Even if digital forms of information and communication technologies (ICT) have been commercially available for more than fifty years, the evolution of related industries shows no sign of slowing down. Currently the convergence of information technology, (tele)communications, and digital content – discussed since the early 1990s – is finally taking place in a major way. The current industry turmoil – or even chaos – may be likened to the roll out of Internet in the late 1990s. The ongoing change implies major re-structuring of industries, businesses, and institutions.

Due to the pervasive and ubiquitous nature of ICT – and related technologies such as sensors – the turmoil/chaos in the core ICT sectors influences other industries and the society at large: ICT has induced an “algorithmic revolution” in services, which is only accelerating with the advent of cloud computing; ICT has a major role in green growth and in transforming energy systems; ICT is also transforming manufacturing by assisting geographical dispersion of supply chains as well as by enabling digital design, rapid prototyping, and cost-efficient small-scale production via, e.g., 3D printing.

Aims and research questions: BRIE-ETLA thematic research agenda for 10/2011–9/2014

Due to the fast evolution of the issues of interest, BRIE-ETLA collaboration defines a broad thematic research agenda for the three years and a more detailed agenda for each year. The thematic agenda for the next three years deals with the following topics:

Changing ecosystem / platform environments

Due to the complexity of ICT systems and related technologies, considerable fixed and sunk costs in establishing ICT infrastructures (including systems software), as well as strong complementarities in provision and use of ICT, the competition in the ICT domain increasingly takes place, on the one hand, between ecosystems/platforms and, on the other hand, within an ecosystem/platform that defines a relevant market space. This shift in the locus of competition sprouts a number of research topics:

  • What is the role of mobile terminals (and their operating systems) in a world of shifting ICT platforms? Is mobility becoming inseparable from the Internet and cloud computing?
  • How does competition between ecosystems/platforms take place and unfold? How do ecosystems/platforms create and capture value?
  • Are we facing a re-fragmentation of the ICT space due to, e.g., (partly) incompatible ecosystems/platforms, customer lock-in, and/or regional/national/local divergence in policies and practices?

Ubiquitous ICT

ICT technologies touch upon all aspects of our private and professional lives. Consequently any changes in the core ICT industries have implications elsewhere. Even if ICT has arguably been the single most important productivity driver globally in the past two decades, many established institutional and organizational structures have remained largely intact. Major changes are to be expected in the course of the next decade; our research considers the following:

  • The implications of the “algorithmic revolution” particularly in service but also in manufacturing industries.
  • What can smart (i.e., applications of ICT, including sensor controlled networks), do for green (i.e., energy provision and use as well as efforts to curb the climate change)?
  • Can ICT, and related/complementary assets, continue to be a sustained source of productivity advance?

Creative destruction and re-allocation of human capital

Despite extensive discussion on Schumpeterian creative destruction as well as interest in regional/local/global spillovers (via, e.g., labor flows), the re-allocation of human expertise, knowledge, and skills remains ill-understood. Yet, with faster rate of change and increasing difficulty in foreseeing the direction of change, understanding the phenomenon is considerable interest to any nation-state. Research questions in this domain include the following:

  • Does the human expertise released by major ICT companies find productive new uses (empirically this section includes a particular focus on ICT industries in Finland)?
  • Manufacturing (still) matters! Re-definition of manufacturing in the digital age (including a consideration of the ultimate role of manufacturing for Finland).
  • What is tradable & scalable? Value capture in global supply/value networks – the role for Finland and other advanced economies.

New perspectives on intellectual property right (IPR) arrangements

The foundations of many current IPR arrangements date back several decades and even centuries. At least in certain domains central established institutional arrangements – such as patents and related litigation – might no longer serve the best interest of the society. Some aspects of IPR arrangements – such as open source as well as de facto and de jure standards – are gaining importance. These observations arise several important research questions:

  • How do closed, open, and hybrid forms of IPR Arrangements collide and/or co-exist?
  • Is the struggle over standardization a national and/or corporate competition?
  • In terms of IPRs and standards, does China (and other big developing countries) become a “Galapagos” or is it able to force its own logic to the rest of the world?

What does the chaos/turmoil in the ICT space imply for policy?

All research conducted under the BRIE-ETLA umbrella has implications for corporate and/or national policies. Besides a final policy brief report, the project will produce a number of other policy papers; in this domain the following topics are under consideration:

  • Resolving the global-local tension in the cloud.
  • Facing the second unbundling head on – The role of national policies.
  • A blueprint for an agile and modern policy-making machine?