Original Research

Rothwell’s augmented generations of innovation theory: Novel theoretical insights and a proposed research agenda

Chris W. Callaghan
South African Journal of Business Management | Vol 50, No 1 | a217 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajbm.v50i1.217 | © 2019 Chris W. Callaghan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 May 2018 | Published: 20 June 2019

About the author(s)

Chris W. Callaghan, School of Economic and Business Sciences, Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Technological advances necessitate the reconceptualisation of certain seminal theory. Novel developments in Internet and Communication Technologies have disrupted certain markets, industries and processes.

Objectives: Rothwell’s seminal generations of innovation typology provides a categorisation of advances in innovation theory. In so doing, it provides an overarching logic that relates these advances to a production function, categorising the way each wave of innovation theory has driven the time/cost curve closer to its axis. The objective of this article is to augment this typology to include theory that relates to novel technological advances, with implications for the innovation time/cost curve.

Method: As a conceptual article, this work seeks to offer a synthesis of theory, extending Rothwell’s schema to incorporate theory related to novel technological developments.

Results: Lacking in Rothwell’s conceptualisation of five generations of innovation is consideration of recent technological advances which necessitate a reformulation of this schema to take into account new scale relationships made possible by recent technological developments. This article seeks to extend Rothwell’s theoretical framework to incorporate these new potentialities.

Conclusion: In augmenting Rothwell’s theoretical schema, certain implications for society and industries are predicted, and suggestions are made for a proposed research agenda.


Generations of innovation; research; development; R&D; probabilistic innovation theory; knowledge management; sixth generation innovation theory.


Total abstract views: 3097
Total article views: 8480


Crossref Citations

1. Open Source Process Insights From ‘Microbial Learning'
Chris William Callaghan
International Journal of Sociotechnology and Knowledge Development  vol: 11  issue: 2  first page: 1  year: 2019  
doi: 10.4018/IJSKD.2019040101