Inderscience Publishers

The 'enterprise of science': construction and reconstruction of social capital around nano R&D

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Based on investigations carried out in a leading nanoscience and technology cluster in Grenoble (France), the article demonstrates how the local emergence of nano research is the effect of a previous local tradition of social capital and of the action of one particular institutional entrepreneur. Together, they lead to the emergence of a new collective scientific and industrial endeavour. This 'success story' is not, however, as simple as it may seem. Prioritising nanoscience and technology leads to divides, oppositions and an undermining of people's trust in scientific institutions, industry and political representatives. New lines of tension appear, bringing with them the risk of social conflict, political controversy and industrial resistance. One such risk was that enterprises potentially attracted by the local endeavour and resources might be put off. New moves and new constructions for social capital are then observed. The investigation uses ethnographic material collected over a four-year period from various research groups and institutions and interview material. The article analyses these moves to construct and reconstruct constantly-evolving social capital.

Keywords: nanotechnology, social capital, social cohesion, institutional entrepreneurship, tradition, storytelling, technology clusters, success story, controversy, ethnography, R&, amp, D, research and development, nanoscience

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