Markets, Sciences, and the Dynamics of Technological Change

Loet Leydesdorff

·       short introduction of the readings, week by week, course 2009

Format:                      seminars, student presentations
Assessment:                 on the basis of take-home exams and/or a term paper (10 ECTS)

Time:                          Tuesday, 1 – 4 pm.

Place:                         PC Hoofthuis, room PC K09

                                   With the exception of March 31 and May 12: REC G2.01 (computer room)

THEME of the course:

The development of academic research capacities carries within itself the seeds of future economic and social development in the form of human capital, tacit knowledge, and intellectual property. Channeling knowledge flows into new sources of technological innovation has become an academic task, changing the structure and function of the university. Realizing the benefits of this potential resource occurs through organizational innovations such as technology transfer offices, incubator facilities, and research centers with industrial participation. The change in emphasis from a sole concentration on the production and dissemination of knowledge to technology transfer and firm formation places the university in a new alignment with the productive sector.

The new social contract between the university and the larger society is being negotiated in much more specific terms than the old one. The former contract was based on a linear model of innovation, presuming long-term contributions of academic knowledge to the economy. Now both long- and short-term contributions are seen to be possible, based on examples of firm-formation and research contracts in fields such as biotechnology and computer science. A spiral model of innovation is required to capture multiple reciprocal linkages at different stages of the capitalization of knowledge.

What dynamics are involved? How are industrial and R&D policies affected? Should government strategies focus on channels of information in the hope of creating systematically effective and dynamic interdependencies without becoming directly involved in specific technologies or projects? Alternatively, should government policies focus on encouraging and subsidizing strategic alliances among companies and universities to overcome blockages or ‘reverse salients’ in particular technologies with significance for future product development?

These questions require an analysis of technological developments and such analyses are offered in economic theories of innovation, the sociology of organizations, and science & technology studies. How do we integrate the results of the different perspectives? The goal of this course is to give an analytical introduction to the various theoretical approaches to technology, by studying and discussing original articles from the various traditions, and to analyze their consequences for the design of empirical research. Studies which conceptualize technological development in terms of “technological trajectories”, “networks,” and “systems” are compared. We also address the question of how complex systems can channel and retain information. For that purpose, models of technological change will be discussed, and students will be given the opportunity to simulate some models on the computer. Consequences of these various approaches for the possibilities of technology policy and technology assessment will be discussed.

Week 1

Tuesday, February 3
- Introduction

Week 2: Questioning technology

Tuesday, February 10

- Gibbons, Michael, et al., Evolution of Knowledge Production, Chapter 1 of The New Production of Knowledge (London, etc.: Sage, 1994), pp. 17-45.

•       List the characteristic features of Mode 1 and Mode 2 knowledge production types.

•       How is the process of communication different in Mode 1 and Mode 2 type science?

•       What is the unit of analysis (the evolving unit) being discussed? (Society; science & technology?) How are the feedback loops conceptualized?

- Sahal, Devendra, Alternative conceptions of technology, Research Policy 10 (1981) 2-24.

•       Try to clarify the differences and/or similarities between the three approaches addressed in this article by using a concrete innovation as an example, e.g. the introduction of robots in car manufacturing.

•       What would each approach imply in terms of, for example, analytical categories and empirical research?

Further reading:
- Noble, David F., The wedding of science to the useful arts, in: America by Design. Science, Technology and the Rise of Corporate Imperialism (New York: Knopf, 1977), pp. 3-19.

•       What kinds of factors, according to Noble, affect technological systems?

•       Give some historical examples to support your response to the previous question.


Week 3: Theoretical perspectives: trajectory approaches

Tuesday, February 17

- Rosenberg, Nathan, The direction of technological change: inducement mechanisms and focusing devices, pp. 108-25 in: Perspectives on Technology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976).

•       Rosenberg feels that economic forces are insufficient to explain technological innovation; what explanation does he provide as an alternative?

•       Can you provide other examples of ‘inducement mechanisms’ and ‘focusing devices’?

