The European Community and innovation policy : reorienting towards diffusion
This study aims to explore the position of diffusion oriented support mechanisms in European Community (EC) innovation policy. With the shift from the traditional linear model towards an integrative approach to innovation, the role of diffusion of technologies and knowledge, achieved greater weight. This shift in both the thinking of academic experts, and of national policy makers, induced EC policy makers to appeal for similar changes in Community innovation policy. From the mid-1980s, the Commission of the European Communities, the key actor in EC policy making, thought to move its innovation policy away from the traditional science push approach. This study shows that in the implementation of programmes for research, technology and innovation, the traditional linear model is still dominant. The core research and technological development programmes still operate from a science push concept of innovation, mainly due to their pre-competitive nature. The case of SPRINT illustrates that policy programmes with an integrated innovation perspective can be successful at Community level. However the programme operates in a relatively isolated position from overall research and technological development policy. The case of BRITE-EURAM illustrates the difficulties of collaborative research programmes, the bulk of EC support mechanisms, to move away from the traditional model. The study shows how conflicting policy objectives arising from the different policy networks that shape EC policy making, in combination with a lack of co-ordination in those policy domains, hinder the emergence of the integrated approach. Consequently EC diffusion policy, implemented from the perspective of the linear model, will have a sub-optimal impact on the competitiveness of European industries.