《1 Introduction 》
Currently, global science and technological innovation has entered an era of unprecedented activity, demonstrating rapid development and a high degree of integration. All major countries are focused on technological innovation, especially disruptive technological innovation, as the core of their overall development. They have actively seized the commanding heights of science and technology to promote comprehensive innovation and further strengthen the stamina of economic growth and the active position of related industries in the global value chain. For example, a series of major disruptive technologies created by the United States under the disruptive technology normalization research mechanism have resulted in the transformation of related industries and ensured that United States has maintained a long-term leading position in the field of technological innovation and has aided in industrial upgradation in related fields. Russia set up the “Advanced Research Foundation” to support and research disruptive technologies. UK improved the industry–university–research system to support the development of future disruptive technology. Japan has implemented a “Disruptive Technological Innovation Program” to promote the development of disruptive technologies with significant social and industrial influences .
The economy of China is currently in the process of transforming the developmental mode, optimizing the economic structure, and transforming the growth momentum. A disruptive technology with significant social and industrial influence can promote significant regulations of the economic and industrial structures and become the most important innovation-driven development and can result in national competitiveness. China has launched several disruptive technology identification and prediction works in recent years and has achieved considerable results. However, in general, the existing research work on disruptive technology and its research methods still requires improvements; therefore, it is necessary to summarize and analyze the results of the relevant foreign research to perform disruptive technology prediction for relevant domestic institutions.
《2 Summary of research progress and methods of disruptive technology in China and other countries》
2 Summary of research progress and methods of disruptive technology in China and other countries
The project team explored foreign disruptive technologies and compiled certain industry-related technologies. Initially, they conducted research on foreign disruptive technology identification, assessment, and prediction methods. The absorption of the results of this research is the source of the research presented subsequently.
《2.1 Summary of research progress and methods of disruptive technology in China and other countries 》
2.1 Summary of research progress and methods of disruptive technology in China and other countries
The project team tracked the strategic plans, documents, and forecast reports related to disruptive technologies released in the past five years, including reports from government agencies, different industries, think tanks, and science and technological research. They also analyzed the disruptive technologies related to various industries that were proposed by foreign countries (Table 1).
Table 1. Disruptive technologies related to different industries that were proposed by foreign countries.
These reports can be broadly divided into three categories: comprehensive reporting, special technical reporting, and technology forecasting and trend analysis. The comprehensive report is primarily a strategic report issued by governments or well-known think tanks (Table 2), which refers to disruptive technologies in multiple areas, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, biology, and energy. The special technical report (Table 3) has a relatively wide range of sources, and each institution has proposed corresponding disruptive technical directions for specific technical fields. The technology forecasting and trend analysis report (Table 4) is primarily a summary of disruptive technologies in recent years, as well as an analysis of future disruptive technology trends.
Table 2. Reports regarding disruptive technologies in foreign countries
Table 3. Special report regarding disruptive technologies in foreign countries.
《Table 4. 》
Table 4. Technology forecast and trend report regarding disruptive technologies in foreign countries.
《2.2 Summary of foreign disruptive technology identification, evaluation, and prediction methods 》
2.2 Summary of foreign disruptive technology identification, evaluation, and prediction methods
For tracking the foreign disruptive technology, the project team summarized and analyzed the disruptive technology identification, assessment, and prediction methods conducted abroad.
2.2.1 Research on foreign disruptive technology identification methods 
The project team selected nine technical innovation research reports published by typical foreign institutions, summarized the disruptive technology identification methods, and divided them into five categories: literature analysis method, technology definition method, questionnaire survey method, scene simulation method, and technology roadmap method (Table 5).
Table 5. Analysis of typical methods for disruptive technology identification in foreign countries.
The representative organizations and their research reports are: Thomson Reuters’ Open Future: 2015 Global Innovation Report, the US Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) “Technology Surveillance / Horizon Scan (TW/HS)” project, the RAND Corporation’s 2013 Future Defense Technology Prospects, Insights, Analysis, and Implications (document analysis), MIT Technology Review of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McKinsey’s 12 Disruptive Technologies Leading the Global Economic Transformation, Goldman Sachs’ summary of nine major disruptive technologies (technical definition method), KPMG’s 2014 Global Technology Innovation Survey (Questionnaires), CNAS’s Game Changers: Disruptive Technology and U.S. Defense Strategy (Scenario Simulation), NASA’s Technical Roadmap for Future Space Development (technical roadmap method).
2.2.2 Research on foreign disruptive technology evaluation and prediction methods
The project team selected the results of the technical evaluation and prediction research conducted by seven typical foreign institutions and divided them into five categories: technology maturity curve method, technology maturity evaluation method, quality function development method, scenario analysis method, and social trend focus method. (Table 6).
