Prof. Dr. Luc Soete

Professorial Fellow

Research group(s):
1. Economics of Knowledge and Innovation

Until September 2016 Luc Soete (15 September 1950, Brussels) was Rector Magnificus of Maastricht University. Before that he was Director of the United Nations University research and training institute: UNU-MERIT located in Maastricht, The Netherlands and Professor of International Economic Relations and Director-Dean of the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance (MGSoG) at Maastricht University. He is a member of the Advisory Council for Science and Technology Policy (AWT) and the Royal Dutch Academy of Science (KNAW).

Luc Soete graduated in economics from Ghent University, Belgium. He obtained a DPhil in economics from Sussex University where he worked as senior research fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit in the late 70’s and 80’s. From 1984 till 1985 he was visiting associate professor at the Department of Economics at Stanford University, USA. In 1986 he joined the new Faculty of Economics and Business Administration (now called the School of Business and Economics) at Maastricht University as professor of International Economics Relations. In 1988 he set up the research institute MERIT (Maastricht Economic Research centre on Innovation and Technology) which merged under his direction in 2005 with UNU-INTECH to become UNU-MERIT. In 2010 he became Director-Dean of the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance of Maastricht University. He is a member of the Board of the Maastricht School of Management (MSM) and the Belgian media company Concentra.

Over the last 30 years, Luc Soete has contributed as (co-)author and (co-)editor to some 11 books, 50 refereed articles and some 100 chapters in books. In 2002, he received the MSM  Honorary Fellow Award, in 2007 the Belgian reward Commandeur in de Kroonorde and in 2010 a Doctor Honoris Causa from his Alma Mater, the University of Ghent.
Detailed research description (on the occasion of the Commandeur in de Kroonorde award)

