Abstract: Between "learning by learning" and "learned incapacity to learn": The Political Structure of Knowledge Flow in Norwegian and Scottish Fish-Farming

Ove Bjarnar and Dag Magne Berge


Targeted innovation policies have gradually since the 1980s been premised on allegedly new understandings of the process of knowledge flow and innovation. Interactive learning and the intersection of tacit and formal knowledge have become key words. In recent theories on regional innovation, interactive learning and knowledge flowing smoothly between regional actors constitutes a basic provision for processes of innovation. The idea is that regional innovation systems can develop the capacity to be reflexive and to apply institutional memory and intelligence, in other words learning by learning. These approaches, however, underestimate the role of interests, power, and politics in structuring knowledge flow between actors, institutions and systems. By comparing knowledge flow in Norwegian and Scottish fish-farming, the paper demonstrates empirically the relevance of incorporating socio-economic factors, conflict of interests, policy formation, and government regulations in analysis of innovation systems. The paper concludes that concepts like "learning by learning" do not capture essential selective mechanisms that influence the flow of knowledge in innovation systems, and poses the question to what extent such concepts may have normative implications or operational consequences for innovation policies.