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  May 1999    

Global experts discuss technology policy research
On 16 and 17 October 1998, the United Nations University Institute for New Technologies (UNU/INTECH) hosted an international conference on "The Economics of Industrial Structure and Innovation Dynamics" at the Centro Cultural de Belem in Lisbon, Portugal. The conference, organized with financial support from the European Commission, was attended by over 100 policy experts and scholars from throughout Europe and other regions.

The conference agenda centred on the integration of three distinctive research perspectives: the "appreciative" theory of technological change, the economics of industrial dynamics, and systemic views on industrial organization and competitiveness. These disparate research perspectives have generated a variety of approaches that have been influential in recent policy debates, but there is no prevailing consensus as to which approaches are most fruitful, or how to resolve the conflicts among them.

The two-day conference comprised a plenary session each morning followed in the afternoon by topic-specific parallel sessions. These parallel session focused on such issues as "Industrial Structure and Technological Change," "Economics of Technological Change," "Economics of Innovation and Diffusion," "Technology Markets and Innovation," and "Innovation and Structural Change." Each day concluded with an evening panel discussion on "The Economics of Technological Change."

Conference participants reached general agreement on three areas in which convergence of neoclassical and evolutionary research is taking place, and on basic research agenda priorities for future work on technological change in industrializing countries. On the question of whether the current "Western" approach is relevant to policy-oriented research in industrializing countries, many participants suggested that it is, provided imported policy "recipes" are not permitted to overshadow endogenous policy capability.

In his concluding remarks, UNU/INTECH's Dr. Anthony Bartzokas stressed that the "process of capacity building [in developing countries] could benefit from research and methodological debates in advanced countries by taking an eclectic approach on what might be relevant and useful. For that purpose, it is important to understand theory development and empirical research as part of the institutionalized process of policy research in advanced countries instead of simply looking at the end products of these processes."

The final programme of "The Economics of Industrial Structure and Innovation Dynamics" conference can be found on the INTECH website at Conference papers are available for downloading as Acrobat .pdf files.

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