National Innovation Systems: A Comparative Analysis

Posted: 4 Nov 2009

See all articles by Richard R. Nelson

Richard R. Nelson

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA)

Date Written: 1993


This anthology examines national systems of technical innovation. An introductory chapter provides an overview of the principal topics in current discussion of industrial and technology policy. Innovation is defined as the processes by which firms master and put into practice product designs and manufacturing processes that are new to them. A wide range of factors, organizations, and policies influence the capabilities of a nation's firms to innovate. Technology and pure science are distinguished, and the social institutions that play a role in innovation are examined. These include industrial and government research laboratories, research universities, and industrial policy agencies. These institutions provide the core for the analyses of national innovation systems. Individual chapters are devoted to six large high-income countries (France, Italy, Japan, the U.S., the U.K., and West Germany), four smaller high-income countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark, and Sweden), and five lower income countries (Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Korea, and Taiwan). Each chapter is a detailed description of each country's structure and behavior in the development of product and process technologies, and catalogues the innovation strategies of each country, covering topics including historical analysis of technological development, breakdown of industries, and investigation of these institutions in terms of R&D expenditures and their influence. Differences in the innovative patterns include size and resource endowments, national security considerations, and historical and social beliefs. Factors leading to effective innovative performance include strong core competencies, high-quality education and training, and stable and facilitative economic and trade policies. A final retrospective chapter compares and contrasts the various innovation systems. It assesses whether identifying an innovation system is useful, considers whether national institutions matter when commerce and technology are becoming transnational, and reflects on the future of national systems in such a world. (TNM)

Keywords: Industrial research, Regional resources, National differences, Public policies, Competititve strategies, Innovation process, Technological innovation

Suggested Citation

Nelson, Richard R., National Innovation Systems: A Comparative Analysis (1993). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship, Available at SSRN:

Richard R. Nelson (Contact Author)

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA) ( email )

420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

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