Handbook on the Economic Complexity of Technological Change
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Handbook on the Economic Complexity of Technological Change

Edited by Cristiano Antonelli

This comprehensive and innovative Handbook applies the tools of the economics of complexity to analyse the causes and effects of technological and structural change. It grafts the intuitions of the economics of complexity into the tradition of analysis based upon the Schumpeterian and Marshallian legacies.
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Chapter 4: The Persistence of Innovation and Path Dependence

Alessandra Colombelli and Nick von Tunzelmann


Alessandra Colombelli and Nick von Tunzelmann 1. INTRODUCTION The persistence of innovation has been the subject of a recent body of literature. Most of the contributions consist of empirical analyses carried out with time series tools or transition matrixes. The theoretical underpinnings of this approach lie in the concepts of cumulativeness and technological learning. However this literature fails to grasp the systemic character of persistent processes. In this chapter we develop an integrated framework able to graft the persistence of innovation within a complex dynamic framework. We therefore try to establish a link between persistence and path dependence by putting particular emphasis on the dynamics of local attractors. In particular we focus on innovation considered as a dynamic process characterized by persistence and path dependence. More precisely, we develop the kinds of local attractors that distinctively create persistent and path dependent processes of technological change. The rationale behind our study is the understanding of innovation processes, organizational change, growth, and systemic dynamics. In our approach, the generation of new knowledge and the introduction of innovation are the results of cumulative patterns and learning dynamics. This pattern of technological accumulation is at the base of the persistence of innovation. This means that current innovation is explained by past innovation and, thus, innovation has enduring effects as a result of knowledge cumulability and learning processes. We also retain that innovation persistence is path dependent as opposed to past dependent. While past dependent processes are fully determined by the initial conditions, path dependent...

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