Christopher Freeman died this morning, August 16, according to an email I received as a Research Policy reviewer. In a brief note, let me try to capture the debt that we all owe him.
Freeman was the founder and first director of SPRU, which was the central incubator of European innovation researchers from its founding into the mid-90s. For example, Giovanni Dosi got his PhD from the SPRU group in 1983 with the dissertation that became Technical Change and Industrial Transformation.
Freeman was also a co-founder of Research Policy, which spring out of SPRU with its first issue in late 1971. (In response to my request, both Ben Martin and Keld Laursen provided the opening editorial and the editorial board from Vol 1 No 1.)
If that is not enough, Freeman is the author of three editions of the definitive book on industrial R&D: The Economics of Industrial Innovation. As I’ve worked on my OUCI papers, I’ve turned back to it several times to understand what we know about internal corporate R&D that is sometimes overlooked by OI/UI/CI researchers.
I visited SPRU once but never had to chance to meet Freeman, either there or at a conference. Still, several generations of innovation scholars will be indebted to him for his key role in creating our field. May he rest in peace.