Luc Soete research is strongly embedded in what has become known today as innovation studies. This broad multi-disciplinary field which focuses on the nature, origin and determinants of innovation in its different forms has witnessed an enormous expansion over the last decades. Soete has contributed to the blossoming of this field since his first publication in the late 70’s (Soete, L., 1979, Firm size and inventive activity: the evidence reconsidered, European Economic Review, vol 12, pp. 319-340). Originally from Belgium, Soete was headhunted in 1985 by the then Dean of the new Faculty of Economics and Business Administration of Maastricht University, Wil Albeda, to join the first cohort of academic staff as Professor of International Economic Relations. Soete was at that time visiting associate professor at the Department of Economics at Stanford University, one of the most influential universities in the field of the economics of new technologies and innovation, and on leave from the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, where he started his research career in the late 70’s. At SPRU he became involved in a number of research projects funded amongst others by the SSRC and the Leverhulme Trust on the impact of innovation on international trade performance with amongst others Keith Pavitt (see amongst others, Pavitt, K. and L. Soete, 1980, Innovative activities and export shares: some comparisons between industries and countries, in K. Pavitt (ed.), Technical Innovation and British Economic Performance, London, Macmillan, pp. 38-66; and Soete, L., 1981, A general test of technological gap trade theory, Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv, vol. 117, nr. 4, J.C.B. Mohr, Tubingen, pp. 638-660), the employment creation and employment displacement impact of the introduction of new technologies with amongst others Chris Freeman and John Clark (Clark, J. Freeman, C and L. Soete, 1981, Long waves, inventions and innovations, Futures, pp. 308-322; Freeman, C. and L. Soete, 1982, Unemployment and Technological Innovation: a study of Long Waves and Economic Development, London, Frances Pinter, 214 p). The more structural, Schumpeterian framework chosen in this research contrasted sharply with the then dominant Keynesian approaches. At the same time, the detailed, historical qualitative descriptions in this research of what could be considered radical versus incremental innovations, the occurrence of clusters of innovations and even of new technological paradigms can all be considered as having provided the empirical backbone for the emergence in the 90’s of the now popular Schumpeterian theories of endogenous growth, creative destruction and so-called “general purpose technologies”. The numerous articles and books edited with Chris Freeman in the 80’s (Freeman, C. and L. Soete, 1987, Technical Change and Full Employment, Basil Blackwell, London, UK, pp. 280) reporting on the TEMPO research project carried out at SPRU, provide some of the most detailed descriptions of the diffusion of such “pervasive technologies” and the accompanying Schumpeterian processes of creative destruction. They were popularized in a bestseller with Freeman written for the wider public (Freeman, C. and L. Soete, 1994, Work for All or Mass Unemployment, Pinter Pub­lishers, London and New York, 193 p). During this early Sussex period, Soete developed also various new measures on sectoral and international technological specialization with amongst others Keith Pavitt and Roy Rothwell (Rothwell, R. and L. Soete, 1983, Technology and economic change, Physics in Technology, vol. 14, nr. 6, November) using various technology and innovation output indicators with a large number of young researchers such as Gary Pisano as one of his first research assistant, now a Professor at Harvard University, Sally Wyatt, one of his first PhD students now a Professor in Maastricht and Pari Patel, now a senior research fellow at SPRU (1982 Research Policy article, Soete, L., and S. Wyatt, 1983, The use of foreign patenting as an internationally comparable science and technology output indicator, Scientometrics, vol. 5, nr 1, pp. 31-54; Patel, P. & Luc Soete, 1985, Recherche-développement importations de technologie et croissance économique: Une tentative de comparaison internationale, Revue Economique, vol. 36, no. 5, pp. 975-1000) as well as more formal research on the modelisation of technological accumulation and diffusion with Roy Turner (Soete, L, and R. Turner, 1984, Technology diffusion and the rate of technical change, Economic Journal, vol. 94, nr. 375, pp. 612-623), its impact on the catching-up “windows of opportunity” of countries and in particular cases of even technological leapfrogging with Carlota Perez (Soete, Luc, 1985, International Diffusion of Technology, Industrial Development and Technological Leapfrogging, World Development, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 409-422, article 1988). All these contributions, as illustrated in the relatively strong citation impact of many of those articles, represented significant contributions to international economics and in particular to ones understanding of the impact of knowledge accumulation on international trade and growth performance, both at the sectoral and country level. Many of these arguments were pulled together in a textbook published in 1990 with Giovanni Dosi and Keith Pavitt on the Economics of Technological Change and International Trade (Dosi, G., K. Pavitt and L. Soete, 1990, The Economics of Technical Change and International Trade, Harvester Wheatsheaf, Hemel Hemp­stead).

