In memory of Luigi Orsenigo

Professor Luigi (Gigi) Orsenigo, who has sadly passed away, was driven by a relentless curiosity, an endless, enthusiastic cascade of ideas, which was contagious to everyone with whom he crossed paths. He never wasted his energies on anything but thinking, sharing, questioning, encouraging collegial reflections and early-career researchers. A man of style as well as substance, Gigi was elegant and gentle in manner, with little patience for power games or self-centredness.

In his all-too-short role as RM Phillips Professor of Economics of Innovation at SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, Gigi initiated a new research programme, driven by the very same curiosity as well as a compassionate concern for the twists and turns taken by the societies in which we live.

“The economics of innovation was basically born in the 1970s – 1980 […]. It was a new field […]. Now, innovation is everywhere in economics […]. […] Now, the time is ripe to ask ourselves how the economics of innovation field should further progress.” (4 April 2018, personal communication to the Economics of Innovation Group). This is how Gigi introduced the planning for a workshop on 'Whither the Economics of Innovation', aiming to spark the same high-level theoretical advances that have characterised his whole career.

Gigi was “there” in the 1980s, contributing to the foundation of the economics of innovation, while writing his PhD at SPRU. Gigi was “here” now, as RM Phillips Professor of Economics of Innovation at SPRU, contributing to the foundation of the next steps of innovation studies, building on the strong tradition of evolutionary economists that he has contributed to establish. Gigi has been there all the way through, providing foundational intellectual contributions through research, teaching, and warm and caring human interactions to advance understanding of innovation and its social consequences.

As an author of “classical” pieces in the literature, Gigi had a sustained influence on the development of innovation and evolutionary economics including contributions to industrial dynamics, innovation diffusion, industrial strategy, sectoral patterns of innovation activities. He understood that what might work in theory needed to be assessed against experience and tested and refined his idea by deep consideration of crucial industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and computers.

'Whither the Economics of Innovation' will be organised at SPRU, as Gigi wished, sadly without his presence, but with his caring guidance, honouring the seeds that he has sown at SPRU as well as many other places in the world over the years.

Written by Tommaso Ciarli, Maria Savona and Ed Steinmueller

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