National Academies Press: OpenBook

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

Chapter: Need for International Efforts to Improve the Quantity and Quality of Data on Innovation

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Suggested Citation:"Need for International Efforts to Improve the Quantity and Quality of Data on Innovation." 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 45

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CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 45 players. While the specific structures for innovation naturally differ among industrial nations, such trends may lead to a Stronger level of functional equivalence among the structures. In this way, increased similarity of the problems addressed by corporate innovation in the two countries tends to increase the similarity of corporate innovation approaches, but does not necessarily imply that the approaches will become the same. These members emphasize trends and examples of recent years, such as the outstanding U.S. companies that have adapted aspects of Japanese innovation strategy, and recent policy changes in Japan aimed at building a stronger publicly funded research base, as indicating that problem convergence is leading to a degree of convergence in corporate and even government approaches based on a new model of innovation. On the other hand, several of the U.S. members point to evidence of continued disparity in the innovation strategies of U.S. and Japanese companies, based on their policy environments, past organizational experience and accumulated capabilities. These differences include the relatively larger role of defense-related R&D in the U.S. system, greater exclusivity and long-term obligation built into Japanese OEM-supplier relationships and human resource development practices, and differences in financial environments. While not denying the possibility that significant U.S.-Japan convergence in corporate innovation approaches will occur in the future, these U.S. members believe that the trend is not yet clear enough to draw policy conclusions, and also raise the possibility that important aspects of Japanese and U.S. innovation approaches will not converge. Need for Further Work Although the Joint Task Force agrees on the significance and fundamental nature of trends in corporate innovation approaches in Japan and the United States, the rapid pace of change and paucity of information in several important areas make it inherently difficult to specify action items. The Joint Task Force therefore decided to develop focused suggestions for future work for scholars, policymakers and companies. The recommendations section identifies several key questions and challenges, including the need for international efforts to improve the quality and quantity of data on trends in global innovation, the need to continue efforts to develop models of innovation that reflect real world trends, and the need for the U.S. and Japanese governments and multilateral agencies to begin addressing the policy issues emerging from shifts in innovation practices and patterns. RECOMMENDATIONS Need for International Efforts to Improve the Quantity and Quality of Data on Innovation The Joint Task Force believes that there is an emerging, pressing need for more and better data on many aspects of innovation, including government policies and programs, corporate activities and international linkages. One of the key questions that an effort at improved data collection could be aimed at addressing is whether corporate or national approaches to innovation are in fact converging as business activity and innovative capability become more global. Such an effort would ideally be international in scope, and might involve multilateral bodies such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and

Next: Need for Additional Work on Models and Conceptual Frameworks for Innovation, and Research on Similarities and Differences »
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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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