, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 397–421 | Cite as

“Innovation Studies”: The Invention of a Specialty

  • Benoît Godin


Innovation has become a very popular concept over the twentieth century. However, few have stopped to study the origins of the category and to critically examine the studies produced on innovation. This paper conducts such an analysis on one type of innovation, namely technological innovation. The study of technological innovation is over one hundred years old. From the early 1900s onward, anthropologists, sociologists, historians, and economists began theorizing about technological innovation, each from his own respective disciplinary framework. However, in the last forty years an economic and “dominant” understanding of technological innovation has developed: technological innovation defined as commercialized invention. This paper documents the origins of this representation and the tradition of research to which it gave rise: “innovation studies.” More specifically, it analyzes what distinguishes this tradition from that concerned with technological change as the use of inventions in industrial production, and looks at why such a tradition originated in Europe.


Innovation Innovation studies Chris Freeman Intellectual history 



I sincerely thank two evaluators, including Richard Nelson for his very constructive and substantial comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MontrealCanada

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