Understanding the “National Innovation System” Conceptual Approach as a Social and Governmental Technology
Keywords:national innovation system, technology, social technology, governmentality, Hong Kong
Drawing on pioneering work by Pinch and Foucault, this paper argues that the national innovation system (NIS) conceptual approach that emerged from innovation studies in the 1980s and 1990s constitutes a social technology intended to induce policymakers to adopt a sophisticated model of the role of innovation in a national economy when formulating policies for stimulating economic growth and development. In this respect the NIS approach has also served as an instrument of governmentality, making an emphasis on technological innovation attractive to the relevant actors in policymaking, industry, and related institutions. The paper draws on qualitative empirical research to show that, like any social technology, the NIS approach can be used for purposes other than those for which it was designed by revealing its use as a rhetorical device by Hong Kong policymakers for political purposes. The study reinvigorates the concept of a social technology for science and technology studies.