Branching innovations refer to technological improvements along a particular path, while recombinant innovations represent fusions of multiple paths. Recombinant innovations create “short-cuts” which reduce switching costs allowing agents to escape a technological lock-in. As a result, recombinant innovations speed up technological progress allowing transitions that are impossible with only branching innovations.
(Frenkena et al. 2012:25)
Frenkena, K. ,Izquierdo, L. and Zeppini, P. 2012. Branching innovation, recombinant innovation, and endogenous technological transitions. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, Vol. 4, pp.25—35
See also branching innovation
Such observation indicates that recombinant innovation is important not just in the innovation process, but especially in favouring technological transitions (increase in minimum quality among used technologies). The intuition is that recombinant innovations create short-cuts to higher level technologies for agents that are lagging behind, because their technology is in a different branch with respect to the technology with higher quality. Without recombinant innovation it would be too costly for these agents to switch to such technology, in that every link between technologies entails the payment of the unitary cost. With recombinant innovation instead they can “jump” to the leading technology with only one link in principle, whenever some of them is drawn as innovator together with some innovators from the leading technology.
(Frenkena et al. 2012:33)