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Innovation, Growth and Social Cohesion

The Danish Model

Bengt-Åke Lundvall

Written by the scholar who, together with Chris Freeman, first introduced the concept of the innovation system, this book brings the literature an important step forward. Based upon extraordinarily rich empirical material, it shows how and why competence building and innovation are crucial for economic growth and competitiveness in the current era. It also provides a case study of a small, very successful European economy combining wealth creation with social cohesion.
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Chapter 14: Lessons to be Learnt

The Danish Model

Bengt-Åke Lundvall


In this final chapter we will characterize the Danish system of innovation and competence-building and consider what lessons can be drawn for innovation policy and knowledge management in other countries and for Europe. Before entering this analysis it is important to summarize some of the characteristics of the broader framework in which innovation and competence-building take place. The Danish society at large has its own unique features and neglecting those makes it difficult to understand the way innovation is pursued in Denmark. It should be recognized that some of the most important features have roots far back in history. It should also be realized that the Danish system of innovation and competence-building is not in any way the outcome of a planned political effort. In most instances its strengths, as well as its weaknesses, reflect unintended consequences of pragmatic policy, the impact of unique personalities and small historical events. One way to illustrate this is to start with two individuals who each in his way shaped the Danish innovation system (see Box 14.1). BOX 14.1 GRUNDTVIG AND ØRSTED: THEIR IMPACT ON THE INNOVATION SYSTEM N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783–1872) – a great social inventor In the second half of the nineteenth century Danish society went through a dramatic transformation. The traditional export markets for vegetable products were crumbling. Production had to be changed toward animal products. This dramatic transformation was to a high degree self-organized in collaboration between small independent farmers. It found its ideological support in the ideas of the popular...

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