From Government to Governance
Chapter 5: The World of Standards
18223_Innovation/Chap 5 09/06/2003 9:44 am Page 1 5. The world of standards Por eso afirman que la conservación de este mundo es una perpetua creación y que los verbos conservar y crear, tan enemistados aquí, son sinónimos en el Cielo. [It is stated that the preservation of this world is a perpetual creation and that the verbs ‘preserve’ and ‘create’, so opposed to each other here, are synonymous in Heaven] (Jorge Luis Borges, Historia de la eternidad, 1957: 35) INTRODUCTION Standards play a crucial role in defining the market share of entire industrial sectors (and not just high-tech ones), shaping the technological advances of technological systems, and defining the overall performance of these. Standards can be formal agreements or regulations, or can be de facto standards defined strictly by market dynamics. Yet, common to them all is that they are essential elements in the innovation process, with notorious path dependency effects. Defining the technical specifications of a product or a production process does not just affect the level of interconnectivity and interchangeability of that element within the technological system it is embedded in, it also affects the patterns on which the product and the overall technological system are likely to evolve in the future. In other words, by defining current technical specifications, we narrow significantly the options for the technological developments to come, since alternatives are ruled out by a combination of technological and market choice. Social actors make the choice in different contexts, depending...
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