a certain technology.  For illustration, fiber optics from the cables in common phone methods offers a better voice clarity. The speed of a computer is an additional illustration of efficiency characteristic that is resulted in new technology. Technological efficiency can be expressed in phrases of any attribute, this sort of as density in the electronics business (amount of transistor for each chip) or plane speed in miles for each hour. The efficiency of a technology has a identified sample over time that, if correctly comprehended, can be of terrific use in strategic setting up. Technology innovation refers to the adjustments in efficiency features of a certain technology over time.

The daily life cycle of innovations can thus be described utilizing the s-curve which maps yet again in a various way, ie, advancement of revenue or productiveness from time. In the early phase of a distinct innovation, advancement is relatively slow as the new products establishes by itself. At some issue prospects start off to demand from customers and the products advancement increases more swiftly. New incremental innovations or adjustments to the products make it possible for advancement to go on. Toward the conclude of its daily life cycle, advancement slows and could even start off to decline. In the afterwards phases, no total of new financial commitment in that products will generate a typical charge of return.

The s-curve is derived from half of a typical distribution curve. There is an assumption that new products are probable to have “products daily life”. i.e. a start off-up stage, a rapid improve in revenue and eventual decline. In truth the terrific vast majority of innovations under no circumstances will get off the bottom of the curve, and under no circumstances generates typical returns.

What is crucial is that every technology has a amount of efficiency features of a certain technology over time. As outlined previously, after a new technology arrives into existence, the efficiency features of fascination demonstrate extremely little improvement in the early phases of the technology.

This initial phase is followed by a next stage of extremely rapid improvement in the efficiency characteristic. All through the third phase, the efficiency characteristic carries on to make improvements to, but the charge of improvement starts to decline. In the ultimate phase, extremely little improvement is seen and the graph that charts the progress in the efficiency characteristic of a technology over time normally takes an S-form.

The s-curve of technological innovation summarizes four major phases in the evolution of a efficiency characteristic.

1. Emergence – (also identified as embryonic phase) shows little improvement in essential efficiency characteristic. Technology operates significantly underneath its opportunity. Neither the features of technology nor its applicability to market place needs could be well comprehended. A very long gestation interval exists ahead of attempts are built to make a technology. This new invention interval is characterised by a interval of slow initial advancement. This is the time when experimentation and initial bugs are worked out of the procedure.

2. Rapid improvement – increases at an accelerating stage. The technology improvement interval is characterised by rapid and sustained advancement. As corporations interact in generation, knowledge accumulates over time accelerating the improvement in efficiency characteristic. The technology gets to be vulnerable to substitution or obsolescence when a new or better-accomplishing technology emerges.

three. Declining improvement – it declines improvement.

four. Maturity – even further improvement gets to be extremely tricky to realize. The mature technology interval begins when the higher limit of the technology is approached and progress in efficiency slows down. This is when the technology reaches its organic limits as dictated by things this sort of as actual physical limits.

All through the early stage, a new technology is launched into the market place position but its adoption is minimal to a modest team of early adopters and modest market marketplaces. As the products gains ascendancy, new capabilities are launched and refined with the purpose of assembly the needs of the broadest possible phase of mainstream consumers. All through this middle stage a dominant layout starts to arise, winning the allegiance of the market place position and also effecting standardization of everything from layout to manufacturing. The dominant layout in convert lets heightened level of competition as new entrants recognize prospects for even further innovation based on price tag, scale and products efficiency.

This is the interval of rapid and biggest advancement as a technology matures and reaches the mainstream.  All through the ultimate stage the products reaches market place saturation.

Some examples of technologies that have followed this route can be said as follows.

The vacuum tube technology was minimal by the tube’s dimensions and the energy intake of the heated filament. Equally of these things were organic limitations to electron conduction in a vacuum tube. Digital engineers could not defeat these restrictions. The arrival of the solid-state technology, or transistor, which permitted electron conduction in solid product, altered the actual physical limitations of dimensions and energy. The transistor technology commenced a new technology daily life cycle and rendered the vacuum-tube technology out of date.

Yet another illustration is ceramics, which have increased running temperatures and substitute for metals employed in inner combustion engines the more recent technology permits better efficiency of the engines. The efficiency of the engines can go on to make improvements to as a consequence of a sequence of more recent technologies, every with a increased limit of the efficiency parameter of fascination.


Narayanan, V. K (2001) Controlling technology and innovation for Aggressive Edge, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.