The relationships between science, technologies and their industrial exploitation

Quoted from Dosi, G., Llerena, P., & Labini, M. S. (2006). 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), 1450–1464.

”A distinct issue regards the relations between scientific knowledge, technological innovation, and their economic exploitation. In this respect, note that the SYS [‘Stanford–Yale–Sussex] synthesis is far from claiming any linear relation going from the former to the latter. On the contrary, many contributors to the SYS view have been in the forefront of arguing that the relationships go both ways (see Freeman (1982, 1994) , Kline and Rosenberg (1986) , Pavitt (1999) , and Rosenberg (1982) , among others).

In particular, it has been shown that, first, technological innovations have sometimes preceded science in that practical inventions came about before the scientific understanding of why they worked (the steam engine is a good case in point, and another example is the airplane, the aerodynamic properties of which have been mathematically elaborated only after the actual development of the artefact).

Second, it is quite common for scientific advances to have been made possible by technological ones, especially in the fields of instruments (think of the importance of the microscope or, in the field of theoretical physics, of accelerators).

Third, one typically observes some complementarity between science and technology, which however ’varies considerably amongst sectors of application, in terms of the direct usefulness of academic research results, and of the relative importance attached to such results and to training’ (Pavitt, 1987 , p. 7).

Having said that, it is also the case that since the Industrial Revolution, the relative contribution of science to technology has been increasing and its impact has become more and more pervasive, while the rates of innovation have often been shaped by the strength of the science base from which they draw (Nelson, 1993; Mowery and Nelson, 1999; Mokyr, 2002 ). In turn, ’this science base largely is the product of publicly funded research and the knowledge produced by that research is largely open and available for potential innovations to use. That is, the market part of the Capitalist Engine [of technological progress] rests on a publicly supported scientific commons’ (Nelson, 2004 , p. 455).”