•       What can one learn about technology policies from Rosenberg’s article?

- Dosi, Giovanni, Technological paradigms and technological trajectories, Research Policy 11 (1982) 147-162.

•       How can the aircraft’s development from the DC3 to the DC10 be cited as an example of a trajectory if the DC3 had a combustion engine and the DC10 a jet engine?

•       Some argue that technological trajectories can only be distinguished with hindsight, since in the middle of a development process many options are available. Would you agree with such an argument? Can you explain the difference between these two perspectives?

•       Does Dosi think that market mechanisms play an important role in determining technological direction? If so, how?


Further reading:

- Nelson, Richard R., Economic Growth via the Coevolution of Technology and Institutions, pp. 21-32 in: Loet Leydesdorff and Peter van den Besselaar (eds.), Evolutionary Economics and Chaos Theory. New Directions in Technology Studies, (London: Pinter, 1994).


•       What happens when technologies and the institutional frameworks of society ‘co-evolve’?

•       Which institutional factors can be expected to influence technological evolutions?


Week 4: Actor/network approaches

Tuesday, February 24

- Callon, Michel, The sociology of an actor network: the case of the electric vehicle, pp. 19-34 in: Michel Callon, John Law, Arie Rip (eds.), Mapping the dynamics of science and technology (London: MacMilllan, 1986).


•       Explain how the construction and definition of “actor worlds” can prompt the development of technological innovations.

•       Why does Callon find it impossible to consider sociological and physical factors separately?


- Van Lente, Harro & Arie Rip, Expectations of Technological Developments: An Example of Prospective Structures to be Filled in by Agency, pp. 203-229 in: Cornelis Disco & Barend van der Meulen (Eds.), Getting New Technologies Together: Studies in Making Sociotechnical Order. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1998.


•       What is the evolving unit? How can one observe technological development from this perspective?

•       Try to define the relation with the “Mode 2” discussion.

•       “Radical constructivism” is sometimes distinguished from “social constructivism” (Pinch & Bijker, 1987; below). What would be possible implications of this difference for S&T policies?


Further reading:

- Geels, Frank, Hekkert, M., Jacobsson, S., Schot, J., Verbong, G., Raven, R., Bergek, A., Sanden, B., Hillman, K., & Suurs, R. (2008). The dynamics of sustainable innovation journeys. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, 20(5), 521-536. 

Week 5: Technological Systems

Tuesday, March 3

- Hughes, Thomas P., The evolution of large technological systems. Pp. 51-82 in: Wiebe Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes, Trevor Pinch (eds), The social construction of technological systems (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987).

•       According to Hughes, how does the socio-economic environment determine problem choice during technological development?

•       Why is interconnection of production and distribution in a system important for the production process?

•       Regulations are policy instruments that can be used to benefit technological trajectories. Explain how this method was used to aid the introduction of electricity.

•       Explain the concept “reverse salient”.

- Sahal, Devendra, Technological guideposts and innovation avenues, Research Policy 14 (1985) 61-82.

•       In one paragraph briefly sketch an overview of the process of technological development as Sahal describes it.

•       Sahal mentions a few policy implications resulting from his argument in the last paragraph of the article. Try to list a few more.


Further reading:

- Allen, Peter M., Evolutionary Complex Systems: Models of Technology Change, pp. 1-18 in: Loet Leydesdorff and Peter van den Besselaar (eds.), Evolutionary Economics and Chaos Theory. New Directions in Technology Studies (London: Pinter, 1994).

•       Allen sees technology as part of a complex human system. How does this system develop?

•       Allen describes how technological developments create structures and organisation in technological systems. What effect will this have on future developments?


Week 6: Economic determinants of technological development

Tuesday, March 10

- Freeman, Chris & Carlota Perez, Structural crises of adjustment, business cycles and investment behaviour, pp. 38-66 in: Giovanni Dosi et al. (eds.), Technical Change and Economic Theory (London: Pinter, 1988).


•       Summarize the basic theory on which this paper is based.

•       What is large-scale diffusion of information technology in a society dependent upon?

