A smart grid employs information and communications technology to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of electricity production and distribution. The convergent and complex nature of a smart grid and the multifarious connection between its individual technology components, as well as competition between private companies, which will exert substantial influences on the future smart grid business, make a strategic approach necessary from the beginning of research and development (R&D) planning with collaborations among various research groups and from national, industry, company, and detailed technological levels. However, the strategic, technological, business environmental, and regulatory barriers between various stakeholders with collaborative or sometimes conflictive interests need to be clarified for a breakthrough in the smart grid field. A strategic R&D planning process was developed in this study to accomplish the complicated tasks, which comprises five steps: (i) background research of smart grid industry; (ii) selection of R&D target; (iii) societal, technological, economical, environmental, and political (STEEP) analysis to obtain a macro-level perspective and insight for achieving the selected R&D target; (iv) patent analysis to explore capabilities of the R&D target and to select the entry direction for smart grid industry; and, (v) nine windows and scenario planning analyses to develop a method and process in establishing a future strategic R&D plan. This R&D planning process was further applied to the case of a Korean company holding technological capabilities in the sustainable smart grid domain, as well as in the sustainable electric vehicle charging system, a global consumer market of smart grid. Four plausible scenarios were produced by varying key change agents for the results of this process, such as technology and growth rates, policies and government subsidies, and system standards of the smart grid charging system: Scenario 1, ‘The Stabilized Settlement of the Smart Grid Industry’; Scenario 2, ‘The Short-lived Blue Ocean of the Smart Grid Industry’; Scenario 3, ‘The Questionable Market of the Smart Grid’; and, Scenario 4, ‘The Stalemate of the Smart Grid Industry’. The R&D plan suggestions were arranged for each scenario and detailed ways to cope with dissonant situations were also implied for the company. In sum, in this case study, a future strategic R&D plan was suggested in regard to the electric vehicle charging technology business, which includes smart grid communication system, battery charging duration, service infrastructure, public charge station system, platform and module, wireless charging, data management system, and electric system solution. The strategic R&D planning process of this study can be applicable in various technologies and business fields, because of no inherent dependency on particular subject, like electric vehicle charging technology based on smart grid.
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