Abstract: The National System of Innovation in Historical Perspective: Italy from the Unification to the Present, 1861-2000

Michelangelo Vasta


The aim of the paper is to reconstruct the main characteristics of the Italian "System of Innovation" by using a long-run perspective. In so doing we will adopt a well-established theoretical framework, which stresses that technological performances of national economies cannot be explained only by looking at the strategies and performances of firms; it is necessary to extend the analysis to several institutional factors—education, finance, relationship between public and private R&D systems, industrial policy, patent legislation, etc.—which play a fundamental role in favoring the diffusion and economic exploitation of scientific knowledge. The analysis is focused particularly on the organization of scientific and technological research activity and innovation policies. At the same time we will provide some typical indicators of technological capacity—data on patents and on R&D, but also some "new" proxies such as the Technology Achievement Index (TAI) and the Historical Innovation Index—in order to evaluate, also adopting a comparative perspective, the Italian technological performance in the long run.