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We present a model-based approach for evaluating the potential of innovations occurring in various stages of the industry value chain. The realization of the innovation's potential is conceptualized as the ability of the de novo firm to achieve the maximum possible efficiency in translating inputs into cost-reducing output. We apply recent developments from data envelopment analysis to measure the innovation's potential in terms of its relative efficiency with respect to a best practices frontier. We then present a conceptual framework to classify and identify the determinants related to technological and organizational variables in realizing the potential of innovations. Finally, we demonstrate the application of this model-based approach to conduct analysis of the potential of innovations in the U.S. photovoltaic and related systems manufacturing industry.