Technology knowledge and the food system

Technology takes knowledge and creates products, processes and services for the use of people. At the heart of technology lies the ability to recognise a human need or desire (actual or potential) and then to devise a means - an invention or a new design - to satisfy it economically. Having done so, the model or prototype has to be scaled up and adapted to become a marketable item. The process of turning the full-scale product into something that satisfies market requirements of safety, cost/profit effectiveness and customer acceptance is a difficult one (Cardwell, 1994). A company not only has to have a store of knowledge but it has to create knowledge during the development of the product, process and service. It also has to connect different types of knowledge during the development -technological, commercial and organisational. After the development, it has not only transformed the knowledge into practical applications but it has increased its own store of knowledge by the knowledge it has created.

Two types of knowledge are recognised - disembodied (before and during development) and embodied (after development). The disembodied knowledge goes eventually to the embodied product in product development:

Disembodied knowledge ^ Disembodied innovative activities ^ Embodied product That is:

Tacit knowledge in people's heads + Explicit (codified) knowledge in records ^ Knowledge creation in PD Process ^ New product

There are four important areas of disembodied and embodied knowledge: technology, technological change, innovative activities and technological indicators that are important for product development (Evangelista, 1999), as shown in Table 4.1. A company has a stock of technological knowledge, and then generates more knowledge during its innovative activities to produce productive assets, including products, plants and marketing systems.

In product development, as in all engineering and design, there is a major use of the knowledge that is in people's heads from their education and more importantly from their experience - called either tacit (as used in this book) or embedded knowledge. There is also use of recorded knowledge in reports,

The knowledge base for product development 151 Table 4.1 Concepts of technology Disembodied

Disembodied technology: stock of technological knowledge both embodied in people and expressed in a codified form.

Disembodied technological change: process of advancing technological knowledge. Disembodied innovative activities: activities carried out at the firm level to generate or develop new technological knowledge.

Disembodied technological indicators: R&D expenditures and personnel, design and engineering activities, patent and licence counts, technology flows measured by the technological balance of payments and bibliometric data.


Embodied technology: stock of technological productive assets consisting of machinery, equipment, plant and operating systems (both tangible and intangible). Embodied technological change: accumulation of new technical assets (machinery, equipment, plant and operating systems).

Embodied innovative activities: innovative activities consisting of the use or adoption of new productive assets with enhanced technical and technological performances compared with those used before.

Embodied technological and innovative indicators: investment in new machinery, equipment and plant incorporating new (or not yet used) technologies; indicators measuring the adoption and diffusion of embodied technologies.

Source: From Evangelista, 1999, by permission of Rinaldo Evangelista and Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.

textbooks and journals, called either explicit (as used in this book) or codified knowledge.

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