The Research Program

Technology is responsible for the largest part of modern economic growth. Technological innovation is almost entirely conducted in some twenty industrial nations. In addition, these twenty or so industrial nations widely differ in their policies designated to stimulate research and innovation in private firms. Management schemes also diverge from one nation to another. Their governmental and university research institutions are also widely divergent. In the late 1980s, the concept of National System of Innovation (NSI) was put forward by a group of scholars in order to explain both the concentration of innovative activities in a few countries, and the divergences of institutional designs from one nation to the other (as shown by C. Freeman, B. -A. Lundvall, R. Nelson). The concept has been widely adopted and hundreds of books and articles, as well as an increasing number of government departments, were using it.

National divergences in innovation result from both deliberate efforts of governments to design appropriate policy inducements, and from unintentional institutional evolution. This multiple causality is nowhere more evident than in the development and diffusion, during the postwar period, of new technologies, such as information technology and biotechnology. Different industrial nations have put forward contrasted schemes to stimulate high-technology. Examples go from the French Plan Calcul to the Japanese Super High-Performance Computer Project to Canada’s Strategic Technology Program. Similarly, in biotechnology, different institutional schemes in different nations led to the leadership of the Anglo-American countries (US, UK and Canada) their competitive university environments, large government funds and public laboratories, and well-developed venture capital markets. Conversely, the Japanese government decided that biotechnology was to be linked to large pharmaceutical and chemical industries, eventually reducing the entrepreneurial drive that has been so characteristic in Western countries.

One important dimension of NSIs is the regional one. It has been demonstrated time and again that, within industrial countries, a few regions concentrate most of the innovative activity. There are regional clusters of biotechnology as there are regional clusters of IT. These high-technology clusters are characterized by the synergy between research universities, government laboratories and innovative private firms. In Canada, our research has found that IT clusters were centred around Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. Major biotechnology clusters exist in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

A second important element is the differential growth rate of high-technology firms. Mortality is high among these firms, but those that survive usually experience rapid growth. But what factors explain this superior performance? Resource-based and competencies theory of the firm bring some elements to understand sustained superior performance of some firms over others.

Another important dimension, linked to the above mentioned debates is that of technology policy. Governments have tried for the last five decades to set the direction and pace of technological innovation, either for defence, environmental or health reasons. The effort to lay the path has been more conspicuous in high technology industries. The results have been mixed, showing some successes and also some failures amidst many intermediate results. Effective technology policy is still a matter of wide debate. What policy instruments are the most effective to induce private firms to conduct R&D, and to stimulate universities and government laboratories to conduct frontier research and transfer the results to industry?

In sum, our research goals are the understanding of the effectiveness and efficiency of policy inducements designed to stimulate research and innovation in private firms, universities and government laboratories, a goal that has been omitted in the NSI literature with a few exceptions. Also, this program tries to unveil best practices in government laboratories and university management, as well as in R&D and management activities in private firms. The comparative cross-country analysis of institutions will serve to reveal best practices in different countries with a view to design proper management schemes and public policy inducements for both developing (and advanced) nations.


A global analysis of various systems designed to stimulate technological innovation. An assessment of their efficiencies and failures.

Research Relevance

The detailed assessment could serve as a means to develop improved systems for fostering growth in technologically advanced industries.

Winning Technology Strategies

Technology is the main engine of growth in the global economy. For the world’s twenty most industrialized nations, developing programs to stimulate research and innovation is crucial to economic success. What makes the difference between economic front-runners and also-rans? Innovation management strategy is what makes the difference. While management schemes differ from nation to nation, they do contain similar components. National funding agencies and government-run laboratories provide primary support. Programs intended to foster cooperation between research universities, private companies and government agencies target research objectives. The idea is to produce a synergy between the components, thereby maximizing technological innovation.

Despite the similarity of these programs from nation to nation, there are widely varying rates of success. Britain, Canada and the United States have attained leadership in the biotech industry due to their competitive university environments, government laboratories and funds, and well-developed venture-capital markets. Japan, on the other hand, linked its biotech development to large pharmaceutical and chemical companies, which caused a reduction in entrepreneurial drive and stagnation of growth.

Research now being conducted by Jorge Niosi will attempt to put global innovation strategies in perspective. His earlier research on innovation management practices placed him in the front ranks of his fellow scholars. A new more comprehensive survey involves a comparative cross-country analysis of institutions. It will look for factors that lead to the success of one region or one country over another in fostering technological innovation.

Dr. Niosi’s research is intended to provide the most detailed, illuminating study to date on global innovation management practices.


  • Technological Innovation
  • Technology Policy
  • National Divergences
  • High-tech clusters
  • Biotechnology Clusters
  • Complexity economics

The Research Team

Tomas Bas

Tomas Bas

Professor at the Universidad Adolfo Ibanez (Chili)

Petr Hanel

Petr Hanel

Professor at the Department of Economics, Université de Sherbrooke

Susan E. Reid

Susan E. Reid

Professor at the Williams School Business, Bishop University

Xue Han

Xue Han

PhD Candidate at UQAM