Table 6. Analysis of typical methods for evaluation and prediction of disruptive techniques in foreign countries.
The representative organizations and research results are: Gartner’s Hype Cycle for 3D Printing, 2017 and Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2017 (technical maturity curve method); the US National Audit Office uses the technology maturity evaluation method, which evaluates the national defense project, and the US DoD uses the technology maturity evaluation method as an important evaluation tool and control method for the weapon equipment acquisition process (technical maturity evaluation method); the US National Research Council used the “quality function development method” for NASA’s 14 Evaluation and prioritization of roadmaps in the technical field (quality function development method); Japan used the “scenario analysis method” to conduct the tenth technical foresight, and Korea used the “scenario analysis method” to predict the ten emerging technologies for solving social problems in 2016 ( scenario analysis); the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research used the “social trend focus method” to carry out the second technical foresight.
In addition, according to different research perspectives, the research on foreign disruptive technology can be approximately divided into identification of technological fields/social trends (common methods include technical definition, questionnaire survey, literature measurement, scenario analysis), determination of technical direction/technical challenges (commonly used methods include research, interviews, standard screening, quantitative analysis,), and research on a specific technology (common methods include expert discussion, technical supplement, quantitative evaluation, road map, scene simulation). These aspects are not elaborated in this paper.
《3 Summary of domestic disruptive technology and research methods 》
3 Summary of domestic disruptive technology and research methods
The domestic research on disruptive technologies is primarily divided into two categories.
The first category is the research conducted by experts and scholars at the academic level. In recent years, many experts and scholars in China have explored the identification, evaluation, and prediction of disruptive technologies, by primarily attempting to use scientific methods to predict the disruptive technology. Although, in general, most of the work is theoretically strong and relatively more scientific, the research on disruptive technology still focuses on the judgment of individual technologies. Moreover, the forecasting workload is large and there still exists certain challenges in the identification of large-scale technologies at the national level. In addition, owing to the existence of certain professional barriers in various industries, further verification is required to identify if the relevant methods are universal for different industries.
The second category is the disruptive technology forecasting activities conducted by professional institutions at the national level. The main research methods are expert interviews and questionnaire surveys. The comprehension of theory is relatively weak as the focus is on the operability, universality, and ease of use of research methods. The representative works include the disruptive technology forecast in the “National 13th Five-Year Technology Forecast” launched by the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2013, “China’s Engineering, Science, and Technology Development Strategy Research 2035” launched by the Chinese Academy of Engineering in 2015, and the “Research on Major disruptive Technology Predictions Leading to Industrial Change” launched by the Academy of Engineering in 2016.
The Ministry of Science and Technology added the relevant content on disruptive technology forecasting and evaluation in the “13th Five-Year Technology Forecast” launched in 2013. The aim of the Ministry of Science and Technology’s “13th Five-Year Technology Forecast” is to “Clarify the current status of key technologies in the current areas, predict the key technologies that will constrain economic and social development in the next five to ten years, and propose national key technology choices; focus on following the laws of technological development, common key technologies, and disruptive technologies.” While predicting a disruptive technology, the Ministry of Science and Technology did not utilize the “technical bottom-technical forecast” approach that was used in the “national key technology” forecasting process. Generally, the choice of technology includes “three stages” to advance the basic procedures; however, considering the disruptive technical concepts of connotation and selection, more than ten disruptive technologies were selected by the recommendation of experts. This work was the first exploration of the disruptive technology prediction at the national level and provides a methodological reference for other institutions to conduct disruptive technology prediction.
In “China’s Engineering, Science, and Technology Development Strategy Research 2035,” the Chinese Academy of Engineering had set up a technical foresight group to support the key areas of engineering technology and the primary technology choices for 2035, including disruptive technologies and cutting-edge technology predictions. In the research, the technology foreseeing group comprehensively used various methods such as literature measurement, patent analysis, Delphi method, and technology maturity to conduct demand analysis while performing technical foresight, and insisted on combining technology prediction with social and economic development. A series of research results, such as “Overview of Domestic and Foreign Technology Foresight Activities,” “Technology Foresight Area Division,” and “Technology Foresight Questionnaire Template” have provided a good reference for domestic institutions to carry out disruptive technical selection .
