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Technology Foresight for Small- to Medium-sized Enterprises Open Access


Other title
Small- to Medium-sized Enterprises
Technology Foresight
Technology Futures Analysis
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Phillips, Joanne G.
Supervisor and department
Lipsett, Michael (Mechanical Engineering)
Hawkins, Richard (University of Calgary)
Examining committee member and department
Heidrick, Ted (Mechanical Engineering)
Holbrook, Adam (Simon Fraser University)
Doucette, John (Mechanical Engineering)
Kresta, Suzanne (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Kumar, Amit (Mechanical Engineering)
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Engineering Management
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Businesses, regardless of size, require the best information available to them in order to optimize their technological plans for the future. Currently, however, large, multi-national enterprises (MNEs), along with nations, are availing themselves of a set of tools that are not being used by small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These tools fall under the general description of “foresight” and the more specific term technology foresight. Technology foresight applies to all purposeful and systematic attempts to anticipate and understand the potential direction, rate, characteristics, and effects of technological change, especially invention, innovation, adoption, and use. Technology foresight is undertaken for the purpose of managing technology as a corporate resource similar to the tools used for financial management or personnel development. Many foresight methods require significant staff and monetary resources. This research, after providing a history of the concept of technology foresight, describes a majority of the foresight methods and techniques currently in use and pares them down with reference to the special resource characteristics of SMEs to identify eight methods that are determined to be sufficiently economic of time and money to be suitable for use by SMEs. These eight methods are: backcasting, bibliometrics, diffusion modeling, long wave analysis, monitoring, technological substitution, trend extrapolation, and vision generation. Two of the eight methods – bibliometrics and long wave analysis – are further explored through application to a hypothetical SME. Recognizing that eight methods represent a very small sample of the technology foresight methods that are available, a new and original technique for applying the scenarios method for SMEs is introduced and tested. The technique is called Scenario Recycling and involves the use of publicly available scenarios prepared by others for the purpose of providing inspiration and insight to SMEs. It is proposed that recycling may be a valid approach to allow SMEs to access other TFA methods. It is concluded that SMEs can benefit from technology foresight; both from existing methods and the new technique of Scenario Recycling and a simple plan is presented to illustrate how an SME can develop a foresight program. Areas requiring further research are also identified.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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