Edited by Harald Bathelt, Patrick Cohendet, Sebastian Henn and Laurent Simon
Chapter 25: Innovation versus technological achievement
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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