This paper analyses the co-evolution of science, technology and innovation policy and industrial structure in a small, open, resource-based economy (norway). The contributions of the paper are threefold. First, it develops an evolutionary and historically oriented approach to the study of the development of these policies that may have wide applicability. Second, it focuses on a particular type of innovation, innovation in resource-based activities, that differs in many respects from the more commonly studied case of innovation in ‘high-tech’ industries. Third, the paper advances our understanding of the roles played by institutions and politics in innovation. Previous work on national systems of innovation has devoted little attention to these matters, possibly because much of this work examines ‘snapshots’ of various innovation systems at a specific point in time and lacks historical depth.