Selected Economic Papers
Edited by Jean-Philippe Touffut
Chapter 8: The diversity of social systems of innovation and production during the 1990s
Bruno Amable, with Pascal Petit INTRODUCTION The concept of an ‘innovation system’ (IS) refers to the various attempts that have been made to incorporate institutional elements into the economic analysis of technical change, and to study the impact these elements have had on long-term economic performance.1 Many research projects have started out with the premise that it is necessary to get away from viewing innovation as a process of mere individual decision making undertaken independently of institutional environments.2 Innovation necessarily implies interactions between actors (firms, researchers, universities, laboratories) and their environments. Moreover, it is wrong to think that such environments comprise nothing more than market price(s), albeit contingent. In reality, they consist of a whole set of rules, organizational forms and institutions. The differences in ‘technological styles’ that can be observed at the territorial level (usually a national one, although it can sometimes be a region or a wider grouping of countries), or even at the sectoral level, stem from variations in the institutional configurations that are specific to each territory. The expression ‘technological style’ is intentionally vague given the diversity of the characteristic features of technical change that are associated with institutional particularities: for example, the rate of change, the type of innovation (whether radical or incremental) and sectoral specialization which itself might vary as a function of the level of technological intensity or even of the long-term growth rate. These things being so, which types of institutions need integrating into innovation systems studies? IS research derives from...
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