Institutions and Systems: Analysing Technical Innovation Processes from an Institutional Perspective

  • Raymund WerleEmail author


Different sub-disciplines of the social sciences analyse the evolution and diffusion of technical innovations from an institutional perspective. Important contributions are provided by socio-economic studies of national systems of innovation, by politico-economic research on the varieties of capitalism, and by the sociology of technology. These studies often start from rather simple distinctions between types of technical innovations (e.g., radical versus incremental) which they usually do not elaborate on. Also, most of them neglect that particularly large and complex technical systems require specific institutional provisions for their functioning. Such “black-boxing” of technology by and large facilitates detecting generalisable relations between institutional constellations and technical innovations. But a more sophisticated analysis of the relationship between institutions and technical innovations needs more precise concepts of both technology and institutions, and it must dismiss the prevailing institutional determinism. Processes of technical and institutional innovations are characterised by co-evolution , interaction and mutual adjustment.


Venture Capital Radical Innovation Technical Innovation National Innovation System Incremental Innovation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Amable, B. (2000). Institutional complementarity and diversity of social systems of innovation and production. Review of International Political Economy, 7(4), 645–687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Archibugi, D., & Pianta, M. (1992). The technological specialization of advanced countries. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  3. Baumol, W. J. (2002). The free-market innovation machine. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bessen, J., & Meurer, M. J. (2008). Patent failure: How judges, bureaucrats, and lawyers put innovators at risk. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Block, F., & Keller, M. R. (2009). Where do innovations come from? Transformations in the U.S. economy, 1970–2006. Socio-economic Review, 7(3), 459–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Breschi, S., & Malerba, F. (1997). Sectoral innovation systems: Technological regimes, Schumpeterian dynamics, and spatial boundaries. In C. Edquist (Ed.), Systems of innovation: Technologies, institutions and organizations (pp. 130–156). London: Pinter.Google Scholar
  7. Carlsson, B. (1994). Technological systems and economic performance. In M. Dodgson & R. Rothwell (Eds.), The handbook of industrial innovation (pp. 13–24). Aldershot: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  8. Carlsson, B., Jacobsson, S., Holmén, M., & Rickne, A. (2002). Innovation systems: Analytical and methodological issues. Research Policy, 31(2), 233–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Casper, S. (2000). Institutional adaptiveness, technology policy and the diffusion of new business models: The case of German biotechnology. Organization Studies, 21(5), 887–914.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Casper, S., & Glimstedt, H. (2001). Economic organization, innovation systems and the Internet. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 17(2), 265–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Casper, S., & Matraves, C. (2003). Institutional frameworks and innovation in the German and UK pharmaceutical industry. Research Policy, 32(10), 1865–1897.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Casper, S., Lehrer, M., & Soskice, D. (1999). Can high-technology industries prosper in Germany? Institutional frameworks and the evolution of the German software and biotechnology industries. Industry and Innovation, 6(1), 5–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Castilla, E. J., Hwang, H., Granovetter, E., & Granovetter, M. (2000). Social networks in Silicon Valley. In C.-M. Lee, W. F. Miller, M. G. Hancock, & H. S. Rowen (Eds.), The Silicon Valley edge: A habitat for innovation and entrepreneurship (pp. 218–247). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Chandler, A. D. (1977). The visible hand: The managerial revolution in American business. Cambridge, MA: Belknap.Google Scholar
  15. Coriat, B., & Weinstein, O. (2002). Organizations, firms and institutions in the generation of innovation. Research Policy, 31(2), 273–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Crouch, C. (2003). Institutions within which real actors innovate. In R. Mayntz & W. Streeck (Eds.), Die Reformierbarkeit der Demokratie: Innovationen und Blockaden (pp. 71–98). Frankfurt am Main: Campus.Google Scholar
  17. David, P. A. (2001). The evolving accidental information super-highway. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 17(2), 159–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dolata, U. (2003). Unternehmen Technik. Akteure, Interaktionsmuster und strukturelle Kontexte der Technikentwicklung: Ein Theorierahmen. Berlin: Edition Sigma.Google Scholar
