National Academies Press: OpenBook

New Strategies for New Challenges: Corporate Innovation in the United States and Japan (1999)

Chapter: U.S.-Japan "Problem Convergence" and Continued Disparities in Environments and Approaches

Suggested Citation:"U.S.-Japan "Problem Convergence" and Continued Disparities in Environments and Approaches." National Research Council. 1999. New Strategies for New Challenges: Corporate Innovation in the United States and Japan. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5823.
Page 44

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CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 44 6 Conclusions and Recommendations The concrete background and rationale for the conclusions and recommendations of the Joint Task Force on Corporate Innovation are contained in the Executive Summary. This chapter lists the specific conclusions and action items identified by the Joint Task Force. CONCLUSIONS Globalization of Corporate Innovation From its comparative study of trends in corporate innovation by Japanand U.S.-based companies, the Joint Task Force observes that important forces in the world economy are affecting the innovation strategies and capabilities of leading edge companies worldwide. Corporate innovation in the United States, Japan and other countries is undergoing important, fundamental shifts. The most important underlying force for these shifts is the globalization of markets and competition, with the accompanying increased pressure on companies to deliver high quality products to demanding end users quickly and at reasonable cost. In the view of the task force, the trend toward increased reliance on external sources of innovation by companies is the most important development in global technology management. In order to make effective use of external sources of innovation and prioritize internal R&D optimally, companies are adjusting their internal structures, and forming a variety of new alliances with domestic and foreign partners. U.S.-Japan "Problem Convergence" and Continued Disparities in Environments and Approaches Increasingly, leading edge companies based in Japan, the United States and other countries are competing in the global market, and are responding to similar pressures to deliver technological solutions to a worldwide customer base in a rapid and cost effective manner. In this sense, the problems addressed by corporate innovation throughout the world have more in common than they once did. The Joint Task Force believes that such problem convergence is evident between companies based in the United States and Japan, and will likely accelerate and broaden to affect companies based in other countries. As such, problem convergence may serve as an effective framework for addressing the globalization of corporate innovation mentioned above. Although there is a consensus among Joint Task Force members that problem convergence is occurring between U.S. and Japanese companies, there is a variety of views concerning the implications. Most of the Japanese members and several of the U.S. members believe that as the problems faced by companies become more similar, the innovation systems of the two countries will tend to converge toward each other as they approach a new innovation model relevant to all

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Innovation, "the process by which firms master and get into practice product designs and manufacturing processes that are new to them," is vital for companies wishing to remain competitive in today's rapidly changing high technology industries. American and Japanese firms are among the world's most technologically innovative and competitive. However, the changing dynamics of global competition are forcing them to rethink their technological innovation strategies. The choices they make will have great impact on their futures as companies as well as on the livelihoods of their employees and the communities in which they operate.

In order to understand the ways in which Japanese and American companies are changing their technological innovation strategies and practices, the Committee on Japan of the National Research Council and the Committee on Advanced Technology and the International Environment (Committee 149) of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) organized a bilateral task force composed of leading representatives from industry and academia to assess developments in corporate innovation strategies and report on their findings. Through a workshop discussion of the issues and subsequent interaction, the task force explored the institutional division of innovation in both countries: the structure and performance of technology-based industries, the role of the government in the support of science and technology, and the role of universities in the science and technology system. The task force was particularly interested in exploring the points on which the two systems are converging,-i.e., becoming more similar in strategy and practice-and where they continue to be distinct and different.

Although a comprehensive study of these trends in U.S. and Japanese innovation was not easily feasible, the task force was able to develop several conclusions based on its workshop discussion and follow-up interactions that were substantial in time and content. This report identifies a set of issues whose further elucidation should be helpful in guiding public policy in both nations. These issues include the role of external sourcing of innovation, transnational activity and globalization, the organization and performance of R&D, and the role of consortia, joint ventures and other joint activities. A call for greater international efforts to collect and analyze data on these important trends is the central recommendation of the task force.

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