The Governance of Complexity
Edited by Kurt Dopfer
Chapter 5: The Concept of Network Organisation – Biotechnology-based Industries as Exemplar
Andreas Pyka and P. Paolo Saviotti 1. INTRODUCTION Biotechnology is one of the ﬁelds that is at the forefront of the creation of a knowledge-based society. This seems somewhat paradoxical, since it could be maintained that biotechnology is one of the oldest technologies used by mankind. Wine and cheese making constitute two typical examples. However, modern biotechnology has been substantially changed by the advent of molecular biology, a new discipline which was founded in the 1930s based on the attempt to apply to biology the methods of physics. In the mid 1970s two discoveries, recombinant DNA and monoclonal antibodies, transformed a scientiﬁc discipline with a brilliant if distant future into a seedbed of industrial applications. Accordingly some authors now call this latest vintage of biotechnology third-generation, to distinguish it from the completely empirical ﬁrst generation and from the second generation, which began with the production of antibiotics. Second-generation biotechnology used scientiﬁc methods but it did not have the knowledge required to change the genetic make-up of organisms. Such knowledge was only provided in a systematic way by molecular biology. Who were the ﬁrst actors involved in the development of third-generation modern biotechnology? In the mid 1970s very few research institutions did research in molecular biology and they were mostly in the USA. The industrial ﬁrms that in principle could have exploited molecular biology did not have the respective absorptive capacity. Their competencies and knowledge bases were concentrated in more traditional disciplines such as organic chemistry or microbiology. In...
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