Elgar original reference
Edited by Cristiano Antonelli
Chapter 9: Causes, Consequences and Dynamics of ‘Complex’ Distributions of Technological Activities: The Case of Prolific Inventors
William Latham and Christian Le Bas1 1. INTRODUCTION In this chapter individuals constitute the unit of analysis. Individuals must be considered because innovation is not simply a product of firms and organizations, it requires individual creativity. A century ago Schumpeter clearly identified the individual entrepreneur as essential to technological development. We follow this Schumpeterian notion that innovation, a form of creativity very much like entrepreneurial activity, is fundamentally individual in its genesis. Firms and organizations can create conditions that enhance or detract from the innovative activity of individuals, but it is the individuals who innovate. Yet we also know that not all individuals innovate (or invent) equally. Among individuals, even among individual entrepreneurs or firm innovators, innovation is not uniformly distributed. This heterogeneity among individuals is, of course, not unrelated to the existence of technological gaps across firms and organizations as far as innovation activities are concerned. Variation across firms is especially important in evolutionary economics and was recognized explicitly by Alfred Marshall. It is a natural outcome in a world marked by competition where organizations have heterogeneous bases of competences, different sets of strategies and, as a consequence, perform differently (see Metcalfe, 1995). In other words, we are in Antonelli’s world of ‘organized complexity’ as he describes it in the introduction to this book. Figure 9.1 illustrates heterogeneity among inventors using the distribution of US patents for the most productive French inventors (those with 15 or more inventions) over the period from 1975 to 2002. The distribution is characterized...
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