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The New Knowledge Economy in Europe

A Strategy for International Competitiveness and Social Cohesion

Edited by Maria João Rodrigues

Knowledge is fast becoming one of the main sources of wealth, yet it can also become a source of inequalities. The New Knowledge Economy in Europe attempts to determine whether it is possible to hasten the transition towards a knowledge-based economy and enhance competitiveness with increased employment and improved social cohesion across Europe. The book is an amalgamation of the scientific and political agendas which led to the European strategy for the knowledge-based economy adopted by the European Union.
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Chapter 6: International benchmarking as a policy learning tool

A Strategy for International Competitiveness and Social Cohesion

Bengt-åke Lundvall and Mark Tomlinson


Bengt-Åke Lundvall and Mark Tomlinson 1. INTRODUCTION The purpose of this chapter is to help build the foundation of processes of policy learning related to the Portuguese Presidency initiative on ‘Economic growth and social cohesion – a Europe based on knowledge and innovation’. More specifically the aim is to give a critical assessment of the standard uses of benchmarking and to suggest a new kind of benchmarking process that overcomes some of the traditional weaknesses as a method of international policy learning. New policy ‘architectures’ are required for the European Union in the face of rapid developments in new technologies and the increasing complexity that these bring. In a world of rapid change, learning processes have to become more flexible and variated in order to cope with new features of socioeconomic life. We argue that naïve and mechanical applications of benchmarking procedures are highly problematic, because they undermine democracy and give rise to biased processes of institutional reform. But we also argue that the basic idea behind benchmarking – to stimulate processes of ‘learning by comparing’ – is sound and can be seen as a useful policy learning tool in the new environment. We start out by analysing the origin of the concept ‘benchmarking’ in the private sector, but the main focus is on benchmarking involving international comparisons of institutions, economic indicators and policies related to competence building and innovation. We will refer to examples of what we will call ‘naïve’ benchmarking which are built upon simplistic ideas about...

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