From national innovation systems to national innovation capacity: internationalisation and technology transfer perspectives

Banu Bozkurt, Kirit Vaidya, Oktay Ozdenli, David Bennett

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished Conference Paperpeer-review


The last decade or so has witnessed the emergence of the national innovation system (NIS) phenomenon. Since then, many scholars have investigated NIS and its implementation in different countries. However, there are very few investigations into the relationship between the NIS of a country and its national innovation capacity. This paper aims to make a contribution in this area by examining the link that currently exists between these two topics. Whilst examining this relationship, we also explore internationalisation and technology transfer, being cognate areas that have been investigated during the same period. This follows our assertion that the link between NIS and national innovation capacity is the mechanism of internationalisation and technology transfer.
The NIS approach was introduced in the late 1980s (see Freeman, 1987; Dosi et al., 1988) and further elaborated later (see Lundvall, 1992; Nelson, 1993; Edquist, 1997). In essence, a country?s NIS is a historically grown subsystem of the entire national economy consisting of organisations and institutions which play a major role in the innovative activity in the country. In the NIS approach, interactions within organisations as well as the interplay between organisations and institutions are of central importance. The NIS approach has been used to reveal the structure of the innovation processes and the main actors involved in them in industrialised and emerging countries.

Although the national focus remains strong, it has been accompanied by studies seeking to analyse the notion of systems of innovation at an international level and at a sub-national scale (Archibugi et al., 1999). Dosi in the edition of Archibugi et al. (1999) argues that the general background of the discussion of national systems is the observation of non-random distributions across countries of: corporate capabilities; organisational forms; strategies; and ultimately revealed performances, in terms of production efficiency and inputs productivities, rates of innovation, rates of adoption/diffusion of innovation themselves, dynamics of market shares on the world markets, growth of income and employment. They also mention that there are several approaches to NIS. Nelson (1993) focuses upon the specificities of national institutions and policies supporting directly or indirectly innovation, diffusion and skills accumulation. Patel and Pavitt (1991) have stressed the links between the national patterns of technological accumulation and the competencies and innovative strategies of a few major national companies. Amable et al (1997) and Soskice (1993) and Zysman (1994) focus on the specifics of national institutions including, for example, the forms of organization, financial and labour markets, training institutions, forms of state intervention in the economy etc. However, the most common reference is by Lundvall (1992) who argues that the focus on the national level is associated with the fact that national economies vary according to their production system and their institutional framework and these differences are in turn strengthened by different historical experiences, language and culture.

On the other hand, the national innovation capability consists of abilities to create and carry new technological possibilities through to economic practice. The term covers a wide range of activities from capability to invent to capability to innovate and to capability to improve existing technology beyond the original design parameters (Kim, 1997). The term innovation is often associated by many with technological change at international frontiers. However, technological capability is not the same as innovation capability. Technological capability refers to assimilation, use, adaptation, and change to existing technologies. It also enables the creation of new technologies and development of new products and processes in response to changing economic environments. It denotes operational command over knowledge (Kim, 1997). It is manifested not merely by the knowledge possessed, but, more important, by the uses to which that knowledge can be put and by the proficiency with which it is applied in the activities of investment and production and in the creation of new knowledge (Westphal et al., 1985).

Therefore, the analytical framework that is used in this paper is based on the way a country derives from its NIS a national innovation capacity. There are two perspectives that are identified on this way. These are internationalisation and technology transfer. Even though NIS is not directly related to national innovation capacity, to achieve national innovation capacity from NIS, the country should have the ability for technology transfer. Technology transfer is a link between these two phenomena. On the other hand, internationalisation can be either the input or the output of the relationship between NIS and national innovation capability. If a company is investing in a country because of its national innovation capacity, this can be regarded as an input to the relationship between NIS and national innovation capacity. If this company is investigating the national innovation capacity of a country then, for its internationalisation, the national innovation capacity should be important, which in turn means this company is active in innovation and innovation is also an important success factor. The interrelationship between the investment of the company and the NIS of the country (assuming that the country is competent and competitive in technology transfer) will generate and improve that country?s national innovation capacity. This is the output of internationalisation from the relationship between NIS and national innovation capacity.

When companies are evaluating whether to internationalise, they investigate certain factors in the countries in which they are considering to invest. The ability to transfer technology is dependent on ability to adopt a new technology and also on the learning derived from this technology. If countries wish to attract innovation related investment they need to show their ability to have a NIS and also the capability to transfer technology. Without the technology transfer capability, the NIS is not functioning. Therefore, companies that internationalise will investigate the factors common to NIS, technology transfer, and their business needs.

Through this paper we will demonstrate this link though its mechanisms. Our research will be through extensive literature review and identifying relevant aspects of previous research carried out by the authors. It will investigate certain factors of different countries that are successful in attracting innovation related foreign direct investment. Through these, we will point out the factors that are important for the link and mechanisms of NIS and national innovation capability.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2004
EventDRUID Summer Conference 2004 - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 14 Jun 200416 Jun 2004


ConferenceDRUID Summer Conference 2004
OtherIndustrial Dynamics, Innovation and Development


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