Technological platforms in South Korean automotive, electronics and service robotics industries

By Soo Jung Oh
What is CGR PhD's research about? 
Introducing research projects of CGR PhD members

My research aims to explore and compare technological platforms in the South Korean automotive, electronics and service robotics industries to extend our understanding of why and how organisations build and use different types of technological platforms.

A technological platform is a modular architecture consisting of core components and peripheral components. The core components provide a foundation for peripheral components to be developed. For example, Apple’s iPhone is a core, and it gives a basis for application development which is a periphery. Therefore, technological platforms connect companies who can innovate and compete by developing core components as well as peripheral components.

Industrial robotic arms
Image from https://www.manufacturingglobal.com/technology/rise-robotics-manufacturing

There are two different types of platform: supply chain platforms and ecosystem platforms. Supply chain platforms are owned/controlled by one company and share platform with supply chain members. By contrast, ecosystem platforms are shared among diverse agents who are highly autonomous, and thus the innovation leadership is somewhat distributed (Gawer, 2014). Previous literature argues that the automotive industry generally uses a supply chain platform strategy, whereas the IT industry adopted ecosystem platforms.  (Gawer, 2014; Cusumano and Gawer, 2014; Cusumano et al. 2019).

The automobile industry primarily started from a few large companies such as Ford and General Motors. In the early days of the industry, finished car manufacturers designed and manufactured the cars by themselves. Later, as the sector grew, car companies modularised their car parts to outsource production to suppliers, and thus they establish a supply chain platform. However, finished car manufacturers continued to develop the overall architecture of cars and core parts, such as the engine, and maintained leadership.

On the contrary, the PC industry evolved into an ecosystem platform (Gawer, 2009; 2014). In the early stages of the computer industry, big players such as IBM designed the overall architecture of computers and made computers within their organisations. Later, like the car companies, they introduced modularity into their products. But, unlike the car companies, some component suppliers, such as Intel and Microsoft, increased their bargaining power over IBM. These companies started to lead innovation in the PC industry without a supply chain relationship.

The automotive industry and the PC industry offer contrasting examples of supply chain platforms and ecosystem platforms and how these technological platforms emerged. However, we still do not understand much about the platform-driven innovation that is happening in various industries. Nowadays we are witnessing a lot of different platforms emerging in different sectors to develop multiple technologies (e.g. robot software and hardware platforms).

My research explores different technological platforms by focusing on three main topics. First, it examines whether the technological platforms in the automotive, electronic and service robotics industries in South Korea are supply chain platforms or ecosystem platforms. Second, this research investigates the process of platform emergence and the direction of platform evolution. Finally, this study examines how platform providers coordinate agents in the platform for system-level goal. By doing so, this study can expand existing theories by providing new cases and suggest useful guidelines to practitioners for their platform strategies.

References

Cusumano, M. A., Gawer, A., & Yoffie, D. B. (2019). The business of platforms: Strategy in the age of digital competition, innovation, and power. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Gawer, A. (2009). Platforms, markets and innovation. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Gawer, A. (2014). Bridging differing perspectives on technological platforms: Toward an integrative framework. Research policy, 43(7), 1239-1249.

Gawer, A., & Cusumano, M. A. (2014). Industry platforms and ecosystem innovation. Journal of product innovation management, 31(3), 417-433.

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