•       What roles do Freeman & Perez see technology playing in the economic sector?


- Schmookler, Joseph, Economic sources of inventive activity, Journal of Economic History 22 (1962) 1-20.

•       According to Schmookler how is innovation created in a technological industry?

•       What role does demand play in encouraging technological advance?

- Schumpeter, Joseph, The Process of Creative Destruction, in: Socialism, Capitalism and Democracy (London: Allen & Unwin, 1943), pp. 81-86.

•       How can innovation be considered a destructive process?

•       How does Schumpeter describe the relationship between technological developments and economic systems?

First take-home exam


Week 7: Globalization of the knowledge-based economy


Tuesday, March 17


- Dosi, Giovanni, Patrick Llerena, and Mauro Sylos Labini, The relationships between science, technologies and their industrial exploitation: An illustration through the myths and realities of the so-called ‘European Paradox’, Research Policy 35(10) (2006) 1450-1464.


•       Which elements of European policies for addressing the European Paradox should be left to the nation states and why?

•       Can one also expect an Asian Paradox? How would it be similar or different from the European one?


- Mowery, David C., and Bhaven N. Sampat, The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 and University-Industry Technology Transfer: A Model for Other OECD Governments? Journal of Technology Transfer, 30(1/2) (2005) 115-127.

•       Should an inventor first patent his/her innovation in the US or at home? Can you provide pros and cons?

•       Some authors make a distinction between an “entrepreneurial” and a “commercial university”? Is this only a rhetoric trick?

•       Make the connection with the discussion about “Mode 2” and “Triple Helix:” how are the models different?

Further reading:
- Zhou, Ping, and Loet Leydesdorff, The emergence of China as a leading nation in science. Research Policy, 35(1) (2006) 83-104. 

•       From a European perspective, one is inclined to consider the nation no longer as the unit of analysis. Which other units of analysis (evolving units) might be more appropriate? Why would this look differently from the perspective of emerging economies? (And from an American perspective?)


Weeks 8: Models of technological developments

Tuesday, March 24
handing-in of mid-term exams. Please, provide hardcopy!

- David, Paul A., Clio and the Economics of QWERTY, American Economic Review 75(2) (1985) 332-7.

•       Give a definition for the term “locked in”.

•       List three features that led to the QWERY keyboard becoming ‘locked in’ as the dominant keyboard.

- Leydesdorff, Loet & Peter van den Besselaar, Competing Technologies: Lock-ins and Lock-outs, Proceedings of the American Institute of Physics, Vol. 437, pp. 309-323. (Woodbury, NY.: American Institute of Physics, 1998).

•       Outline three possible technological trajectories described in this paper.

•       Under what conditions can a technology that has been locked-in break out?


Please, begin reading the text by Freeman & Soete during the following weeks. Otherwise the schedule may lead to an overload of reading in the week of the second take-home tentamen.

* Chris Freeman and Luc Soete, The Economics of Industrial Innovation (London: Pinter, 1997), pp. 227-365. (These chapters discuss the micro- and the macro-economics of technological innovation. The remainder of the book is optional reading, but highly recommended.)

Week 9: Computer practicum: simulation models of technological change.

Tuesday, March 31, 1 – 4 pm.


Week 10: Techno-Sciences: Integration and Differentiation

, April 7

- Bradshaw, George, & Marsha Lienert, The Invention of the Airplane, Proc. of the Thirteenth Ann. Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, August 7-10 (1991), pp. 605-610.


•       Explain the difference between exploring “design space” and “function space” in the process of technological problem solving.

•       How did use of the latter method help in the successful development of the airplane?


- Shinn, Terry, & Lamy, Erwin (2006). Paths of Commercial Knowledge: Forms and Consequences of University-Enterprise Synergy in Scientist-Sponsored Firms. Research Policy, 35(10) (2006), 1465-1476.

•      Compare the argument with the Mode-2 Thesis in Week 2.

•      Try to specify consequences for how to organize technology transfer in academia.


