Leadership-driven innovation & evolution of societies

Mario Coccia


The fundamental problem in the field of the economics of innovation is which economic subjects are the sources of radical innovations and high technological performances. The study here confronts this problem by developing a theoretical framework underpinned in the concept of purposeful system having a purpose of global leadership, which endeavours to analyse the sources of General-Purpose Technologies (GPTs) in a Schumpeterian world of innovation-based competition. Through an inductive study based on some societies that in the history have generated technological and economic change (Roman and Britain Empire, and current USA), the analysis shows vital characteristics that can be the sources of changes in the techno-economic paradigm. In particular, purposeful country-systems with high economic military potential, supported by a strategy of high R&D expenditures, and the objective of global leadership, winning international conflicts against other great powers (a very strong competition for the hegemony), tend to generate several inventions and radical innovations that are spread, in the long run, across wide geo-economic areas. It seems that the initial sources of GPTs (e.g. aqueduct, steam engine, jet aircraft, computer, etc.) are, de facto, associated with the global posture of great powers to achieve/sustain global leadership in intensive (effective and/or potential) international competitions, rather than warfare per se. This study refers to this nexus as leadership-driven innovation. International conflict is the context that spurs the GPTs, which are driven by global leadership of critical societies, whereas initial military R&D, demand and procurement are important mechanisms underlying the process that induces emerging path-breaking technologies. The vital linkages between observed facts can support a general socio-economic framework of the sources of path-breaking innovations based on a leadership of main economic subjects that support innovative activity (mainly in communications and energy systems parallel to transportation technology) and the evolution and development of human societies.

Keywords: Technological Innovation; Technological Change; Technological Paradigms; General-Purpose Technologies; Economic Change; Systems Concepts; Conflict; War; Global leadership; Great Powers, Techno-Economic Paradigm, Radical Innovation.

JEL classification: O31, O39, O10, N00, N31, N33