After the first Sussex period, Soete’s research focus shifted to include the science, technology and innovation policy challenges both nationally and internationally. The first major publication in the Netherlands, setting so to say the research framework and mission of the research institute MERIT set up by Soete in 1988, was the Technical Change and Economic Theory “bible” edited with Giovanni Dosi, Chris Freeman, Richard Nelson and Gerald Silverberg  (Dosi, G., Freeman, C., R. Nelson, G. Silverberg, L. Soete (eds.), 1988, Technical Change and Economic Theory, Pinter, London, 656 p), a stock taking book still containing some of the most influential contributions in the field. Over the 90’s, Soete became evne more involved in policy research reports and projects amongst others for the OECD Technology Economy Programme in the late 80’s, the European Commission and in particular its DG Social Affairs on the skill implications of new technologies, the OECD Job Study where he directed the Technology, Productivity and Economic Growth part of the study (Soete, L., 1995, Structural change and employment growth: the challenges ahead, STI Review, nr. 15, OECD, Paris, pp. 237-271) as well as with Alexis Jacquemin on some of the competition policy implications of cross border European research collaboration (Jacquemin, A. and L. Soete, 1994, Co-operation in R&D, efficiency and European policy, European Review, vol. 2, nr. 1, pp. 65-72). Apart from those more traditional economic studies, he also touched on some more, speculative issues at that time such as the challenges of the “greening” of technology with Rene Kemp in 1992 (Kemp, R and L. Soete, 1992, The greening of technological progress: An evolution­ary perspective, Futures, vol. 24, nr. 5, pp. 437-457), and the innovation policy challenge with respect to sustainable development with Anthony Arundel (Soete, L. and A. Arundel, 1995, European innovation policy for environmentally sustainable development: application of a systems model of technical change, Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 2, pp. 285-315), the possibilities of a taxing the Internet and digital communication more generally with his “bit tax” proposals published in 1996 with Karin Kamp (Soete, L. and K. Kamp, 1996, The "bit tax": the case for further research, Science and Public Policy, vol. 23, nr. 6, December, pp. 353-360), the Dutch innovation policy challenge with Bas ter Weel (Soete, L., and B. ter Weel, 1999, Innovation, knowledge creation and technology policy: the case of the Netherlands, De Economist, vol. 147, nr. 3, pp. 293-310), the growth opportunities and risks of the digital economy with Pascal Petit (Petit, P. and L. Soete, 1999, Globalization in search of a future, International Social Science Journal, vol LI, nr. 2, pp. 165-181, 1999, with Rifka Weehuizen), the challenges of measuring innovation in services with Marcella Miozzo (Miozzo, M. and L. Soete, 2001, Internationalization of Services: A technological Perspective, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, vol. 67, nrs. 2&3, June/July 2001, pp. 159-185), activating knowledge, and the particular European challenges with respect to the Knowledge based society, etc. Doing so he became also influential in the preparation of the Lisbon summit in 2000 (Soete, Luc, 2002, “The challenges and the potential of the knowledge-based economy in a globalised world”, in: Rodrigues, MJ (Ed.), New Knowledge Economy in Europe. A Strategy for International Competitiveness and Social Cohesion, Edward Elgar publishing, Cheltenham, UK, Northampton, pp 28-53) and the proposals for a European Research Area in Europe.

Next to this more policy related research, Soete remained an active academic researcher with the publication in 1997 of a renewed version of Freeman’s main textbook in the innovation studies field, The Economic of Industrial Innovation (Freeman, C. and L. Soete, 1997, The Economics of Industrial Innovation, third edition, Cassell, London, 470 p), and his edited volume with Gerald Silverberg (Silverberg, G. and L. Soete (eds.), 1994, The Economics of Growth and Technologi­cal Change. Technologies, Nations, Agents, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., Aldershot, 343 p). His research output has continued over the last ten years touching each time on new issues: such as his most recent publication on the measurement of innovation (Freeman, Chris & Luc Soete, 2009, Developing science, technology and innovation indicators: What we can learn from the past, Research Policy, 38, 583-589), the theoretical foundations for innovation policy (Soete, L., 2007, From Industrial to Innovation Policy, Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, volume 7, nr. 3-4, pp….), the new challenges for intellectual property with Rishab Ghosh (Ghosh, R. and L. Soete, 2006, Information and Intellectual property: the global challenges, Industrial and Corporate Change, 15:6, pp. 919-935). At the same time, his research has become increasingly influential in policy circles with many reports having been written on Dutch, Belgian, Flemish, European research and innovation policy. He advised the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the European Presidency Hampton Court summit (Soete, Luc, 2006, Activating Knowledge, in: The Hampton Court Agenda: A social model for Europe, Policy Network, London, pp. 67-79), the Belgian government on the 3% target, the Flemish government on reforms of its higher education sector, currently the EC on the future of the ERA. More recently his research has focused also on the so-called BRIC countries (see a.o. Huang, Can & Luc Soete, 2008, The global challenges of the knowledge economy: China and the European Union, Science and Public Policy, 35, 10, pp. 771-781).

Characteristically for Soete, most of those contributions were written together with a variety of other scholars, each time in quite different academic journals, books and contributions to edited books. The aim certainly in a multi-disciplinary research field as broad as innovation studies is to address different academic audiences. He also published numerous articles in Dutch more popular economic reviews such as ESB. He also writes regular opinion pieces in Dutch newspapers. He maintains a Dutch website pulling together those more popular, opinion pieces (

Selected publications by Luc Soete