Further reading:

- Rosenberg, Nathan, Why do firms do basic research (with their own money)? Research Policy 19 (1990), pp. 165-174.

•       List several of the reasons Rosenberg cites for sectors not funding research with their own money.

•       List the reasons he gives for sectors that do choose to fund research.

Week 11: National systems of innovation

Tuesday, April 14

- Lundvall, Bengt-Åke, Innovation as an interactive process: from user-producer interaction to the national system of innovation. Pp. 349-69 in: Giovanni Dosi et al. (eds.) Technical Change and Economic Theory (London: Pinter, 1988).

•       What elements of the technological selection environment are most important according to this article?

•       In terms of communication flow, how does Lundvall’s model differ from the traditional neo-classical model of technological change?

-Yamauchi, Ichizo, Long Range Strategic Planning in Japanese R&D, in: C. Freeman (ed.), Design, Innovation and Long Cycles in Economic Development (London: Pinter, 1986).

•       Describe three government policies that helped Japan gain technological strength in the late 19th Century.

•       Explain the key success factors that contributed to Japan’s economic growth after the Second World War.


Further reading:

- Lawton-Smith, Helen, and Kawai Ho, Measuring the performance of Oxford University, Oxford Brookes University and the government laboratories’ spin-off companies, Research Policy 35(10) (2006) 1554-1568.


•       List some obstacles which a regional authority might have to face when one wants to turn a region into an innovative one?

•       What would count as success factors?

Second take-home exam

handing-in of second mid-term exams on Tuesday, April 21. Please, provide hardcopy!

Week 12: The service sector and industrial structure

Tuesday, April 21

- Barras, Richard, Interactive innovation in financial and business services: The vanguard of the service revolution, Research Policy, 19 (1990) 215-237.

•       What is considered an innovation in the services?

•       What is a “reverse innovation cycle”?

•       How does it help us to understand innovation patterns in the service sector?

- Von Hippel, Eric, and Georg von Krogh, Open Source Software and the “Private-Collective” Innovation Model: Issues for Organization Science, Organization Science, 14(2) (2003) 209-223.

•       Why do the authors consider their innovation model a third option between a private and a public model of innovation?

•       List the elements which are shared with the other two models and which are unique for this model.

•       Does the model help us to understand innovation patterns in the service sector? Or can it also be expected for the industrial sector? How?


Further reading:
- Steinmueller, W. Edward, Knowledge-based economies and information and communication technologies, International Social Science Journal 54 Issue, 171 (2002) 141-153.

•       Can you formulate how a technology policy focusing on the service sector might have to differ from an industrially-oriented stimulation policy?  What is considered an innovation in the services?

•       Do you expect a coupling between the sectorial differentiation and the geographic one?  How does this relate to “globalization”? Or should we rather conceptualise the changes in terms of a global division of labor?  

Week 13: The Dynamics of Codification in Networked Relations

Tuesday, April 28

- Robin Cowan and Dominique Foray, The Economics of Codification and the Diffusion of Knowledge, Industrial and Corporate Change 6 (1997) 595-622.

•       Give a short explanation of the process of codification.

•       How can technological developments be viewed as a method of codifying knowledge?

•       How can codification act as a selection mechanism for new technologies?


- Loet Leydesdorff and Michael Fritsch, Measuring the Knowledge Base of Regional Innovation Systems in Germany in terms of a Triple Helix Dynamics. Research Policy, 35(10) (2006) 1538-1553.

•       In a paragraph briefly outline the basic structure of the Triple Helix Model.



Further reading:

- Hansen, Morten T., Nitin Nohria, & Thomas Tierny, What’s your strategy for managing knowledge? Harvard Business Review, March-April 1999, 106-116.


•       In a hospital one uses protocols, for example, for treatments of specific illnesses. How does this knowledge base differ from that of Ernest & Young?

•       Can you specify the relations between the knowledge base of an organization, the organization, and its professional practices?


