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Hardcover | Out of Print | 220 pp. | 6 x 9 in | February 2001 | ISBN: 9780262024907
Paperback | $5.75 Short | £4.95 | 220 pp. | 6 x 9 in | August 2003 | ISBN: 9780262524193
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Taking Technical Risks

How Innovators, Managers, and Investors Manage Risk in High-Tech Innovations


How do technology innovators, business executives, and venture capitalists manage the technical elements of business risk when developing and launching new products? Overcoming technical risks requires crossing the so-called valley of death—the gap between demonstrating the soundness of a technical concept in a controlled setting and readying the product technology for the market. Crossing the valley of death may mean bringing university-based research to the point where it appears viable to venture capitalists, or bridging the cultural gap between technical innovators and the managers who are being asked to risk their institutional resources. In every context, purely technical risks are coupled with the market risks inherent in innovation.

In this book Lewis Branscomb and Philip Auerswald address early-stage, high-tech innovation in the context of business decision making and innovation policy. The topics addressed include the extent to which purely technical risk is separable from market risk; how industrial managers make decisions on funding early-stage, high-risk technology projects; and under what circumstances government can and should act to reduce the technical risks of innovative projects so that firms will invest in them. The book includes contributions by Mary Good, George Hartmann, James McGroddy, Mike Myers, Michael Roberts, and F. M. Scherer.

About the Authors

Lewis M. Branscomb is Aetna Professor in Public Policy and Corporate Management, Emeritus, at Harvard University.

Philip Auerswald is Director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy and an Assistant Professor at the School of Public Policy at George Mason University. He is co-editor of Innovations: Technology | Governance | Globalization and author or co-author of numerous books, reports, and research papers, including Taking Technical Risk: How Innovators, Executives, and Investors Manage High-Tech Risks (MIT Press, 2001) and Seeds of Disaster, Roots of Response: How Private Action Can Reduce Public Vulnerability.


“[A]n intelligently conceived, informative book. Examples are carefully chosen, and the precepts are thoroughly outlined.”—Financial Executive


Taking Technical Risks provides a unique description of the many scientific and technical risks new companies face, the challenges that exist, and how they can be managed. The book is excellent reading for anyone interested in the process of bringing technology from the lab to the marketplace.”
Robert S. Langer, Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, MIT, Recipient of the Lemelson-MIT Prize for invention and innovation, and holder of 350 patents
Taking Technical Risks breaks new ground in helping us understand the systematic issues in capitalizing on radical innovation. By focusing on the elusive boundary between invention and innovation the book reveals not only the technical but also the cultural and institutional barriers that must be surmounted. I highly recommend this insightful, authoritative, and encompassing book.”
John Seely Brown, Former Director of Xerox PARC and co-author of The Social Life of Information
“This is a timely study on a key topic that is poorly understood, but central to understanding the U.S. innovation system. The book's analysis hihglights the need for concerted efforts to improve policy makers' appreciation of the innovation process and the government's contribution to it. It should be particularly useful to members of the new administration.”
Charles W. Wessner, Director of Project on Technology and Competitiveness, National Research Council; former Director, International Technology Policy, U.S. Department of Comerce
“There is plenty of insight, empirical evidence, and food for thought to make this highly worthwhile reading for policy makers, corporate leaders, and academicsians. They will learn that serious needs remain for further innovation in the nature of their own organizations.”
Charles M. Vest, President, MIT