  19. Dolata, U. (2009). Technological innovations and sectoral change. Transformative capacity, adaptability, patterns of change: An analytical framework. Research Policy, 38(6), 1066–1077.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dosi, G. (1982). Technological paradigms and technological trajectories: A suggested interpretation of the determinants and directions of technical change. Research Policy, 11(3), 147–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dosi, G. (1988). Sources, procedures, and macroeconomic effects of innovation. Journal of Economic Literature, 26(3), 1120–1171.Google Scholar
  22. Edquist, C. (1997). Systems of innovation approaches: Their emergence and characteristics. In C. Edquist (Ed.), Systems of innovation: Technologies, institutions and organizations (pp. 1–35). London: Pinter.Google Scholar
  23. Edquist, C., & Lundvall, B.-Å. (1993). Comparing the Danish and the Swedish systems of innovations. In R. R. Nelson (Ed.), National innovation systems: A comparative analysis (pp. 265–298). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Faber, J., & Hesen, B. (2004). Innovation capabilities of European nations: Cross-national analyses of patents and sales of product innovations. Research Policy, 33(2), 193–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Feick, J., & Werle, R. (2010). Regulation of cyberspace. In M. Cave, R. Baldwin, & M. Lodge (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of regulation (pp. 523–547). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Freeman, C. (1987). Technology policy and economic performance: Lessons from Japan. London: Pinter.Google Scholar
  27. Freeman, C., & Louçã, F. (2002). As time goes by: From the industrial revolutions to the information revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Freeman, C., & Perez, C. (1988). Structural crises of adjustment, business cycles and investment behaviour. In G. Dosi, C. Freeman, R. R. Nelson, G. Silverberg, & L. Soete (Eds.), Technical change and economic theory (pp. 38–66). London: Pinter.Google Scholar
  29. Gallini, N. T. (2002). The economics of patents: Lessons from recent US patent reform. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 16(2), 131–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Geels, F. W. (2004). From sectoral systems of innovation to socio-technical systems. Insights about dynamics and change from sociology and institutional theory. Research Policy, 33(6–7), 897–920.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Geels, F. W. (2005). Technological transitions and system innovations: A co-evolutionary and socio-technical analysis. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  32. Geels, F. W. (2007). Transformations of large technical systems: A multilevel analysis of the Dutch highway system (1950–2000). Science, Technology & Human Values, 32(2), 123–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gibbons, M., Limoges, C., Nowotny, H., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P., & Trow, M. (1994). The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  34. Giesecke, S. (2000). The contrasting roles of government in the development of biotechnology industry in the US and Germany. Research Policy, 29(2), 205–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Graham, S. J. H., & Mowery, D. C. (2003). Intellectual property in the US software industry. In W. M. Cohen & S. A. Merrill (Eds.), Patents in the knowledge based economy (pp. 219–258). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  36. Guerrieri, P. (1999). Patterns of national specialisation in the global competitive environment. In D. Archibugi, J. Howells, & J. Mitchie (Eds.), Innovation policy in a global economy (pp. 139–159). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hall, P. A., & Soskice, D. (2001). An introduction to varieties of capitalism. In P. A. Hall & D. Soskice (Eds.), Varieties of capitalism: The institutional foundations of comparative advantage (pp. 1–70). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Hall, B. H., & Ziedonis, R. H. (2001). The patent paradox revisited: An empirical study of patenting in the US semiconductor industry, 1979–1995. RAND Journal of Economics, 32(1), 101–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Heller, M. A., & Eisenberg, R. S. (1998). Can patents deter innovation? The anticommons in biomedical research. Science, 280(5364), 698–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Henisz, W. J., Zelner, B. A., & Guillén, M. F. (2005). The worldwide diffusion of market-oriented infrastructure reform, 1977–1999. American Sociological Review, 70(6), 871–897.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hirsch-Kreinsen, H. (2002). Unternehmensnetzwerke – revisited. Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 31(2), 106–124.Google Scholar
