Historically we observe two routes that coexist to translate ‘useful knowledge’ that is produced
and absorbed into the wealth of nations. In the first route, knowledge is a wealth factor by dint of
its capacity to generate technological achievements in certain strategic domains, which allows the
states to strengthen their security, energy independence and prestige. In the second route,
knowledge is a wealth factor by dint of its capacity to allow commercial innovation. This chapter is
devoted to development of this framework to explain what innovation is not in order to gain a better
understanding of its intrinsic nature. Technological achievement is essentially based on scientific
and technological inventions and discoveries. Our societies have realised extraordinary
technological achievements throughout the ages: pyramids and fortifications, temples and cathedrals,
Sputnik and Apollo. Unlike technological achievement, innovation is essentially economic. It is the
result of an economic discovery procedure, and it is its adoption in the commercial sphere that
qualifies it as innovation. In this chapter this distinction will be developed and deployed,
particularly in order to understand the difficulties experienced by certain countries to adapt to
the new challenges posed by the world economy.
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