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Innovation is not simply a body of practice but also a body of behaviors, a complex frameset of interactions, learning processes and co‐evolution between actors and institutions. This paper elaborates on the opposition between cooperative‐learning and competitive‐learning situations and on three knowledge levels in technology diffusion: technical, systemic and strategic. It inquires into some aspects of transatlantic cooperation from the perspectives drawn by knowledge‐based analyses of R&D management. Illustrations are drawn from defense aeronautics (the JSF F‐35 fighter jet and the F/A 18 fighter attack jet). The paper stresses the importance of the emergence of a ‘big picture' in S&T policies and delineates the strategies associated with knowledge transfers in international cooperation among the participants (industry and state) in the programs.