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The Idea of Technological Innovation

A Brief Alternative History

Benoît Godin

This timely book explores technological innovation as a concept, dissecting its emergence, development and use. Beno"t Godin offers an exciting new historiography of the subject, arguing that the study of innovation originates not from scholars but from practitioners of innovation.
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Benoît Godin


The document produced for the first OECD ministerial conference on science in 1963 stated: “the relationship between a national policy for economic development and a national policy for scientific research and development is one of the essential subjects for study” (OECD, 1963b: 52). To the OECD, what is needed is a dialogue between those responsible for economic policy and those responsible for science policy (pp. 69–73). Science policy is not integrated. As another OECD document of the same year put it: “there is a great need for studies of the several fields and ways in which science and policy interact, and there is a need above all for a continuing and intimate working relationship between officials responsible for science policy and other policy makers” (OECD, 1963a: 26–7). “National policies in other fields must take account of the achievements and expectations of science and technology”: economic policy, social policy, military policy, foreign policy, aid policy (p. 26).

One of the OECD studies that most explicitly carried a system approach was The Research System, published in three volumes between 1972 and 1974 under the direction of Jean-Jacques Salomon.1 The study framed the central issue of the system approach in terms of a dichotomy between two periods, as had a previous report (the Piganiol Report: OECD, 1963a: 18): the policy for science period as the expansion of research per se, versus the science for policy period where “developing national research potential [is] generally regarded as synonymous with national innovation...

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