The Role of Science and Multinationals
Edited by Grazia D. Santangelo
Chapter 3: The Development of Universities and Public Research Institutions: A Historical Overview of its Role in Technological and Economic Catch-up
Roberto Mazzoleni 1. INTRODUCTION Gerschenkron (1962) popularized a characterization of the economic development of countries behind the technological frontier as a process of ‘catching up’ with the leading economies. According to this view, the transformation of physical and social technologies in a developing economy is facilitated by the absorption of technological, scientiﬁc and institutional knowledge originating from more advanced economies. A central focus of research on economic development should be therefore an investigation of the institutions and processes that have played a signiﬁcant role in enabling the ﬂow of knowledge from advanced to developing regions. There are strong reasons to believe that universities (or more generally, higher education institutions) and public research institutes ought to ﬁgure prominently in such investigation. Indeed, the belief – commonly held among nineteenth-century policy makers – that universities and research institutions could play an important role in promoting economic development was an important stimulus to their international diﬀusion during the nineteenth century. Far from being the result of a process of mere imitation, the diﬀusion of these institutions was characterized by the emergence of distinctive national characteristics and a considerable amount of trial-and-error adaptation to local conditions. The resulting institutional variety likely inﬂuenced the contributions made by the emerging systems of higher education and research to the diﬀusion of technological knowledge (through inward transfer or otherwise), and hence to the economic catch-up of the home country. More directly, the scope and quality of these contributions reﬂected the changing relationship between...
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