Tuesday, 10 January 2012

General purpose technologies

Diane Coyle makes a point that David Edgerton has also made to me in Diane's review of Chandler, Shaping the Industrial Century.  David says to me that Chemistry is a general purpose technology.  Here's Diane:
There is a tendency to think of high-tech in a narrow way. It’s computers and the web. It’s electricity, it’s steam. These are the General Purpose Technologies, which underpin innovation across the economy. However, basic scientific discovery and its technological implementation are high tech too, and what Robert Gordon has described as a ‘big wave’ develops. The chemicals and pharma industries rest on major scientific discovery, albeit giving way to decreasingly lie sky development as the years go by. Thus Du Pont established one of the first ever corporate R&D centres at the turn of the 20th century but downgraded its R&D function by the 1960s. So when thinking about the ‘big wave’ we are experiencing, it is important not to forget biotech, nanotechnology, robotics, materials science etc. It’s genomes and graphene as well as mobiles and broadband.