«Classifications of Innovations. Survey and Future Directions»

Mario Coccia. National Research Council of Italy, Ceris-Cnr, W.P. N° 2/2006. See references in the original publication of this text.

«Discussion and future directions

»The abundance of types mentioned means that different types of innovation are called by the same name and the same innovation is classified in different manners. Gertrude Stein and William Shakespeare stated “a rose is a rose is a rose. And a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet”. Garcia and Calantone (2002) mention some examples such as the typewriter and the Canon laser photocopier to show that the same innovation can be placed at the beginning or the end of the scale, according to the researcher. The ambiguity of this classification makes it impossible to compare the various studies and, according to the authors, the numerous typologies existing in the economics of innovation, technometrics, economics of technical change, MOT, etc., have hindered the development of knowledge in these fields.

»A new taxonomy that tries to overcome the limits of exiting classification it is the scale of technological innovation intensity, elaborated by Coccia (2005). The idea was to develop a way to measures the economic impact of innovation and to provide assessment of the effects on the geo-economic system. In fact, in the economics of innovation, there are no classifications for the effects of innovation on the economic system, although in other fields there are many different scales used to classify (and quantify) an event or the power of a change. Amongst the most common examples is the MCS scale (Mercalli, 1883; Cancani, 1903; Sieberg, 1930) or the Richter scale 1958 used in geophysics to measure the intensity magnitude of earthquakes; the international scale of nuclear events (INES); the scale invented by the English admiral Beaufort to measure the force of the wind, the Douglas scale concerning the state of the sea, the Saffir-Simpson scale for Hurricanes, and so on.

»For this reason, a scale of technological innovation intensity, is a meta-taxonomy of the economic impact of technological innovation, subsuming less comprehensive taxonomies (Coccia, 2005). This new approach is called ‘seismic’ because the aim is to classify and quantify innovation and technical change through an evaluation scale similar to that used in seismology by Mercalli, who evaluate the intensity of earthquakes through the description of the effects on the geographical environment.

»In fact, according to this new approach to classify technical change, the socio-economic system is changed by innovations that modify the economic space with a series of effects both on the subjects and the objects (the technological intensity measures the strength of the technical change produced by the innovation within the economy). Moreover, the metrics of this approach quantifies the economic and social impact of technical change, over time and space, through a indicator called Magnitude of Technical Change (Figure 3).

»The scale of innovation intensity is described in table 1. It shows that some of the taxonomies for innovations presented in economic literature are synthesized in new levels, called innovation degrees. This scale synthesizes the abundance of innovation taxonomies presented in economic literature where different types of innovation are called by the same name and same innovations are classified in different levels. The innovation degree allows a comparison among various innovations, which is impossible with the previous classifications.

»Coccia (2005) argues that although the causes that originate innovations are different, the effects on the geo-economics systems are always similar. For instance the effects produced by the VII degree innovations are the following:

»- The means of human communication are radically changed and a new means of communication, that heavily affects all the economic subjects and objects, has origin, forcing all those who use it to change their habits. A new Techno-economic paradigm is born. The innovation of VII degree produces the following effects on Consumer, Firm and Market.

»- Consumer. Changes in lifestyle, in habits tendency to save and invest, etc. The standard of living and well being are considerably improved.

»- Firm. Involves all the firms within the economic system. The organizational structures and production processes are changed. New firms offering new services and/or products are founded. Production, organizational and management methods change.

»- Market. This innovation revolutionizes all the existing markets, creating new ones. The markets become increasingly turbulent.

»Concluding remarks

»Nowadays, technical change and innovation play more and more a fundamental role in various fields. Technical change can display in several types of innovation which have different intensity. The classifications and measurements of technical change are important indicators for the economic growth, the consumers’ behavior, the analysis of international trade and the evaluation of monetary and fiscal policies. The measurement of technology is the key to the forecasting and management of product and process innovations.

»The economic literature on technical change uses different names to indicate the same type of technical change (Archibugi, Freeman, Pavitt, Durand, Abernathy, Clark and others). This diversity is not considered a heterogeny (different elements that make up the innovation) but rather a heterophylly (differing forms of innovation with common origin and genes). The latter generates different definitions of innovations, which are substantially similar, but differ in the form. From this survey I conclude that there is a relatively large number of individual and unconnected innovation classifications that tend to be disconnected from each other or ignore the different input and process issues responsible innovation diversity.

»For this reason the new directions to classify the technical change are based on common denominators, such as the innovation intensity degree that is based on the effects of innovation on the geo-economic system (subjects, such as consumers and firms; objects such as: means of communication, infrastructures, etc). In general the measurement and classifications of technology is carried out after that the innovative event has occurred. This logic has limits for technological forecasting and foresight but to measure innovation – a posteriori – can be useful, in similar way is useful to measures and classifies the intensity of earthquakes (one of the most unpredictable events) after they have occurred. In fact, a country can learn from past innovations and equip itself with modern infrastructures, means of communication, trained human resources, which are its strength in absorbing and accepting the impact of future technological innovations. This explains why a country with a large number of computers, modern telecommunication networks, universities, modern means of communication, science parks and trained human resources is advantaged in the absorption of new technological innovations and has a competitive advantage in comparison to countries with less technological infrastructures and resources.

»Moreover all taxonomies present a level called revolution, which indicate a high impact of innovation. For instance, within the scale of technological intensity the intensity (Coccia, 2005) of the 7th degree innovation is strictly limited to those innovations that change human communication and have mass diffusion. Seventh degree is similar to the technological revolution of Freeman and Soete (1987) and revolution – innovation of Abernathy and Clark (1985).

»In all, the difficulty presents to classify and measure the innovations is due to several variables of the technical change function. This is a serious problem for all economists and scholars since the measurement and classifications of technical change and innovation cannot be traced to a single discipline, but these difficulties represent a challenge still to be tacked.»

Innovation Typologies
Thematic Readings

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