Self-reinforcing Mechanisms in a Multi-technology Industry: Understanding Sustained Technological Variety in a Context of Path Dependency
Journal article, 2015
This paper studies self-reinforcing mechanisms in multi-technology industries, i.e. industries in which technological lock-in does not occur and several technologies continue to coexist. The purpose of this paper is to investigate what kind of self-reinforcing mechanisms can be present in such industries and explain how multiple paths can coexist and interact in a context of self-reinforcement and, ultimately, path dependency. Building on the empirical example of the lighting industry, the paper shows that all previously recognized types of self-reinforcing mechanisms can be present in a multi-technology industry. However, in addition to the path-internal positive feedbacks and cross-path negative externalities identified in single-path settings, multi-technology industries also experience positive cross-path externalities that create a symbiotic relationship between alternatives and allow for the reproduction of the same development pattern across technologies. Due to the existence of such non-negative technology interactions, multi-technology industries can be path dependent while still retaining technological variety.