Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Papers in Innovation Studies,
Lund University, CIRCLE - Centre for Innovation Research

No 2022/7: From the Systems of Innovation Approach to a General Theory of Innovation: Do Activities and Functions Reflect what Happens in Innovation Systems?

Charles Edquist () and Mart Laatsit ()
Additional contact information
Charles Edquist: CIRCLE, Lund University, Postal: CIRCLE - Centre for Innovation Research, Lund University, PO Box 117, SE-22100 Lund, Sweden
Mart Laatsit: CIRCLE, Lund University, Postal: CIRCLE - Centre for Innovation Research, Lund University, PO Box 117, SE-22100 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: ‘The system of innovation approach’ has been around in innovation research for more than three decades. In this paper, we ask whether the time has come to try to develop a general theory of innovation. There is now a considerable literature addressing what happens in the innovation systems (and not only which elements and components they include). This literature places the focus on the causes of innovations in terms of functions and activities in the systems. Analysing this literature, including the several lists of activities and functions, is the focus in this paper. We aim to find out whether these lists are useful for developing a general theory of innovation. We argue that we, as a ‘collective research community’, have already tried to do this, and that we have made some progress. We will indicate how this work can continue to develop the systems of innovation ‘approach’ into a ‘theory’.

Keywords: Innovation; System of innovation; Innovation policy; Holistic innovation policy; Linear view; Research Policy

JEL-codes: O30; O38; O49; O52

Language: English

28 pages, May 16, 2022

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