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The Meaning and Importance of Socio-Cultural Context for Innovation Performance – INNOVATION AND A NEW COMBINATION OF PRODUCTIVE KNOWLEDGE

Innovation and a New Combination of Productive Knowledge

A new agenda for the social sciences is called for today because the age of labour and (economic) capital is at an end as the sole driver and paradigm of economic productivity. Work itself is not at an end, but the nature and volume of the labour required are rapidly changing. The traditional forces of production are less and less the motor of economic development and value-adding activities. Nor are the conventional productive means the most important source of any sustainable economic activity. We are witnessing the growing significance of knowledge and other intangible forms of capital. (Post)modern economies are ever more innovation-driven economies. However, it cannot be forgotten that the recent economic crisis is (also) a consequence of the uncontrolled expansion of global financial markets. Financial capital remains—with all contradictions an important determinant of global and national economies.

The transformations of the economy, as a result of the rising importance of knowledge, go far beyond the mere emergence of the ‘knowledge company,’ the ‘knowledge-creating firm,’ or the firm ‘as a system of knowing activity.’ The issue now concerns the model of sustainable socio-economic development in modern knowledge-based societies (Moldaschl and Stehr, 2010). One of the most challenging issues is how to connect sustainability and basic solidarity with the notion of meritocratic society. This type of society namely creates real incentives for individual achievements, innovativeness, and creativity. Democratic knowledge-based society can be conceived of as involving the coincidence of two processes, namely, the scientific cation of society and the socialization of science (and technology). Furthermore, innovation activity can hardly be valued merely for its technological component in terms of new products, patents, and innovation processes, but should also be valued for its organizational, cultural, and civil society aspects.

The scientification of society connotes a process where science and its technological applications penetrate all societal segments. Scientific findings and their applications, innovations, information (and ICT infrastructure), knowledge, and human capital (including so-called tacit knowledge) are becoming the main force driving production and reproduction (identity) in (post)modern societies. The phenomenon of new emergent sciences and technologies like bio-, nano-, info-, and cognitive sciences, which in the framework of mutual interconnectedness form new complexes of transdisciplinary convergent technologies, is opening up a whole new dimension of social and economic development.

We might expect that, because of certain fundamental findings and related innovations in the abovementioned scientific fields, already in the near future the social and economic performance of knowledge-based societies will be evaluated according to completely new criteria. On the other hand, since scientification and technology are placed within a (civil) society framework every scientific solution and application demands a very well-considered approach, including from the perspective of its placement in macro-and micro-social environments, and in view of its long-term consequences and risks (see Nowotny, Scott, and Gibbons, 2001).

The Triple Helix concept that demonstrates new relationships between science and other subsystems of society can thus be translated as the interpenetration of industry, academic science, and the state (government). One outcome of this new constellation is the emergence of academic entrepreneurship as an important driver of hi-tech innovations (Etzkowitz, 2011). This conceptualization also implies interpenetration zones in the sense of the supporting or intermediary agencies and institutions that have been formed within this multilateral conglomerate.

Cognitive mobilization is a broader concept than innovative capacity since it is not reducible to the commercialization of knowledge and research. Similar terms are knowledge mobilization or the “cogitisation of society” (Etzkowitz, 2003) and to some extent also knowledgeability (see Chapter 1 by Adolf, Mast and Stehr, this volume). Cognitive mobilisation denotes the increasing exposure of individuals, organisations, regions, and nations (as well as supra-national entities like the EU) to “scientification” processes, meaning the emergent significance of scientific logic including in everyday life (“Lebenswelt”), the rapid acquisition of new information and knowledge-sharing as well as interactive learning (see Adam et al., 2005). This process is accompanied or in some cases corrected by the parallel process of the socialization of science or its social contextualization. Cognitive mobilization refers to the capability not only for action in the sense of applying and utilizing scientific and technological knowledge but also for a critical reflection on the risks of ‘scientification’ (and its technological applications). This capability renders long-term strategic policy on science and technology (S&T) possible, harnessing it in the framework of sustainable development.

In contrast, national innovative capacity is “the ability of a country to produce and commercialize a flow of innovative technology over the long term” (Furman, Porter, and Stern, 2002). The results of innovative capacity are patent applications regarding new products and services, trademarks, industrial design, organisational and marketing innovations, and innovation processes (Innovation Union Scoreboard, 2011). Cognitive mobilisation is important for innovative capacity, yet it may result in an increasing knowledge stock, part of which is not intended or anticipated for marketable purposes but which contains ingredients enabling strategic, long-term thinking and interactive (lifelong) learning (Lundvall, 2006) as well as the capability for (self-)reflection. All these components of cognitive mobilisation which enhance learning capacity and creativity on the level of society accelerate and improve innovation performance. Namely, they enable creative re-combinations of different types of knowledge.

Joseph Schumpeter (1912) stated that innovations are new combinations of production factors. In the knowledge economy of today, innovation is largely about new combinations of the production factor knowledge. New combinations happen through spontaneous spillovers but also via organised transfers of knowledge. New knowledge is created from new combinations, refl ected in the fact that the fi rst part of Schumpeter’s claim, “new combinations,” is today often discussed in terms of creativity (also see Trigilia, 2002). Among other things, this creativity is expressed in the ability to identify the diff erent types of knowledge to combine and to perform the combinations.

It can likewise be argued that the presence of social capital is an input in the production of human capital and knowledge and that it facilitates the creative combination of the production factor of knowledge. According to another explanation, social capital may even be viewed as a production factor or a component of total factor productivity (Dasgupta, 2001).


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__Dasqupta, P. (2001). Social capital and economic performance. Analytics.

__Etzkowitz, H. (2003). Innovation in innovation: The Triple Helix of universityindustry-government relations. Social Science Information, 2003, 42 (3), 293–337.

____Furman, J.L., Porter, M.E., & and Stern, S. (2002) The determinants of national innovative capacity. Research Policy, 31, 899–933.

__Innovation Union Scoreboard (2011); Research and innovation union scoreboard.

__Lundvall, B.-Å. (2006). Interactive learning, social capital and economic performance. In Foray, D. and Kahin, B. (eds.), Advancing Knowledge and the Knowledge Economy. Harvard University Press, US.

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__Nowotny, H., Scott, P., & Gibbons, M. (2001). Re-thinking science: Knowledge and the public in an age of uncertainty. Cambridge: Polity Press.

__Schumpeter, J.A. (1912/1934). Theorie der wirtschaftligen Entwicklung. Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot. English translation published in 1934 as The Theory of Economic Development.

__Trigilia, C. (2002). Economic sociology. Oxford: Blackwell.


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