Technology, Knowledge and the Firm
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Technology, Knowledge and the Firm

Implications for Strategy and Industrial Change

Edited by Ken Green, Marcela Miozzo and Paul Dewick

There is a long-standing tradition of research that highlights the importance of differences in the organizational and technological capabilities of firms and their effect on economic performance. This book expands on this theme by exploring the role of knowledge and innovation in firm strategy and industrial change. Underlying the volume is the belief that firms have distinctive methods of operation and that these processes have a strong element of continuity.
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Chapter 8: New Science and Old Industries: Adoption of Biotechnology in European Food Companies

Finn Valentin and Rasmus Lund Jensen


8. Discontinuities and distributed innovation: the case of biotechnology in food processing Finn Valentin and Rasmus Lund Jensen1 INTRODUCTION 1. Through the 20th century the life sciences became an important source of innovation and economic development, and that importance is expected to grow further over the next decades. At the same time, its discovery process and further linkages to technologies and applications have come to depend on complicated (inter)organizational forms which in turn are quite sensitive to institutional influences and regulation (Cockburn et al., 1999). Consequently, interdependencies between these organizational forms and the economic performance of life science-based industries have attracted interest since the onset of the biotech revolution. This interest increased as the US model for biotech competitiveness through the 1990s became idealized as the model against which other countries could be benchmarked. But this idealization needs scrutiny. We need to better understand if the success of the US model is specific to particular areas – or stages – of biotechnology. Will the infusion of biotechnology into agriculture and foods require other models? And will different organizational and institutional forms prove equally successful as other countries move biotechnology into new fields of application. To learn from the US experience we must see it in comparative perspective (Chesbrough, 2001; Lynskey, 2001). Everywhere biotechnologies induce distributed forms of innovations (Coombs and Metcalfe, 2000), involving networks of collaboration between large firms and outside partners (Liebeskind et al., 1996; Powell, 1998; Sharp and Senker, 1999). The formation of more than a...

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