Optoelectronics (or photonics) has developed as a significant enabling technology central to the operation of a wide range of artefacts evident in telecommunications, consumer electronics, medical devices and defence. Policy makers in several nation states and regions have been keen to develop capability in optoelectronics given that these technologies may be widely leveraged in such high-value sectors. The paper explains reasons for the emergence of optoelectronics activity in Scotland. A sectoral system of innovation approach is used to explain the activities of optoelectronics actors in Scotland. The Scottish optoelectronics sector has survived significant exogenous shocks and there is evidence of enduring local geographic connections within the network coupled with international interactions. Reactive and proactive strategies of firms and other actors within the cluster have enhanced articulation to international value chains of knowledge and technology production. As in many other locations with significant optoelectronics activity, Scottish firms tend to be geographically clustered. The use of value chain and industry architecture frameworks has been applied to the sectoral systems of innovation construct in order to bring additional explanatory power to the dynamics and power asymmetries in the cluster. Distinct patterns are evident between the set of firms which engage in final products (essentially acting as system integrators) positioned towards the end of the value chain, compared with the set of firms positioned earlier in the value chain (predominantly reflecting producers of materials and components). Firms positioned early in the value chain have experienced significant shake-out and attrition with survivors displaying dynamic capabilities as part of a network reconfiguration which maintains local interactions while permitting new non-local interactions.
SUTHERLAND, W. 2014. Optoelectronics in Scotland: network reconfiguration in a sectoral system of innovation. In Galbraith, B. (ed.) Proceedings of the 9th European conference on innovation and entrepreneurship (ECIE 2014), 18-19 September 2014, Belfast, UK. Sonning Common: Academic Conferences and Publishing International, pages 438-445.