A Conceptual Framework for Breakthrough Technologies

DS 94: Proceedings of the Design Society: 22nd International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED19)

Year: 2019
Editor: Wartzack, Sandro; Schleich, Benjamin; Gon
Author: Hein, Andreas Makoto (1); Brun, Juliette (2)
Series: ICED
Institution: CentraleSupelec
Section: Design methods and tools
DOI number: https://doi.org/10.1017/dsi.2019.139
ISSN: 2220-4342


Breakthrough technologies introduce a radically new capability or a drastic performance improvement. However, the existing engineering design literature does not specifically pay attention to them. In this paper, we present a conceptual framework for breakthrough technologies, aiming for a more detailed characterization of breakthrough technologies. First, based on a literature survey, we reflect on the relationship between breakthrough technology and innovation. In addition, we explore the relationship between breakthrough technologies at the component and system level. Next, we propose a conceptual framework with dimensions in which breakthroughs may occur and the corresponding expansion of concepts and knowledge, drawing from C-K theory. We subsequently apply the framework to the case of a laser sail-propelled interstellar probe. We conclude that the relationship between component and system-level breakthrough technologies requires further exploration. Furthermore, the coupling between the breakthrough technology and market breakthrough in the form of a new business model seems interesting for future work.

Keywords: Technology, Systems Engineering (SE), Design theory, Breakthrough technology, Radical innovation


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