Is disruptive innovation a threat to established sequencing companies?
In his book The Innovator's Dilemma, Clayton M. Christensen asks: Why do established companies fail when faced with disruptive technology? A commonly heard answer is that large companies grow complacent and that their managers just don't understand new technology.
Christensen's answer is more nuanced than that. After all, large companies often have excellent management, yet struggle with disruptive innovation.
Disruptive innovation can be defined as technology that helps to create a new market that did not exist before. Because this market is new, it is still small, and therefore it does not make financial sense for large established companies to invest in it. For them, it is much more sensible to invest in markets that offer a return that is in proportion to their firm's size. For example, a €2bn company would not see the point of investing in a €200k market.
Because well-managed companies do not invest in non-existent or tiny markets, this leaves an opening that start-up companies can exploit. Start-ups, because they are small, are happy with a smaller market and the associated smaller profit. As the market grows, the start-ups grow with it. However, eventually the growing market will start to take over the established companies' market.
There seems to be a feeling amongst many people working in the field that the sequencing market is due for a disruptive innovation.
If the sequencing market develops in the way outlined in The Innovator's Dilemma, established providers of sequencing machines would continue to provide equipment to large research centres, whilst start-ups would move into new niches that are currently uninteresting for established providers. In the following posts, I'll invest more thought into whether this is a likely scenario.