Adoption of the Innovation
System Concept in Sweden

Uppsala Studies in Economic History, No. 81

By Magnus Eklund
November 2007
Uppsala University Press                                                                          
Distributed by Coronet Books Inc.
ISBN: 9789155469436                                                                  
158 pages, 6 1/2 x 9 1/2"
$47.50 Paper Original


In 2001 Sweden founded the government agency of VINNOVA, named after the OECD-endorsed innovation system concept. Criticising the common assumption that countries are passive and uncritical recipients of the approaches promoted by the OECD, this dissertation tries to show that Swedish actors were in fact very active and strategic as they contributed to the national adoption of the concept.

With inspiration from conceptual history and Quentin Skinner’s analysis of the rhetorical use of concepts, this study focuses on the research funding reform process between 1995 and 2001, investigating how actors trying to defend the contested institution of sectoral research used the innovation system concept to rhetorically legitimise their project. To compare these uses with earlier ways of discussing innovation in Sweden, the innovation debate that arose in relation to the industrial crises of the 1970s and 1990s has also been studied.

It was found that the early Swedish innovation debate had paid little attention to the university sector. When Research 2000 in 1998 proposed that researcher-dominated research councils should be given control over sectoral research funding, a coalition in favour of industrially relevant research mobilised to protect its influence over research funding. The concept was now appropriated and used to rhetorically reframe the universities as part of a system with the main function of promoting innovations. By using the concept it was also possible to draw on the legitimacy offered by the OECD and science.

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