Mapping the Conceptual Structure of Patent Ecosystems: The Case of Singapore

Knowledge transfer, exchange and circulation

Mapping the Conceptual Structure of Patent Ecosystems: The Case of Singapore

Carmela Elita Schillaci, Elona Marku, Maria Chiara Di Guardo

The present study aims at mapping and visualizing the conceptual structure and evolutionary dynamics of patent ecosystems. We conceive patent ecosystems as the evolving interconnections between a set of actors-including academic, institutional, legal, and business entities-aimed at generating new knowledge via technological advancements. Patenting activity represents a crucial mechanism through which firms, universities, and other research institutions transfer their knowledge from the research community to society on a broader basis (D’Este and Perkmann, 2011; Del Giudice et al., 2017). The concept of ecosystems captures the self-sustaining evolving systems whose members benefit from participation via intertwined relationships (Dougherty and Dunne, 2011; Holgersson et al., 2018; Granstand and Holgersson, 2020).

A large number of scholars have shown that the evolution and dynamism of new technical knowledge are an essential element in economics and innovation diffusion. Mapping and visualizing the conceptual structure and evolutionary dynamics of patent ecosystems allow us to depict better technology-driven activities that take place in complex multi-technology systems spread among different actors and across various technological domains (Bessen, 2004; Somaya, 2012; Teece, 2018). The new technical knowledge produced (and protected) creates new technological links or reinforces the existing ones, contributing in this way at shaping the connotations of the innovation landscape. In particular, the evolution of connections between technologies is constantly triggered by the exchange and dissemination of novel shared ideas.

In this perspective, patent ecosystems can be considered a precondition to the more explored innovation ecosystems defined as an integrating mechanism between exploring new technical knowledge and exploiting it for creating value in business ecosystems (Jackson, 2011; Clarysse et al., 2014; Valkokari, 2015; Oh et al., 2016; Beltagui et al., 2020). According to Acs and Audretsch (1990), innovation is “a process that begins with an invention, proceeds with the development of the invention and results in introduction of a new product, process or service to the marketplace.” Patent ecosystems capture the first step of the potential evolution of the innovation ecosystem. Therefore, investigating how new technologies shape an ecosystem’s technological structure, we can also detect the dynamism and breadth of new knowledge generation. This can be the basis for comprehending to what extend technology shifts can subsequently affect the innovation ecosystem.

To capture the earliest dynamics, this study explores the evolving nature of patent ecosystems and identify the major players, the structural features of technology, as well as the effects of technology shifts. In this vein, we can further detect technological trends and future scenarios.

More specifically, our investigation focuses on the case of Singapore as the country has experienced an economical upgrade moving from labor-intensive industry to technology-intensive industry. The profound transformation over the recent decade has promoted Singapore as an innovation-led economy, making it particularly suitable for a more in-depth examination. Moreover, this changing role into a key actor within the international scenario has intensified the technological competition among other areas, such as Hong Kong, increasing the need to secure technologies via the patenting activity (Wang, 2018).

Furthermore, we use patents as they are important not merely for seizing the different dimensions of technology (Hall et al., 2001; Harrigan et al., 2017; Harrigan et al., 2018) or tracking the knowledge flows and spillovers (Jaffe, 1986), but especially for monitoring technology evolution (Curran and Leker, 2011; Karvonen and Kӓssi, 2013). In comparison with other sources, patents can signal the latest technological change. In this vein, the patent analysis represents a standard method to transform patent data into useful information. Additionally, patents are territorial property rights easing the conceptualization of ecosystems that generally capture the interaction dynamics between organizations located in the same geographical area (van der Borgh et al., 2012).

Finally, recent research pointed out that investigating the innovative capabilities of an ecosystem is a difficult task, highlighting the need for more efforts in providing new tools and techniques (Ritala and Almpanopoulou, 2017). To take the challenge and to explore the multiple aspects of technology evolution in different time frames, we adopt a novel science mapping approach by applying a network analysis using the co-occurrence of technological concepts. This scientometrics perspective allows a more detailed visualization of the phenomena occurring, especially in contexts of technology shifts (Curran and Leker, 2011).


#co-word #innovation #mapping #patent ecosystem #VOSviewer