The second area, crucially interrelated to the previous one, focuses on the organisation of innovation, referring to the processes through which ideas and knowledge flow from R&D organizations to the marketplace through technology transfer and commercialization of innovation. The analysis focuses, in particular, on the comparison between two main modes of innovation that seems to dominate the panorama of the digital economy: multi-sided platforms on one side, and Standard Development Organizations (SDOs) on the other.
Platforms are organizational solutions for connecting groups of economic agents that cannot efficiently and directly coordinate their activities, but at the same time are linked by significant externalities. The crucial feature of their technological architecture – i.e., modularity – enables the creation of innovation ecosystems where the innovative effort is divided between a stable core of the system (generally the platform itself) and its
periphery (favouring decentralization as an essential element of the innovation ecosystems).
Standard Development Organizations (SDOs) are meta-organisations whose role is to enable the coordination among various and different organisations/companies in the creation and commercialization of new technologies. SDOs are sitting between two sides: (i) the technology contributors, i.e. the innovators that provide the technologies, frequently patented, that define the standards, and (ii) the standard implementers, i.e. the firms that manufacture and distribute in the market products and services embodying the standard.
Among the dimensions for comparison between the two models, a relevant element is the pricing of innovation. As for all dual (or multi) -sided platforms, reaching the right balance between the prices across the sides of the platform is crucial for maintaining members’ active participation, for the value of products and services provided by and, all in all, for the success of the organization itself. In the case of SSOs, these “prices” are the policies that determine the costs of and incentives to participation, especially insofar as they determine or at least influence the future economic remuneration of the innovation. In the case of platforms, the leading firm, acting as network orchestrator, is able to influence the variety and depth of the innovation process by opening up more platform resources (such as APIs), and by offering more favourable standard licensing agreements to developers. Innovation activities, therefore, as well as the cost of possible failures, are moved outside the core, leaving the profit from possible successes mainly to the latter. The FRAND pricing process at the centre of the SSO organized innovation promises and requires a more balanced equilibrium among participants.
The implementation of these different ways of pricing innovation, together with other relevant dimensions for comparison, namely transparency and accountability and competition and antitrust issues, enable an assessment that is particularly timely for the future of the digital economy. The evolution of the role of big tech in the digital economy, with their entry into new markets, and, at the same time, the recent evolution of the regulation towards them, on a global scale, will offer to this research line new elements for enriching the analysis.