  42. Hollingsworth, J. R. (2000). Doing institutional analysis: Implications for the study of innovations. Review of International Political Economy, 7(4), 595–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hollingsworth, J. R., & Boyer, R. (1997). Coordination of economic actors and social systems of production. In J. R. Hollingsworth & R. Boyer (Eds.), Contemporary capitalism: The embeddedness of institutions (pp. 1–47). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Höpner, M. (2005). Epilogue to ‘explaining institutional complementarity’: what have we learnt? Complementarity, coherence and institutional change. Socio-Economic Review, 3(2), 383–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hughes, T. P. (1982). Conservative and radical technologies. In S. B. Lundstedt & E. W. Colglazier (Eds.), Managing innovation (pp. 31–44). New York: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  46. Hughes, T. P. (1983). Networks of power: Electrification in western society 1880–1930. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Jaffe, A. B. (2000). The US patent system in transition: Policy innovation and the innovation process. Research Policy, 29(4–5), 531–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Jansen, D. (2002). Netzwerkansätze in der Organisationsforschung. In J. Allmendinger & T. Hinz (Eds.), Organisationssoziologie: Sonderheft 42 der Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie (pp. 88–118). Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag.Google Scholar
  49. Kitschelt, H. (1991). Industrial governance structures, innovation strategies and the case of Japan: Sectoral or cross-national comparative analysis? International Organization, 45(4), 453–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kitschelt, H., & Streeck, W. (2003). From stability to stagnation: Germany at the beginning of the twenty-first century. West European Politics, 26(4), 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kowol, U., & Krohn, W. (1995). Innovationsnetzwerke: Ein Modell der Technikgenese. In J. Halfmann, G. Bechmann, & W. Rammert (Eds.), Technik und Gesellschaft. Jahrbuch 8: Theoriebausteine der Techniksoziologie (pp. 77–105). Frankfurt am Main: Campus.Google Scholar
  52. Krücken, G., & Meier, F. (2003). Wir sind alle überzeugte Netzwerktäter: Netzwerke als Formalstruktur und Mythos der Innovationsgesellschaft. Soziale Welt, 54, 71–92.Google Scholar
  53. Küppers, G. (2002). Complexity, self-organisation and innovation networks: A new theoretical approach. In A. Pyka & G. Küppers (Eds.), Innovation networks: Theory and practice (pp. 22–52). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  54. Lange, K. (2009). Institutional embeddedness and the strategic leeway of actors: The case of the German therapeutical biotech industry. Socio-economic Review, 7(2), 181–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Larédo, P., & Mustar, P. (2001). Research and innovation policies in the new global economy: An international comparative analysis. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  56. Leydesdorff, L., & Etzkowitz, H. (1998). The triple helix as a model for innovation studies. Science and Public Policy, 25(3), 195–203.Google Scholar
  57. Lundvall, B.-Å. (1992). User-producer relationships, national systems of innovation and internationalisation. In B.-Å. Lundvall (Ed.), National systems of innovation: Towards a theory of innovation and interactive learning (pp. 45–67). London: Pinter.Google Scholar
  58. Lundvall, B.-Å., Johnson, B., Andersen, E. S., & Dalum, B. (2002). National systems of production, innovation and competence building. Research Policy, 31(2), 213–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Mayntz, R. (1993). Große technische Systeme und ihre gesellschaftstheoretische Bedeutung. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 45(1), 97–108.Google Scholar
  60. Mayntz, R. (2009). The changing governance of large technical infrastructure systems. In R. Mayntz (Ed.), Über Governance: Institutionen und Prozesse Politischer Regelung (pp. 121–150). Frankfurt am Main: Campus.Google Scholar
  61. Mayntz, R., & Hughes, T. P. (1988). The development of large technological systems. Campus: Frankfurt a.M.Google Scholar
  62. Mowery, D. C. (1994). Science and technology policy in interdependent economies. Boston: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Mowery, D. C., & Rosenberg, N. (1993). The U.S. national innovation system. In R. R. Nelson (Ed.), National innovation systems: A comparative analysis (pp. 29–75). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Mowery, D. C., & Simcoe, T. (2002). The internet. In B. Steil, D. G. Victor, & R. R. Nelson (Eds.), Technological innovation and economic performance (pp. 229–264). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  65. Nelson, R. R. (1987). Understanding technical change as an evolutionary process. Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  66. Nelson, R. R. (1988). Institutions supporting technical change in the United States. In G. Dosi, C. Freemann, R. R. Nelson, G. Silverberg, & L. Soete (Eds.), Technical change and economic theory (pp. 312–329). London: Pinter.Google Scholar
  67. Nelson, R. R. (1994). The coevolution of technologies and institutions. In R. W. England (Ed.), Evolutionary concepts in contemporary economics (pp. 139–156). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  68. Nelson, R. R., & Rosenberg, N. (1993). Technical innovation and national systems. In R. R. Nelson (Ed.), National innovation systems. A comparative analysis (pp. 3–21). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Nelson, R. R., & Winter, S. G. (1982). An evolutionary theory of economic change. Cambridge: Belknap.Google Scholar
