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 7: LMT Innovations in a High-tech Environment: Human-factor ‘Tools’ for the Airline Industry

David Jacobson and Bernard Musyck


David Jacobson and Bernard Musyck INTRODUCTION Until recently the focus of innovation research has been on high-tech industries, their products and their processes. Together with this focus was an association between innovation on one hand, and research and development (R&D) on the other. The PILOT (Policy and Innovation in Low-Tech Industries) project has been at least in part responsible for correcting this1. It is now clear that there is substantial innovation, often unrelated to R&D, in and among firms in low- and medium-tech (LMT) sectors (HirschKreinsen et al., 2006). It is also clear that in most major sectors of the economy high-tech and low-tech methods are closely related, and that, indeed, ‘the continued health of LMT sectors is crucial to the prosperity and growth of high tech industries’ (Robertson and Patel, 2005). The present chapter provides a case study of this interrelationship between LMT and high tech. The focus is on elements of the airline industry. The discussion adds new evidence from a case that has not been studied before in the context of the literature on innovation and LMT. It also adds a focus on primarily service-based activities, rather than the manufacturing focus of the PILOT and other research on LMT. The aviation sector consists of a variety of manufacturers of products and providers of services, from companies designing and/or assembling aircraft and their components to those providing airline services/flights for consumers, and/or maintenance services for the airlines.2 There is a complicated and often global chain...

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