Innovative Milieux: Advanced Posts of Interpenetration between the Economic System and the Science System
A growing number of governments, political parties, and enterprises set the theme „innovation“ on their agenda and join in the global race to more competitive national economies. In this race the concept of the „innovative milieu“ serves as an important point of orientation and as a political target that, on the first glance, seems to be transferable in concrete political measures. A basic feature of innovative milieux is the quick and easy transfer of knowledge to products in demand. This speed-up in the diffusion of knowledge is not only interesting with respect to the economic advantages but also with respect to science. It is the basic thesis of this paper that innovative milieux represent special cases where the economic system and the science system interpenetrate in an extreme way. Empirical findings show that the actors of innovative milieux have a strong cultural proximity to basic attitudes and behavior within the science system. This relates to the institutionalization of trial and error, the reinforcement of exploratory behavior, the flow of information, and to a special mixture of cooperation and competition. An essential feature of innovative milieux derives from the network relations of its actors. These relations have to be balanced a) to the need to create trust and reduce uncertainty, and b) to the need to stay permeable enough for linkages with new actors from outside. With regard to time innovative milieux have to be conceived from an evolutionary perspective. This involves several steps: Development of prerequisites, consolidation, attraction of labor and enterprises from other regions. From the evolutionary perspective, too, possible factors of preventing or accelerating the „entropic death“ (Camagni 1991) of innovative milieux can be discussed. The exceptional character of innovative milieux has consequences for innovation-oriented political strategies. The self-enforcing dynamics of innovative milieux create a tendency to more economic inequality between regions (core-periphery differences). This is contradictory to political strategies in which innovation-oriented policy is applied to reach an offset between prospering and impoverished regions. In many cases a strategy starting from the assumption of an enduring non-innovative milieu seems to be more realistic and more promising. Further on, the new more direct links between enterprises and research institutes question the current shape of technology transfer institutions. Finally the potential effects of the new trend to encourage the entrepreneurship of research staff on the science system are discussed.