While over the past two centuries technological advance has enabled remarkable increases in worker productivity and the general standard of living of much of the world's population, progress has been much greater in certain industries and areas of human need than in others. For example, while great advances have been made in preventing or curing a wide range of diseases that used to be killing or crippling, there has been little progress made in how we go about educating children. And today there are many challenges for humankind where new technology is much needed, but thus far has been hard to achieve; dealing with global warming is a prime example. This essay is concerned with identifying the reasons for the very uneven technological progress that has been made thus far, and exploring how progress might be increased in areas of great need where progress to date has been very slight. The concept of an innovation system, which Lundvall has been prominent in developing, plays a central role in the analysis.