The Evolution of Path Dependence

The Evolution of Path Dependence

New Horizons in Institutional and Evolutionary Economics series

Edited by Lars Magnusson and Jan Ottosson

The notion and interpretation of path dependence have been discussed and utilized in various social sciences during the last two decades. This innovative book provides significant new insights onto how the different applications of path dependence have developed and evolved. The authors suggest that there has been a definite evolution from applications of path dependence in the history of technology towards other fields of social science. They also discuss the various definitions of path dependence (strong or weak) and explore the potential applications of path dependence in new areas such as political economy and economic geography.

Chapter 6: The Role of Institutions and Organizations in Shaping Radical Scientific Innovations

Roger Hollingsworth

Subjects: economics and finance, evolutionary economics


Rogers Hollingsworth1 INTRODUCTION This chapter confronts several interrelated problems as to how the institutional environments of organizations influence their innovativeness. Using a path-dependent perspective, it addresses (1) how institutional environments influence organizational isomorphism within countries, and (2) how institutional environments influence both the founding of new kinds of organizations and the founding of radically new departments and divisions within existing organizations. To confront these problems, I draw on some of the data from the study of 290 major discoveries (that is, radical innovations in basic biomedical science) which took place throughout the twentieth century in four countries (Britain, France, Germany and the USA). The data relate to approximately 250 research organizations which varied in the number of major discoveries made, some having no major discoveries. Because of limitations of space, most of this chapter will focus primarily on organizations in the USA, but from time to time soft comparisons will be made with the institutional environments and organizations in the other three countries. Even though the empirical research for this chapter pertains to radical innovations in the basic biomedical sciences, many of the chapter’s generalizations also apply to radical innovations in other sectors and to countries other than the four considered in this research. Two major arguments of the chapter are that (1) the path-dependent nature of the institutional make-up of societies influences variability across societies in the rate of major discoveries, and (2) the path-dependent culture and structure of individual research organizations influence which organizations are likely to have...

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