Quick recap: what is an innovation system?

Before I continue with this series, it is necessary for me to refer you back to a post I wrote some time ago where I described what an innovation system is. For the full post, click here

For those to lazy to click on links I will quickly summary two key points.

Freeman (1987:1) defined an innovation system as “the network of institutions in the public and private sectors whose activities and interactions initiate, import and diffuse new technologies.The emphasis is mainly on the dynamics, process and transformation of knowledge and learning into desired outputs within an adaptive and complex economic system.

So how does innovation systems work within regions or places? Well, it is often affected by issues such as trust, social and informal networks, formal relationships, common customers or common inputs and other factors. You will notice that it sounds very similar to the characteristics of a cluster in its early days. The main characteristic of a local or regional innovation system is that it is mainly focused on a specific geographic space and on the specific knowledge spill-overs that occur around certain firms, industries or institutions unique to that space.

For the rest of the post where I related innovation systems to the surrounding geographic environment click here.

4 Responses to “Quick recap: what is an innovation system?”

  1. Blog-Posts I liked « marcus jenal Says:

    […] Quick recap: what is an innovation system? […]


  2. Valérie Says:

    Hi Shawn, how do you see the fact that Freeman’s definition is so centered on “technologies”? Is innovation always about technology? Or does that just depend on the definition of “technology” one uses? What is yours?


    • Shawn Cunningham Says:

      Hi Valerie,
      Freeman and others in their text make sure to explain that technology is much more than hardware, and that it includes knowledge not only of the product and processes involved, but also includes knowledge of how to organise hardware, knowledge and resources. My favorite definition of technology was offered by Enos (1991). I think I should make my next post about this. Thank you for inspiring me to write about this.


  3. Is there a hierarchy of the different levels of innovation? « Shawn Cunningham's Weblog Says:

    […] problem (see my post on what is meant with technology). It completely ignores that fact that an innovation system is a dynamic system that is mainly about how different economic agents interact, … what works and what doesn’t work. Freeman (1987:1) defined an innovation system as “the […]


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