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The Economic Dynamics of Modern Biotechnology

Edited by Maureen McKelvey, Annika Rickne and Jens Laage-Hellman

This book offers a novel insight into the economic dynamics of modern biotechnology, using examples from Europe to reflect global trends. The authors apply theoretical insight to a fundamental enigma of the modern learning society, namely, how and why the development of knowledge and ideas interact with market processes and the formation of industries and firms.
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Chapter 2: Conceptualizing and Measuring Modern Biotechnology

Johan Brink, Maureen McKelvey and Keith Smith


Johan Brink, Maureen McKelvey and Keith Smith 1. INTRODUCTION This chapter addresses issues related to conceptualizing and measuring modern biotechnology, thereby raising questions of definitions, methodology and data.1 This chapter argues that behind many of the empirical and comparative issues lie fundamental problems of conceptualization of the empirical phenomena. Addressing these conceptual problems is important for analytical progress, but also for decision-makers in government policy, universities and firms. Within this context, the chapter has three purposes. The first purpose is to highlight some key issues about the conceptual choices possible in operationalization and the implications thereof. There is a vast number of different terminologies regarding the usage of the concept ‘modern biotechnology’ as well as different methodologies, indicators and data. Such diversity is neither surprising nor strange – given that the dynamic nature of the underlying object under study by definition introduces inconsistencies. Still, inconsistencies prevent comparisons, and choices must be made. The second purpose is to introduce a conceptual matrix to structure one way of thinking about how to conceptualize the empirical phenomena. The objective here is to structure concepts in a way that is useful for analytical work. The approach here is based on the idea of distinguishing clearly between two axes of ‘product and sector’, on the one hand, and of ‘knowledge bases’, on the other hand.2 The concept of ‘knowledge base’ refers to areas of scientific and technological knowledge, including both the knowledge itself as well as its embodiment in techniques and...

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