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What are We Measuring When We Measure Innovation? Competitive Collaborative Innovation Models

Posted: 22 Feb 2013  

Susan Christopherson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: February 22, 2013


Collaboration, among people, firms and in cross-sectoral partnerships, is at the heart of what is typically understood as the knowledge economy. And, innovation engages two very prominent but distinctive and potentially competitive collaborative models. The first model is that represented by Western European industrial districts or firm networks. These co-located firms benefit from access to an industry-specific labour force and from regional institutional supports. They are deemed particularly successful because of their shared innovation capacity, although the capacity of individual firms in the network may vary. Universities have historically played a limited if any role in these intra-industry collaborations. The second model is an Anglo-American model, based in science-based research and development and the capture and sale of private intellectual property. The central collaboration in this model is between universities, firms and speculative investors. While the differences behind the two models have been elided in some accounts, a closer look at how these models function within different governance regimes or national systems of innovation demonstrates significantly different potential outcomes for innovation and regional economic development.

A comparison of these models also raises an interesting, if rarely asked, question: What is the goal of innovation? In fact, these two collaborative models perceive innovation and the goal of producing new products and processes in very different ways.

In this paper I examine some critical differences between the flexibly-specialized regional network model of innovation common to some continental European countries and the Anglo-American science-based research and development, intellectual property-driven model. Both involve collaboration but in different forms and among different agents. Finally I speculate on the potential for hybrid models that take advantage of the dynamic short-term investment in science and technology prevalent in Anglo-American collaborations and the more incremental and more sustainable and regionally beneficial models represented by regional industrial networks.

Suggested Citation

Christopherson, Susan, What are We Measuring When We Measure Innovation? Competitive Collaborative Innovation Models (February 22, 2013). Available at SSRN:

Susan Christopherson (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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