Tuesday, May 12, 10 am – 1 pm, BG 5, room 112

Hands-on class practicing Science & technology indicators

Week 14: Social contexts of technological innovations

Tuesday, May 19, 1 – 4 pm

- Saxenian, AnnaLee, The Bangalore Boom: From Brain Drain to Brain Circulation? In K. Kenniston and D. Kumar (eds.) Bridging the Digital Divide: Lessons From India. Bangalore: National Institute of Advanced Studies, 2000; at


•       Does the discussion about codes relate to this one about skills? How?


- Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class, Washington Monthly, May 2002, at

•       Can you draw up a list of your favorite European cities, and how with this compare with your intuition about their ranking on a creativity index?

•       Can you do the same for the Netherlands?
•       Do you find Florida’s arguments convincing? Why and why not?


Further reading:

- Frenken, Koen, Geography of Science: A proximity approach, Paper presented at the DIME workshop on Evolutionary Economic Geography, Utrecht, September 2-4, 2008.

•      Frenken draws an analogy between production and diffusion processes in the economy and in science.

•      Does it make a difference whether goods, services, or knowledge are produced and distributed?


Week 15: Politics, institutions, and innovations

Tuesday, May 26

- Van den Belt, Henk & Arie Rip, The Nelson-Winter-Dosi model and synthetic dye chemistry. Pp. 135-158 in: Wiebe Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes, Trevor Pinch (eds.), The social construction of technological systems (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987).

•       Outline the argument against considering the Nelson-Winter-Dosi model as an evolutionary model?

•       What are the implications of this argument for the model?

•       Governmental policy (patent law) played a crucial role in the commencement of chemical technology. What would be the relevance of the idea of a ‘nexus’ for contemporary politics and/or for steering other sectors (e.g., the service sector)?

- Lucio Biggiero, Self-organizing processes in building entrepreneurial networks: a theoretical and empirical investigation, Human Systems Management 20 (2001) 209-222.

•    What are the advantages of connectivity, proximity, trust? Can these concepts be defined in terms of relations (links) and positions (nodes) in networks?
•    What are the implications for government policies? Is this a recipe for “leaving it to the market”? Would you be able to develop the concept of “niche management” in this context? What would be the role of a “regional innovation organizer”?
•    How does the knowledge factor come in? What role (function?) can be expected for research facilities?

Further reading:
- Peter Van den Besselaar, Democracy and Technological Change: Limits to Steering, in: R. Chatfield, S. Kuhn, M. Muller (Eds.), PDC 98 Proceedings of the Participatory Design Conference. Seattle, WA, USA, November 1998.

•       Provide several reasons why efforts at technological prediction could fail.

•       Give several reasons to support the rejection of technological determinism.

•       What is participatory design?

Week 16: Technology and Society

Tuesday, June 2

- Callon, Michel, An Essay on Framing and Overflowing: Economic Externalities Revisited by Sociology, pp. 244-269 in: The Laws of the Market. Oxford: Blackwell.


•       Can one expect that social constructivism will be able to propose institutional arrangements that improve the monitoring and evaluation of research and development? Can you provide this policy relevant elaboration to Callon’s argument?

•      Has social constructivism come up with institutional arrangements that improve the monitoring and evaluation of research and development?


- Beck, Ulrich, From Industrial Society to the Risk Society: Questions of Survival, Social Structure and Ecological Enlightenment, Theory, Culture & Society 9 (1992) 97-123.


•       How do the origins of industrial risk differ from those of naturally occurring risks?

•       How is modern society protected against this kind of risk?

•       How have some modern technologies subverted the foundations of this type of risk logic?


Further (obligatory) reading:

* Chris Freeman and Luc Soete, The Economics of Industrial Innovation (London: Pinter, 1997), pp. 227-365. (These chapters discuss the micro- and the macro-economics of technological innovation. The remainder of the book is “further reading” material, but highly recommended.)

Third (final) exam questions

Please, hand in the answers to the final (take-home) exams on Monday, June 29, before 4 pm. Please, provide hardcopy.
East Indian House (Kloveniersburgwal 48); my mailbox is located at Communication Studies, Kloveniersburgwal 48 (on the first floor).