Handbook of Knowledge and Economics
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Handbook of Knowledge and Economics

Edited by Richard Arena, Agnès Festré and Nathalie Lazaric

By illuminating the philosophical roots of the various notions of knowledge employed by economists, this Handbook helps to disentangle conceptual and typological issues surrounding the debate on knowledge amongst economists. Wide-ranging in scope, it explores fundamental aspects of the relationship between knowledge and economics – such as the nature of knowledge, knowledge acquisition and knowledge diffusion.
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Chapter 13: One Knowledge Base or Many Knowledge Pools?

Bengt-Åke Lundvall


Bengt-Åke Lundvall 13.1 INTRODUCTION In Lundvall (1992) I started the analysis of innovation systems from a characterization of the current state of the economy as one where ‘knowledge is the most important resource and learning the most important process’. But this declaration was not given much analytical backing in the book. I did not give much insight into how knowledge and learning relate to innovation and to economic performance. In this chapter I present a conceptual framework and make distinctions between private/ public, local/global, individual/collective and tacit/codified knowledge. The purpose is both ‘academic’ and practical. My analysis demonstrates the limits of a narrowly economic perspective on knowledge but I also show that these distinctions have important implications both for innovation policy and for management of innovation. The chapter introduces a conceptual framework for analysing knowledge in relation to economic development. It does so through a critical analysis of the perception that the economy has ‘a knowledge base’. Over the last decade it has become commonplace among policy makers to refer to the current period as characterized by a knowledge-based economy and increasingly it is emphasized that the most promising strategy for economic growth is to strengthen the knowledge base of the economy (Abramowitz and David, 1996; Foray and Lundvall, 1996; OECD, 2000). This discourse raises a number of unresolved analytical issues. What constitutes the knowledge base? At what level can we locate and define a knowledge base? I shall show that the idea of ‘one knowledge base’ is misleading...

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