After a long-lasting period of economic growth and catching-up efforts with the US technological leadership, in the ‘90s major European economies entered a trend of slow growth, and patchy technological progress. Studies by Acemoglu, Aghion and Zilibotti  and Aghion and Howitt  identify the source of this trend in the failure to shift from an investmentbased model of growth to an innovation-based one’s, deemed mostly appropriate when economic performance takes place close to the technological frontier. This failure may occur because policies fostering catching-up investment-based strategies bring about market rigidities and relatively less competitive environment, which in turn hinder the transition to innovation-based strategies. The upshot brings to a vicious circle, called the ‘trap of the follower’. Against this background, the paper investigates what caused European economies falling ‘trapped’, and what made them unable to cross the frontier. A major paper’s argument argues that the failure occurred not so much because they were unsuccessful to get into an innovation-based growth pattern, as some of them get into. When assessing their innovation regime, the paper shows that the failure lies in the adoption of a pattern of incremental instead of radical innovations, as it shows in the technological leader. The case in point is the biotechnology sector in the US and Germany. The paper finds that the different models of economic organization in the two countries affected deeply their respective innovation regimes. In the final section, the paper analyzes some aspects of the European competitiveness deficit, and points to more risky and dynamic systems of innovation, as the way out of the European low growth potential.Vittorio Ancarani, University of Turin.