Innovation in Low-Tech Firms and Industries
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Innovation in Low-Tech Firms and Industries

Edited by Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen and David Jacobson

It is a general understanding that the advanced economies are currently undergoing a fundamental transformation into knowledge-based societies. There is a firm belief that this is based on the development of high-tech industries. Correspondingly, in this scenario low-tech sectors appear to be less important. A critique of this widely held belief is the starting point of this book. It is often overlooked that many of the current innovation activities are linked to developments inside the realm of low-tech. Thus the general objective of the book is to contribute to a discussion concerning the relevance of low-tech industries for industrial innovativeness in the emerging knowledge economy.
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Chapter 1: The Low-Tech Issue

Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen, Katrin Hahn and David Jacobson


Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen, Katrin Hahn and David Jacobson INTRODUCTION As the European Union evolves into a knowledge society, the ability to generate, use, diffuse and absorb new knowledge is increasingly viewed as critical to economic success and societal development. While the attention of policy makers, scholars and the public at large has been concentrated disproportionately on the 3 to 10 per cent of modern economies conventionally classified as ‘high-tech’, the importance of innovation activities in the established sectors that comprise the bulk of economic activity has tended to be overlooked. This is not to say that these sectors do not attract any attention or that they are regarded as totally unimportant – recent policy steps taken in the EU and the US to protect their textile industries prove that low- and medium-technology (LMT) industries have considerable political presence. But these non-research-intensive industries are not well understood in terms of their specific innovative capabilities, their role within the economy, current technologies or their probable future development. Moreover this lack of understanding has broad implications because it reflects inaccurate – or at least inadequately nuanced – views about the role of research and development (R&D) and technological upgrading in modern economies as a whole. In this scenario LMT industries are deemed to offer severely limited prospects for future growth in comparison to hightech ones, and as a result, receive less explicit policy attention and support. Recent research1 (Bender et al., 2005; Hirsch-Kreinsen et al., 2005, 2006) has convincingly shown that...

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