Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Agents Intentionality, Capabilities and the Performance of Systems of Innovation

Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Agents Intentionality, Capabilities and the Performance of Systems of Innovation

Article excerpt

The System of Innovation (SI) framework is part of the tradition of innovation stud- ies (Martin, 2012) that introduces an integrated and dynamic multidimensional perspective of the transformation of systems. The emergence of the so-called knowledge-based economies (Cooke, 2001) has favored the introduction of these new analytical frameworks. A starting point for this kind of research is the recognition and understand- ing of the complex processes that underlie the char- acteristic innovation processes of knowledge-based economies. These include knowledge-creation, diffusion and organization processes.

It is apparent that different patterns of inno- vation exist across nations, regions, sectors and technologies. Thus, this is the reason why some authors consider the relevant level of analysis for innovation processes to be the national level (NSI) (Freeman, 1987, 2002; Lundvall, 1992; Nelson, 1993), rather than the sectoral (SSI) (Malerba, 2002, 2004) or the regional level (RSI) (Cooke, Urange, & Etxebarria, 1997). More recently, Bergek, Jacobsson, Carlsson, Lindmark, and Rickne (2008) proposed technological inno- vation systems (TIS) as a valid level of analysis. In any case, comparisons between actors, sources of novelty, institutions, and innovation policies in different nations (Bartels, Voss, Lederer, & Bachtrog, 2012), sectors or technologies show sig- nificant disparities; suggesting that the sources of novelties and their role of dynamic transformation across the economy is much more diverse and therefore requires a specific explanation (Mowery & Nelson, 1999).

The SI approach benefits from two conver- gent traditions: firstly, the emphasis of a systemic approach to innovation processes; and secondly, the adoption of an evolutionary theoretical approach.1 In general a system of innovation comprises a set of agents that interactively deploy a set of market and extra-market activities (Larsen & von Tunzelmann, 2006) with the purpose of creating, producing and selling new products and services. The firms that operate within a system of innovation share certain common character- istics and, at the same time, are heterogeneous. Thus, an SI is composed of a knowledge base, technologies, inputs and a potential (or existing) demand that characterize it. Furthermore, there is a set of institutions that circumscribe the environ- ment within the agents of the system and interact. Agents interact through processes of communica- tion, change, cooperation, competency and com- mand in markets, but also through extra-market relationships. Finally, the SI approach to institu- tions allows the establishment of relationships that emerge from interaction to be analyzed. From this perspective, it is possible to show how the same 'common' institutions (for example the patent system) can have so many different effects on innovation across sectors or countries (Nelson, 2008b; Werger, 2003).

The usefulness of the SI framework lies in the fact that it allows innovation processes to be ana- lyzed at two analytical levels. Firstly, due to the fact it is a conceptual framework that provides a multidimensional insight into the dynamic links that are characteristic of innovation processes. Evidence of this is the emphasis on the impor- tance of analyzing the co-evolutionary processes that underlie and configure innovation processes. And secondly, because of the fact that the SI framework allows for the location of the role that knowledge and learning play in innovation pro- cesses. However, these kinds of approaches are not free from criticism; one such criticism classes the innovation systems approach as, at best, heuristic rather than theoretical (Edquist, 2005, p. 186), it is over-theorized (Sharif, 2006, p. 757), or needs a change in its theoretical foundations (Lundvall, 2007, p. 97).

We find that SIs differ substantially because there are specific causes at work - apart from the differences in the underlying technologies, insti- tutions, etc. …

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