Emergence of Regional Actor Systems - Generic Technologies and the Search for Useful or Saleable Applications
Doctoral thesis, 2001
The purpose of this Ph.D. dissertation is to explore the development and economic exploitation of generic technologies in a regional setting. The rationale for the study is that an analysis of technology and technological development is lacking in studies of regional settings. The focus has been on analysing emerging regional actor systems in an innovation systems approach. Three in-depth case studies ('antenna technology', virtual reality and mobile data) were undertaken in one region (West Sweden).
A regional actor system consists of firms, common knowledge sources, policy actors and supporting organisations, 'global' and 'local' networks, and a pooled labour market. These co-evolve and cannot be understood in isolation.
The case studies show how the underlying 'knowledge base' changes over time; indeed knowledge and skill may lose or gain economic value. Here, a main contribution of the dissertation is that it showed that it is feasible, and useful to follow a technology over time to allow for an explicit analysis of the role of technology vis-à-vis the organisational and economic dimensions. This holds true if we regard technology as 'technical knowledge' as well as in a more traditional manner as artifacts. Related to this is how different types of actors try to affect each other to prepare for future challenges stemming from technological changes to grasp emerging economic opportunities. The technological starting point can explain little of the organisational and economic activities in quantitative terms in a region, but it has a crucial role in qualitative terms.
A policy implication concerns the role of the common knowledge-sources, and the need to maintain a proper 'balance' between free and targeted research.
The exploratory nature of the dissertation required a number of methodological contributions. These are i) a method developed to characterise a regional 'competence base' with several innovation and technology indicators, ii) a patent-based method developed to identify actors who are active in developing similar technical knowledge, regardless of the nature of their final application, and iii) delineation of innovation systems around generic technologies. Limits to these methods are discussed.
technology and science indicators
research instrumentalities and development tools