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Roadmapping Converging Technologies

The uncertain, cross-disciplinary environment of emerging advanced technologies such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science makes for very complex planning situations.  Application needs may be satisfied by many possible combinations of technologies, and understanding the tradeoffs in a search for a solution can be difficult.  Roadmaps make the description of the situation and linkages from application to technology explicit, allowing an informed decision process and providing a tool for communicating the chosen direction and monitoring progress along the way.

There are many questions teams might seek to answer about the future of the converging technologies.  What inventions will be practical enough to become innovations -- in widespread use -- and when?  How will the fields interact to produce innovations?  What customer and market drivers and development actions will be required for effective commercialization?  What are gating factors to innovations and how can they be satisfied?   What are the risks to innovation?
Roadmapping provides a framework to answer these and other questions.  The scope of converging technologies is so broad that we must define manageable sub-areas to apply roadmapping methods to understanding and plotting a future direction.

A white paper on Roadmapping Convergence

Key elements of a Convergence Roadmap

  • Applications or customer/market needs determine drivers for the roadmap.  Drivers are usually of the following types: “Do more,” “do for less,” “do new things,” “do enabling things.”  Applications are often expressed in grand challenges for the field.
  • Architecture defines how the pieces of the problem fit together.  The architectural elements become the framework for the technology roadmap and help determine the priorities of work to achieve the roadmap’s objective.  An prototypical architecture for roadmapping convergence is shown below.
converging technologies architecture
  • Growth trends.  Identification of long term, sustained growth trends is central to understanding which inventions can become innovations.  Trends in enabling technologies may result in continued declining costs for technology applications and increasing sophistication of applications.

Moving Forward. To move ahead creating roadmaps for converging technologies, a team must work in three domains: defining applications and related technology areas, identifying trends, and refining architectures.  An important next step toward creating road-maps for converging technologies is identification of areas where there is important interaction among the fields -- where technologies from multiple fields can come together to solve real-world problems.