Values in the Making: Dealing with Uncertainty: An Ethnographic Case study of Early-stage Patent Valuation in the MedTech Sector

Marcus Kildegaard Nielsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Valuation under conditions of uncertainty – how is it possible? The research offers an economic sociological approach to investigate how actors in a stakeholder network conduct valuation of technological innovation under conditions that are distinguished from calculable risk. Fundamental uncertainty constitutes an unknown and unpredictable situation that makes it challenging to calculate the monetary value of an asset’s current or projected worth. By focusing on the practice of valuation, an attempt is made to complement previous research on how actors come to terms with the future and how it affects their economic action in the present. On the basis of an ethnographic case study departing from an SME within the competitive and innovative MedTech sector, I investigate how valuation of medical device patents are done by professionals when there is uncertainty about the patented technologies’ prospective technical and commercial success. From interviews with valuation stakeholders and collected documents, a socio-technical analysis of valuation under uncertainty is conducted from where I seek to understand: How value is produced as part of a socio-material network; the roles that narratives play in such networks; and lastly, how value is produced performatively. The findings show that SMEs are forced acquire patented innovations to be competitive in the turbulent MedTech environment. This entails valuation of prospective acquisitions under fundamental uncertainty where stakeholders have to engage in collaborative socio-material networks of actors and things. The positions that actors hold in these networks influence how valuation is done as specific stakeholders have predisposed network roles that give them legitimacy and credibility as authorities within their field of expertise. Narratives are found to act as backers to the legitimacy and credibility, which can have performative effects on commercial agreements constructed between trading entities. As a result, the research argues that valuation practice under uncertainty is not a rational and linear process of finding ‘the one true value’, but rather a practice that concerns finding ‘the one successful value’, allowing innovation to flow between trading parties.

EducationsMSc in International Marketing and Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages189
SupervisorsRobin Porsfelt