  70. Owen-Smith, J., Riccaboni, M., Pammolli, F., & Powell, W. W. (2002). A comparison of US and European university-industry relations in the life sciences. Management Science, 48(1), 24–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Pavitt, K., & Patel, P. (1999). Global corporations and national systems of innovations: Who dominates whom? In D. Archibugi, J. Howells, & J. Mitchie (Eds.), Innovation policy in a global economy (pp. 94–119). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Perrow, C. (1984). Normal accidents, living with high-risk technologies. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  73. Podolny, J. M., & Page, K. L. (1998). Network forms of organization. Annual Review of Sociology, 24(1), 57–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Porter, M. E. (1990). The competitive advantage of nations. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  75. Powell, W. W. (1990). Neither market nor hierarchy: Network forms of organization. Research in Organizational Behavior, 12(1), 295–336.Google Scholar
  76. Powell, W. W., White, D. R., Koput, K. W., & Owen-Smith, J. (2005). Network dynamics and field evolution: The growth of interorganizational collaboration in the life sciences. American Journal of Sociology, 110(4), 1132–1205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Rammert, W. (1997). New rules of sociological method: Rethinking technology studies. The British Journal of Sociology, 48(2), 171–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Riccaboni, M., Powell, W. W., Pammoli, F., & Owen-Smith, J. (2003). Public research and industrial innovation: A comparison of US and European innovation systems in the life sciences. In A. Geuna, A. J. Salter, & W. E. Steinmueller (Eds.), Science and innovation: Rethinking the rationales for funding and governance (pp. 169–201). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  79. Rip, A., & Kemp, R. (1998). Technological change. In S. Rayner & E. L. Malone (Eds.), Human choice and climate change two: Resources and technology (pp. 327–399). Columbus: Batelle Press.Google Scholar
  80. Rosenkopf, L., & Tushman, M. L. (1994). The coevolution of technology and organization. In J. A. C. Baum & J. V. Singh (Eds.), Evolutionary dynamics of organizations (pp. 403–424). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  81. Schmidt, S., & Werle, R. (1998). Coordinating technology: Studies in the international standardization of telecommunications. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  82. Schneider, V. (2001). Die Transformation der Telekommunikation: Vom Staatsmonopol zum globalen Markt (1800–2000). Frankfurt am Main: Campus.Google Scholar
  83. Schneider, V., & Bauer, J. (2009). Von der Governance- zur Komplexitätstheorie: Entwicklungen der Theorie gesellschaftlicher Ordnung. In J. Weyer & I. Schulz-Schaeffer (Eds.), Management komplexer Systeme (pp. 31–53). München: Oldenbourg.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Schulz-Schaeffer, I. (2000). Sozialtheorie der Technik. Frankfurt am Main: Campus.Google Scholar
  85. Soskice, D. (1994). Innovation strategies of companies: A comparative institutional approach of some cross-country differences. In W. Zapf & M. Dierkes (Eds.), Institutionenvergleich und Institutionendynamik: WZB-Jahrbuch 1994 (pp. 271–289). Berlin: Edition Sigma.Google Scholar
  86. Soskice, D. (1999). Divergent production regimes: Coordinated and uncoordinated market economies in the 1980s and 1990s. In H. Kitschelt, P. Lange, G. Marks, & J. D. Stevens (Eds.), Continuity and change in contemporary capitalism (pp. 101–134). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  87. Steil, B., Victor, D. G., & Nelson, R. R. (2002). Introduction and overview. In B. Steil, D. G. Victor, & R. R. Nelson (Eds.), Technological innovation and economic performance (pp. 3–22). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  88. Streeck, W. (2011). Skills and politics: General and specific. MPIfG Discussion Paper. Köln: Max-Planck-Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung.Google Scholar
  89. Werle, R. (1998). An institutional approach to technology. Science Studies, 11(1), 3–18.Google Scholar
  90. Werle, R. (2000). Innovationspotentiale im Internet: Selbstregelung auf Strukturebene. In W. Hoffmann-Riem (Ed.), Innovation und Telekommunikation: Rechtliche Steuerung von Innovationsprozessen in der Telekommunikation (pp. 141–160). Baden-Baden: Nomos.Google Scholar
  91. Werle, R. (2002). Internet @ Europe: Overcoming institutional fragmentation and policy failure. In J. Jordana (Ed.), Governing telecommunications and the new information society in Europe (pp. 137–158). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  92. Werle, R. (2007). Zur Interdependenz von Innovationen. In H. Hof & U. Wengenroth (Eds.), Innovationsforschung: Ansätze, Methoden, Grenzen und Perspektiven (pp. 31–40). Münster/Hamburg: LIT Verlag.Google Scholar
  93. Weyer, J. (2006). Modes of governance of hybrid systems: The mid-air collision at Ueberlingen and the impact of smart technology. Science, Technology & Innovation Studies, 2(2), 127–149.Google Scholar
  94. Weyer, J., Kirchner, U., Riedl, L., & Schmidt, J. F. K. (1997). Technik, die Gesellschaft schafft: Soziale Netzwerke als Ort der Technikgenese. Berlin: Edition Sigma.Google Scholar
  95. Williamson, O. E. (1985). The economic institutions of capitalism: Firms, markets, relational contracting. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for the Study of SocietiesCologneGermany
  2. 2.Department of Organizational Sociology and Innovation StudiesUniversity of StuttgartStuttgartGermany

Personalised recommendations