SAPPHO updated - project SAPPHO phase II

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Citation: R. Rothwell, C. Freeman, A. Horlsey, V. T. P. Jervis, A. B. Robertson, J. Townsend (1974) SAPPHO updated - project SAPPHO phase II. Research Policy (RSS)

doi: 10.1016/0048-7333(74)90010-9


Tagged: Business (RSS) Innovation (RSS), Strategy (RSS)


Summary:

SAPPHO stands for "Scientific Activity Predictor from Patterns with Heuristic Origins" and refers to a project run by the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex (the publishers of Research Policy). This article is an updated summary of the project's findings and is the most highly cited reference to SAPPHO.

Methodologically, SAPPHO paired commercially successful and unsuccessful innovations with each other. These pairs came as similar times and were in similar areas. In the first phase, 29 pairs were investigated. In this second phase, the list was expanded to 43 pairs: 22 where in chemical processes and 21 were in scientific instruments.

For each pair, a number different variables were coded related to the way that innovation was commercialized and the two innovations were marked as being higher, lower, or equal in each regard. The SAPPHO results are essentially aggregate results of these +1, -1, and 0 indicators which look for which factors were most closely associated with commercial success of innovation.

The basic summary were confirmed from the first phase and included the following findings (in order of strength of the finding):

  1. The responsible individuals in the successes were usually more senior and had more authority (i.e., characteristics of management).
  2. Successes paid more attention to marketing and publicity.
  3. Successful innovators had a better understanding of user needs.
  4. Successes performed development more efficiently (but not necessary more quickly).
  5. Successes made more use of outside technology and advice (i.e., more communication).

The paper walks through the results of SAPPHO to test a variety of related hypotheses associated with the commercial success of innovations although the hypotheses tend to track closely to the major results reported above. There is little support for the idea that successful innovation is driven by scale, planning techniques,l , qualified scientists, and only a little support for lead-time explanations and no support for basic research based explanations.

Theoretical and practical relevance:

SAPPHO continues to be raised as an important milestone in the literature on management of technological innovation. In particular, this article is a (or perhaps the) seminal article in the literature on innovation and competition. While methodologically limited, the data raises many of the key questions and variables that the literature remains concerned with today.