In the process of conducting the “Research on Major Disruptive Technology Predictions Leading to Industrial Change,” the Chinese Academy of Engineering utilized two rounds of questionnaires, starting with the disruptive technical connotation of industrial transformation and the establishment of an index evaluation system for disruptive technologies that triggered industrial change. Based on the wisdom of academicians and experts, 165 “reserve techniques” were selected from the 313 technologies of the “alternative technology list,” and 26 “preparatory technologies” were selected from the 165 “reserve technologies.” This project fully absorbs and implements the research ideas and results obtained from the “13th Five-Year Technology Forecast” and “China’s Engineering, Science, and Technology Development Strategy Research 2035”, such as the use of the Ministry of Science and Technology in the “National Key Technologies.” In the basic procedure of the three-stage advancement of “Technology Mapping – Technology Forecasting – Technology Selection” adopted in the forecasting process, the technology in the initial “Disruptive Technology Alternative List” of the project also refers to and includes the technology considered in the “13th Five-Year Plan.” In the predictions and the "China’s Engineering, Science, and Technology Development Strategy 2035" study, 1149 items and 807 technologies were investigated .
The above work is a preliminary exploration of the disruptive technology prediction and evaluation techniques by relevant domestic institutions. It provides a research method for other institutions to perform disruptive technology prediction at a later period; however, it also exposes many aspects that require improvements, which primarily include the following shortcomings: the research method is still based on the Delphi method, it is highly dependent on the experience of experts in various fields, it demonstrates an unavailability of mature and reliable measurement models and other methods, and it is considerably subjective. Further, the number and coverage of experts participating in the questionnaire still demonstrate insufficient reference to the viewpoints of the industry; thus, it is easy to overlook a disruptive technology in the industrial breeding stage. Thus, the research basically adheres to the“acknowledged technical views” of thinking and lacks a systematic thinking process that can adapt to the development trend of unknown disruptive technologies.
《4 Suggestions for promoting scientific development and rapid prototyping of disruptive technology research in China 》
4 Suggestions for promoting scientific development and rapid prototyping of disruptive technology research in China
To promote scientific development and rapid prototyping of the disruptive technological research in China, the following suggestions are proposed:
First, focus on superior resources to set up professional think tanks and methods for long-term tracking and research on disruptive technologies. It is recommended to rely on the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Engineering to establish several disruptive technology research think tanks, provide stable financial support, track the development of these technologies and the process of industrialization, and publish the results of the research. It is recommended that the above-mentioned think tanks aim to be at the forefront of the disruptive technology development process of the world, focus on the major strategic tasks of the country, build disruptive technology identification methods and research theories, and also focus on the original disruptive technologies. It is necessary to accurately target areas such as information networks, biotechnology, and other technologies that have revolutionized the prospects of major industries, and to study the intercrossing and penetration effects of technologies in various fields and industries.
Second, establish a scientific technology assessment system to support enterprises to cultivate and develop disruptive technologies. It is suggested that the above-mentioned think tanks should explore and establish an unconventional technology evaluation system with non-consensus indicators and gradually establish and improve an evaluation mechanism that conforms to the characteristics and laws of disruptive technology development. On this basis, the organization experts can use the technology evaluation system to evaluate potential disruptive technologies and select a group of potential disruptive technologies for project demonstration. Concurrently, it is recommended that the Ministry of Science and Technology should establish special funds for disruptive technology in the major national science and technology projects, support large-scale enterprises leading in innovation to focus on the medium- and long-term markets, and develop disruptive technologies that have been successfully demonstrated.
Third, the introduction of venture capital can increase the fiscal and tax incentives and activate the technological industrialization drive of the enterprises. It is recommended that provincial and municipal governments should set up scientific and technological consulting and service agencies to provide investors with advice and services and reduce the amount of venture capital obtained by enterprises. Provincial and municipal governments can also explore the establishment of their own venture capital foundation. Further, they can also establish and improve the science and technology financial service system, explore new financing support models for small- and medium-sized enterprises such as “investment and loan linkage,” and dredge financial access to small- and medium-sized innovative enterprises. Enterprises are required to establish the actual application plan or technology roadmap that best satisfies the disruptive technology application scenario, clarify the specific implementation process of the disruptive technology industrialization, avoid blind follow-up, and accelerate technology conversion.
Fourth, to effectively link the various elements of the industry, academia, and research, and to work together to confront the bottleneck of industrialization, it is recommended to conduct research on high-end think tanks, research institutes, universities, and enterprises performing disruptive technological research and establish regular exchange seminars to share the research results. At the same time, it is recommended that the provincial government should organize the construction of an industry-university-research integrated system, establish a multi-group innovation alliance or research group composed of scientific research institutions, universities, and enterprises, link up the upstream and downstream of information and the factors of production, and direct education and research of the disruptive technology. The bottleneck of disruptive technology is industrialization. Scientific research institutions and universities can provide a certain proportion of funds and enterprises to promote disruptive technology industrialization. Enterprises can also provide disruptive technological research and development funds to universities and scientific research institutions. Subsequently, enterprises can promptly link the disruptive technological innovation requirements into production.