chapter  4
Knowledge, innovation and location
ByJEREMY HOWELLS
Pages 13

Knowledge is a fundamental part of our human existence and being. Knowledge also appears to be growing, although it is difficult (if not impossible) to adequately measure or quantify it. Surrogate indicators, such as journal titles and the number of abstracts, used for example by de Solla Price (1963) suggest a strong growth in knowledge, having doubled every fifteen years since the Scientific Revolution and this has been mirrored by the growth of knowledge industries since the 1950s (Foray and Lundvall 1996: 15-16). The growth of knowledge has been accompanied by the spread of knowledge. This is not necessarily new; the Arabs acquired knowledge about paper production late in the first millennium from the Chinese who then transmitted it during the Crusades to Europe (Cover 1971: 368). However, the absolute volume and speed of growth in knowledge has been especially significant since the Second World War. Its production, diffusion and absorption has also moved from highly localised centres of production and application to much wider patterns of national and international generation and consumption. There appear to be several stages to this growth in knowledge. Burns and Stalker (1994: 26) describe the process of technological innovationanditsknowledgebaseupuntil1825 asbeingalargelysingularand‘heroic’ process, centred on the ‘lonely inventive genius’. From 1825 until 1875 there was a transition in the innovative process, facilitated by localised coteries of scientists and business partners, as ‘information about scientific discoveries became available to a wide variety of people. Personal communication was replaced by mass communication’ (Burns and Stalker 1994: 26).