Using National Innovation Systems to
Enhance S&T Policy
A Knowledge-Based Approach with
Examples from Japan
MARK S. HEWITT
A national innovation system (NIS) is the interlocking institutions, laws, regulations, industry practices, and culture that collectively determine the way a nation stimulates innovation, particularly technology innovation. Bengt-Åke Lundvall (1992) defines NIS as the elements and relationships which interact in the production, diffusion, and use of new and economically useful knowledge and are either located within or rooted inside the borders of a nation-state. The utility of the national innovation system as an organizing concept rests on the premise that understanding the linkages among the actors involved in innovation can illuminate opportunities to create new technologies and to tune their performance. Interest in NIS grows out of the premise that a virtuous relationship exists between innovation and productivity, and therefore NISs are means to an end, namely, improved industrial competitiveness through technology creation and diffusion. The more thoroughly government policymakers understand NIS, the more likely they will be to identify opportunities to enhance technology creation and diffusion, and thus the innovative performance and overall competitiveness of the nation’s science and technology (S&T) institutions.
This chapter explores the utility of NIS as an organizing concept for developing government S&T policy and makes two arguments about the relationship between NIS and S&T policy. First, the NIS model is a valuable framework not only for improving our general understanding of the interactions among national