Indicators of Technological Emergence


Extensive ways to measure research and development activity exist, but there is a gap in being able to measure frontier research topics.  This project develops new indicators of technological emergence to support researchers, research managers, businesses, and others in identifying key topics at the frontiers of science and technology.  Distinguishing cutting edge research and development activities can inform strategy development and reveal new opportunities.  Being able to measure emergent topics additionally enables sharper research program assessment.  Indicators of which countries, organizations, or individuals are contributing most to advances in a given domain provide vital competitive technical intelligence.  The project’s new technological emergence indicators focus on frontier contributions to complement general science, technology, and innovation indicators. We formulate a suite of indicators, develop software routines to calculate them, and devise reports and visualizations to communicate to different audiences, including researchers, managers, and policy makers.

Approach and Expected Results

The project implements a four-attribute model of what constitutes technological emergence.  Emergent topics should evidence term novelty, persistence, and accelerating growth, plus show formation of a research community. The approach extracts records on given science and technology topics from global research publication and patent databases.  The research experiments with different ways to clean and consolidate those records’ topical content.  Then the project devises software scripts to score topics’ degree of emergence.  The computational algorithm then scores actors in given research areas, such as research organizations or countries, based on the extent to which the actors work on the highly emerging topics. The makeup of the scores and how they behave is then studied through nine diversified science and technology case studies. Testing includes a series of sensitivity analyses across fields and time periods.  The testing seeks to validate the emergence indicators by analyzing their performance in predicting research and development activity in a subsequent one-to-three-year period.


  • Dr. Alan Porter (PI) | Search Technology
  • Prof. Philip Shapira (Co-PI) | School of Public Policy (Georgia Tech)
  • Dr. Jan Youtie (Co-PI) | Enterprise Innovation Institute (Georgia Tech)
  • Dr. Stephen Carley (Co-PI) | Search Technology


  • U.S. National Science Foundation, Award # 1759960

For more information

  • Contact: Alan Porter, Director of R&D, Search Technology, Inc, Norcross, GA 30092, USA. Tel: +1 404-384-6295


  • or Jan Youtie,



  • Carley, Stephen F., Newman, Nils C., Porter, Alan L., and Garner, Jon G. (2017). A measure of staying power: Is the persistence of emergent concepts more significantly influenced by technical domain or scale?  Scientometrics, 111 (3) 2077-2087; doi:10.1007/s11192-017-2342-x.  
  • Carley, S.F., Newman, N.C., Porter, A.L., and Garner, J. (2018).  An indicator of technical emergence, Scientometrics, 115 (1), 35-49;
  • Li, M., Porter, A.L., and Suominen. (2018). Insights into relationships between disruptive technology/innovation and emerging technology:  A bibliometric perspective, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 129, 285-296;
  • Porter, A.L., Garner, J., Carley, S.F., and Newman, N.C. (to appear). Emergence scoring to identify frontier R&D topics and key players, Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

Conference Papers

  • Porter, A.L. 2016, Tracking technical emergence:  Can we predict future R&D emphases?, Patent Information Users Group (PIUG)—Northeast Meeting, Sep. 27, Iselin, NJ.
  • Suominen, A., and Newman, N.C. (2017). A critical evaluation of the technological emergence concept.  Proceedings of the Portland International Conference on Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), Portland.
  • Garner, J., Carley, S., and Porter, A.L. and Newman, N.C. (2017). Technological emergence indicators using emergence scoring. Proceedings of the Portland International Conference on Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), Portland.
  • Porter, A.L. (2018), Measuring the emergence of new technological capabilities, CIMS Innovation Management Report, Poole College of Management, NC State University, Raleigh.
  • Youtie, J. (2018). Recognizing emerging technologies in patent records. The Complexity of the Patenting System: Information, Uncertainty and Novelty, Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 12– 14.