The Linear Model of Innovation: The Historical Construction of an Analytical Framework

Benoît Godin, Canadian Science and Innovation Indicators Consortium

The seminar draws from two related papers in the Project on the History and Sociology of S&T Statistics. The first paper titled “In the Shadow of Schumpeter: W. Rupert Maclaurin and the Study of Technological Innovation,” argues that while J. Schumpeter introduced the concept of innovation in economic theory, the systematic study of innovation owes its existence to the MIT economist W. Rupert Maclaurin. In the 1940s and 1950s, Maclaurin developed Schumpeter’s ideas, analysing innovation as a process composed of several stages or steps, and proposed what later came to be known as the linear model of innovation. The model postulated that innovation starts with basic research, followed by applied research and development, and ends with production and diffusion. The second paper analyses the historical construction of the Linear Model as an analytical framework for understanding science and technology and its relation to the economy. Benoit suggests that the model developed in three steps, corresponding to as many scientific communities looking at science from an analytical point of view. He argues that statistics is one of the main reasons explaining why the model is still alive, despite criticism, alternative formulations, and even having been proclaimed dead.


Benoît Godin is a professor at INRS in Montreal, Canada. He holds a DPhil in science policy from Sussex (UK) University. He has written extensively on science policy and statistics and has published many articles in the major international journals.

Venue: UNU-MERIT, Maastricht, 16:00 hrs

Date: 07 September 2006