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Comparative economics of R&D: analytical and political issues, the case of France and Germany


Modern economics more and more adapts theoretical elements which are inspired by the work of J A Schumpeter. In his 'Theory of Economic Development' (1912) Schumpeter emphasizes the pivotal role of entrepreneurs and of innovations for economic progress and development.

To create something new and to gain advantages firms have to spend financial means on search activities. Such funds appear as research and development expenditures. Besides these direct efforts there exist indirect sources of innovational improvement. They are embodied in new investment and in external research.

In the respective literature it is clearly shown that the process of innovation and of economic development does not follow an unique pattern. There exist considerable differences due to firms, sectors and even countries. They show up in firms' economic performance indicators, specific features of research and development varying technological opportunities, particular characteristics of national systems of innovation, etc.

Based on this view on the one hand the economy cannot be looked at as a unique entity but has to be characterized by differences and asymmetries. On the other hand economic development, although measured by macro variables, has to be explained beneath the macro level. This stands in contrast to Keynesian economics which deals with aggregate variables based on representative entities and on the average behaviour.

A Schumpeterian approach provides a different field of policy issues. It brings research and development policy into the center of economic policy discussion.

In this context 2 major questions are of special interest:
the old and often discussed problem whether the public sector should be actively involved in research and development;
how has an efficient research and development policy to look like if it wants to consider and rely on sectoral differences and asymmetries and does it have to follow a single rule or has it to take into account the manyfold facetts of innovative patterns?

Comparative investigations of national systems of research and development (innovations) and of the rationality and coherence of public policies enacted for these systems are needed.


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Grande Voie des Vignes, Ecole Centrale Paris

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