Technological Creativity: Japan and the United States

Mansfield, Edwin
March 1989
Business Horizons;Mar/Apr89, Vol. 32 Issue 2, p48
Academic Journal
Japan's reputation for technological superiority may be deserved, but it is only true in some industries and for particular types of innovations. Many accounts of superior innovation and technological performance by Japanese firms in industries like metals, automobiles, and consumer electronics have been published recently. From Congressional summaries of meetings with Japanese scientists, the Japanese themselves seem to believe that they have moved ahead in the application and implementation of technology in many areas. As the Council on Competitiveness (1988) puts it: Foreign success in the rapid commercialization of technology is changing the way R and D and the innovation process are viewed. When the United States was primarily a domestic marketplace, the pace at which technology was turned into new products and processes was only one of several factors that determined commercial success. Today, with companies from around the world vying to gain competitive advantage from technology, time is a crucial consideration. The speed with which firms are able to translate [inventions] into commercial products and processes often spells the difference between success and failure. The outcome of the intense rivalry that currently exists between Japan and the United States in high-technology industries (like computers, electronics, and biotechnology) will turn in part on how quickly and economically each nation's firms can develop and commercially introduce new products and processes. However, very little systematic investigation has been undertaken to find out how much of an advantage, if any, Japan has in this regard, and to identify the factors determining the size of this advantage. This article summarizes briefly the results of a two-year study, financed by the National Science Foundation, which provides new information on this issue.


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