Constructing nanobusiness: The role of technology framing in the emergence of a commercial domain
Aten, Kathryn Jeanette
Entrepreneurs seeking to commercialize science-based technologies face considerable challenges including uncertain environments, policy makers and investors' ignorance, and public opposition and ethical concerns. Most research exploring the emergence of technologies assumes the existence of accepted uses or products, despite the fact that efforts to commercialize science-based technologies often begin before specific applications exist. We have little empirical evidence of how individuals and organizations influence the earliest development of technologies. To address this gap, I conduct a real-time, seven-year, qualitative study of the nanotechnology venture investing community. The study draws on extensive archival data, participant observation of a complete series of annual nanotechnology investing conferences, and case studies of the three venture capital (VC) firms specializing in nanotechnology through the period of the study. The cases are based on semi-structured and website archives. I document the emergence of competing nanotechnology frames in the period prior to the identification of product applications. I identify three sequential activities of nanotechnology business proponents: constructing a socio-semiotic space, positioning as experts within the space, and translating scientific, opposition and futuristic discourse for a target audience. I introduce the concept of a socio-semiotic space and develop a model reflecting the three activities to explain the process through which technology proponents project a business frame to support the commercialization of science-based technologies. This dissertation contributes to our knowledge of technology evolution by focusing on the understudied period of early emergence and the sociopolitical process of technology framing. I contribute to our knowledge of how science discoveries become the basis for fields of commercial activity. The findings of this dissertation provide knowledge that can assist business people and policy makers seeking to develop science- based technologies and the fields that emerge around them.
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