Global Oil & Gas Corporations in the Race for Technological Superiority

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2021-65-5-59-67
A. Bereznoi (,
National Research University Higher School of Economics, 11 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation

Received 16.12.2020.

Acknowledgements. The article was prepared within the framework of the Basic Research Program at the National Research University Higher School of Economics.

Abstract. The article explores the key trends in R&D and innovation activities of the world’s largest oil&gas companies through the lens of dynamic shifts taking place in the competitive landscape of the global energy sector. The first area, where the author sees significant changes, relates to the appearance of the new powerful players in the technological domain of the world oil and gas industry. He draws attention to the growing roles of national oil companies and multinational oilfield service firms as increasingly important investors in R&D and innovations. These developments are analyzed in the context of the overall competitive positioning of Western-based supermajors whose technological dominance in the industry has never seriously been challenged before. Another significant change, noticed by the author, relates to the new technological priorities set by the world’s largest oil&gas companies for the foreseeable future. Two major sets of technologies are becoming increasingly important as strategic areas for investment by the industry giants. One of them, low-carbon technologies, reflects the dramatic evolution of the “Big Oil” attitude to the Energy transition. In contrast to a largely negativist (or at best ‘window-dressing’) approach to climate agenda, visible just a decade ago, most oil&gas giants have recently adopted individual low-carbon strategies driven to a large extent by the significantly increased pressure from the powerful institutional investors and the growing influence of the negative public opinion. The second top technological priority relates to the changing digital agenda in the oil and gas industry. It reflects the transition of the industry leaders to the next generation digital technologies (including internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics) but most importantly to a systemic approach in digital transformation contrasting with traditional “piecemeal” IT projects with limited operations coverage. The changing innovation management mechanisms are also considered by the author as one of the key trends in technological domain of the world oil and gas industry. Specific focus is devoted to the formation of the corporate innovation ecosystems, including various R&D and innovation collaborations with different innovation actors (business partners, professional research centers, universities and governments organizations) and the connected vast spread of open innovation-based instruments working within these alliances.

Keywords: supermajors, national oil companies, multinational oilfield service firms, technological strategies, innovation ecosystems


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For citation:
Bereznoi A. Global Oil & Gas Corporations in the Race for Technological Superiority. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2021, vol. 65, no. 5, pp. 59-67.

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