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Preconditions, windows of opportunity and innovation strategies: Successive leadership changes in the regional jet industry

Daniel Vertesy

Research Policy, 2017, vol. 46, issue 2, 388-403

Abstract: We analyse the drivers of two successive leadership changes in the regional, or mid-sized jet market, a particularly dynamic segment of the commercial aircraft industry. In the first instance, Bombardier, a Canadian newcomer, assumed leadership over the incumbents, BAe and Fokker, in 1995. In 2005, the Brazilian firm, Embraer, became the market leader in terms of number of regional jet deliveries. Our theoretical framework considers discontinuities in the building blocks of sectoral innovation systems as windows of opportunity for which challenger firms can devise strategic responses allowing them to assume market leadership. It also considers preconditions as necessary capabilities limiting the number of potential challenger companies. The analysis of leadership change shows that more efficient engines and technological improvements in subsystems, changing oil prices, business cycles, liberalization of air transport services, scope clauses and government interventions provided technological, demand and regulatory windows of opportunity. Launching new aircraft families (an architectural innovation), targeting the 50- and the 100–120-seat niche markets gave first Bombardier’s CRJ family and later Embraer’s E-Jet family the leadership. The fate of failed challengers and incumbents point to the importance of incumbent traps, technological and financial capabilities, the timing of windows of opportunity, speedy strategic response, a proper evaluation of future demand and sheer luck, as long lead times and sunk costs entrap incumbents and other inadequately responding companies.

Keywords: Industrial dynamics; Leadership change; Sectoral innovation systems; Aircraft industry; Regional jets; Windows of opportunity; Technological capability accumulation; Incumbent trap; Indicators (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: L11 L13 L62 O31 O32 O33 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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