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Technology and the Market

Demand, Users and Innovation

Edited by Rod Coombs, Ken Green, Albert Richards and Vivien Walsh

The interplay between demand from the market, the role of users in shaping that demand, and the way in which these factors influence the innovation process has always been a complex one. This forward thinking book examines this interplay from a technological change perspective. The contributors explore the potential for rapprochement between economics, sociological and other social science disciplines in considering the allocation of resources and the making of decisions about technological change. The papers within this book represent a judicious blend of theory and empirical research and look at a broad range of innovations, markets and technologies in medicine, agricultural and food production, services and IT. Technology and the Market raises the question of the many ‘visible hands’ that are involved in linking technology and the market together.
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Chapter 2: Many visible hands

Arie Rip and Aard J. Groen


Arie Rip and Aard J. Groen INTRODUCTION Compared with the ‘careless technology’ of the 1960s (to quote the title of a book at the time (Farvar and Milton, 1972)), the present safety, reliability and environmental friendliness of many products and technologies, at least in the richer countries, is striking. Salmon are swimming in the Thames again. Companies like The Body Shop, but also 3M and Proctor & Gamble, pride themselves on their contributions to sustainability, and are recognized for it. Critics might call these accomplishments ‘rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’, and point out ongoing exploitation of natural resources, the hazards of the man-made environment, and long-term macro-risks such as climate change. For the moment, our interest is not in who is right and who is wrong, but in the observable fact of an overall change in the last decades, as well as the widespread recognition of the importance of paying attention to environmental aspects. In addition, in contrast to blaming the technology of the 1960s and 1970s as perhaps inherently ‘careless’, many stakeholders in these issues are interested in new technological options. They actively seek technological development (or better, socio-technical developments) to contribute to solutions of environmental problems, including the uncertain but possibly staggering climate change problem. A double question can now be raised: how did improvements which are clearly in the public interest emerge at all, and can one expect further changes now that demand for climate-friendly technology appears to be articulated? Clearly, there must have been more to...

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