Evolutionary Innovations: The Business of Biotechnology

Evolutionary Innovations: The Business of Biotechnology

Evolutionary Innovations: The Business of Biotechnology

Evolutionary Innovations: The Business of Biotechnology


This is a study of the commercial development of biotechnology which compares the initiatives, activities and organization of two firms--Genetech in the United States and Kabi in Sweden--as they brought knowledge to the market in the form of insulin and the human growth hormone. Writing from a broad evolutionary perspective, Maureen McKelvey's important study of one of the most modern science-based technologies will be of interest to all concerned with understanding the processes of innovation.


Internationally, the development and use of new knowledge and innovations is increasingly recognized as one of the crucial explanations for modern economic growth. Basic science, national innovation systems, new growth theory, management of innovation, and so forth are concepts used to understand how and why firms and other organizations develop and use knowledge of economic value. Their decisions and actions hence decide the pace and direction of innovations. Firms try to develop and use new knowledge in their daily activities as they react to, implement, and change market and technical conditions. They are increasingly interested in innovations, alongside traditional concerns of costs, time, and quality. Academics and policy-makers try to analyse and explain the underlying processes of innovations as important phenomena in their own right and in order to propose appropriate guidelines for firms and public policy.

In fact, the intervening period between the original hardback edition of this book and this new paperback edition has been a period where the central themes developed here have been recognized as increasingly important. This book is one contribution to a much larger debate on the knowledge economy, on Schumpeterian economics, and on the management of innovation in firms, in addition to the specific topic of the business of biotechnology.

The tale found in this book is one of how two quite different firms struggle to manage their knowledge-seeking activities, and it gives a good insight into research and development during radical change. It provides case studies for both management and engineering students. At the time of original publication the genetic engineering techniques analysed here were very new and untried in many dimensions; it was new basic research, new biological processes to control, new government regulation, new business applications, etc. Although the recombinant dna techniques themselves are quite well established today, the process by which they were improved, implemented, tried, and rejected gives insights into radical innovation processes with other genetic engineering techniques, as well as with other types of knowledge.

Rather than just following established procedure, the engineers, scientists, and managers in the firms described here try to understand and manage changes in technology and knowledge during a period where many dimensions are being called into question. Two dichotomies are useful in order to understand their conflicting perceptions and incentive structures -- science vs. technology, and market vs. government.

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