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Chapter 6 Techno-nationalism and Meso InnovationSystems: A Cognitive Dynamics Approach "Mon crane est tellement lourd qu 'il m 'estimpossible de leporter. Je le roule autour de moi lentement... unefoisje me suis devore lespattes sans m 'en apercevoir." Gustave Flaubert Introduction Currently, the most fashionable weaselword in the forum of discussions on innovation is the notion of "a national system of innovation". It refers to elusive arrays of public and private institutions and organizations, but also to public policy thruststhatare shapingstablepatternsofbehaviour andparticular incentive reward systems. These are purported to weave different logics together in a creative way: the logic built into the technical trajectories, the logic concretely embodied in the production system, and the institutional logic defining the coherence ofrepresentations and the mechanisms of coordination of action plans by stakeholders (Niosi et al. 1992; Best 1990). In the introductory chapter of Nelson's National Innovation Systems, a central hypothesis is formulated about "a new spirit of what might be called 'technonationalism'...combining a strongbelief that thetechnological capabilities of a nation's firms are a key source of their competitive prowess, with a belief that these capabilities are in a sense national, and canbe builtby national action" (Nelson 1993:3). While Richard Nelson and Nathan Rosenberg are careful to explain that one ofthe central concernsoftheir multi-countrystudy is to establish "whether, and if so in what ways, the concept of a 'national' system made any sense today", they also add that defacto "national governments act as if it did" (Nelson 1993:5). 113 The New Geo-Governance The objective is to raise some questions about this hypothesis. In the first section it is suggested that any meaningful characterization of a modern economy must start with a fair assessment of theparadoxicalmeaning of the process of globalization of economic activities, and of its impact on the national production and governance systems. This forces a confrontation both withwhat JohnNaisbitt has called the "global paradox" (Naisbitt 1994) andwhat I elsewhere have called the "dispersive revolution". Inthe second section, I explore the dynamics ofthe organization andthe growth of knowledge, which underpin the innovation system, and the complex way in which institutions impact on cognitive processes and learning, and, through i this channel, generate the thrust that generates innovations and pressures on the existing institutional order (Johnson 1992). ] In the third section, there is the suggestion that the innovation process, even I when defined broadly,rarely encompasses the "national" scene, but wouldappear { to be congruent with meso-regional/sectoral realities that are the genuine source j of synergies and social learning (Friedmann and Abonyi 1976; Dahmen 1988; { Acs, de la Mothe, and Paquet 1996). ; In the fourth section, a critical appraisal is made of the phenomenon of the \ "centralized mindset" that seems to permeate the study of innovation systems. i There would appear to be a strong attachment to "centralized ways of thinking, j assuming that every pattern must have a single cause, an ultimate controlling factor" (Resnick 1994b). This, in turn,underpins a tendency to bet on centralized means ofproblem-solving that almost inevitably lead to compulsive centralization and misguided approaches of the Catoblepas-type. Catoblepas is a legendary animal (described by Gustave Flaubert in his shortstory ,La tentation de SaintAntoine) which had become sotop-heavy that it could no longer hunt for a living and, as our epigraph indicates, in order to survive, unwittingly ate its own legs. I have shown in an earlier paper how damaging such an approach may be in dealing with innovation (Paquet 1988). In the fifth section, averypreliminary examination isundertakenofthe manner in which the three countries of North America are confronting this issue, and in passing, some key research challenges facing those who are really concerned about catalyzing the innovative society are identified. The reinvention of governance Empirical economies are "instituted processes", i.e., they are run according to a set of rules and conventions that vests the wealth-creation process with relative unity and stability by harmonizing the geo-technical constraints, imposed by the environment, with the values and plans privileged by decision-makers (Polanyi 1968). Modern economies have substantially evolved over the last century. The 114 Techno-nationalism and Meso Innovation Systems wealth-creation process of the late 19th centurywas mainly instituted as a social armisticebetween somewhatrigid constraints imposed by technology, geography, and natural resources endowments, on the one hand, and the less than perfectly coordinated plans of private and public decision-makers, on the other hand. As both constraints andpreferences evolved, economies cameto be instituted differently because...


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