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 8: Technology Fusion and Organizational Structures in Low- and Medium-tech Companies

Daniela Freddi


8. Technology fusion and organizational structures in lowand medium-tech companies Daniela Freddi INTRODUCTION In this chapter we develop the argument recently advanced by a few authors (Hirsch-Kreinsen et al., 2003; Sandven et al., 2005; Von Tunzelmann and Acha, 2005) that the role of medium- and low-tech sectors in economic growth has been undervalued or even neglected1. As Sandven et al. (2005: 57) point out, ‘medium and low-tech industries have persisted over the past decades despite the claims that we are undergoing a kind of structural revolution’. According to them the cause of this persistency is that growth is based much more on the ‘internal transformation’ of existing sectors than on their substitution by new sectors (ibid.: 58). Therefore in line with these arguments we maintain that the attention of scholars and policy-makers should move away from the concern with how to increase the production of high technologies, to other issues, for example, that of how to increase the application of high technologies in existing sectors in order to promote their internal transformation.2 For this reason we illustrate here the possible evolution of LMT sectors that might occur thanks to the fusion of traditional and radical new technologies3, in particular the shift from traditional mechanics towards mechatronics, and try to asses the consequences of this on companies’ organizational structures. As we have shown elsewhere (Freddi, 2007, forthcoming), ‘mechatronics’ refers to a blend of mechanics and electronics originating in Japan at the end of the 1970s with the first applications of electrical...

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