Flexible Innovation

Flexible Innovation: Technological Alliances in Canadian Industry

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Flexible Innovation
    Book Description:

    Basing his study on in-depth interviews with more than 130 companies across Canada, Jorge Niosi analyses the scope of collaborative research activities - both domestic and international - in the fields of biotechnology, electronics, advanced materials, and manufacturing of transportation equipment. He describes successful patterns of collaboration, obstacles and limitations, and the role of public policy, universities, and government laboratories in technological alliances. He compares Canadian partnerships and public policy with similar patterns in the United States, Europe, and Japan.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6556-2
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Tables
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 Theories of Technological Alliances
    (pp. 3-24)

    Technological alliances are phenomena in seach of a theory. No available analytical framework can explain the existence and rapid development of either interfirm cooperation in research and development or technical cooperation between industry and university, public laboratories, or other government agencies. This chapter reviews some of the ideas that the theoretical literature, from different currents in economics and management studies, has developed about technological cooperation and alliances.

    A technological alliance is a particular case of interfirm cooperation. In a spectrum ranging from informal knowledge-sharing (von Hippel 1987) to mergers and acquisitions (and thus to a total consolidation of the firms‘...

  6. 2 A Cross-Country Comparison of Government Policy
    (pp. 25-37)

    Governments have financed technological innovation since the second half of the nineteenth century, when the links between science, technology, and economic development became evident and when the risk and uncertainty of investment in technical change was understood.

    There are many specific arguments for government support of investments in R&D. First, investments in the production of knowledge produce uncertain returns that are not entirely appropriable (Arrow 1962). Since knowledge is, at least partially, a public good, a firm can take exclusive possession of the benefits of an innovation only when it has a perfect monopoly. Basic knowledge is particularly difficult to...

  7. 3 Electronics
    (pp. 38-58)

    The term “electronics” is at the same time the name of a new industry and of a new generic technology. The electronics industry emerged from the electrical industry as a result of a major series of innovations, popularly labelled the “microelectronics revolution.” Its origins can be traced to the early postwar period when, in 1947, Bell Laboratories in the United States invented the transistor. Twelve years later, in 1959, Texas Instruments and Fairchild developed the integrated circuit. Then in 1960, Bell Laboratories introduced the electronic telephone exchange, thus launching the convergence of microelectronics and telecommunications. In 1969, the microprocessor was...

  8. 4 Advanced Materials
    (pp. 59-76)

    Like biotechnology and unlike transportation equipment, advanced materials are products of a technology rather than an industry. They are in fact scattered over many different industries. But unlike biotechnology, advanced materials provide an example of markets pulling innovation, rather than of technology pushing it: in the postwar period, the pull came from the demand for new materials in the defense, electronics, and energy industries. In biotechnology, furthermore, radical innovations abound in both products and processes, but in advanced materials, gradual improvements and incremental innovation are of basic importance, and there are few cases of discontinuities and disruptive breakthroughts. Finally, while...

    (pp. 77-98)

    Modern biotechnology, the most recent of the technologies in this survey, is “a generic technology rather than a sector, ... [it is] the processing of materials by biological agents, biological agents being understood in this context to include microorganisms, cultured cells, and enzymes” (Walsh 1991). Of course biological agents have been used for centuries to create or improve industrial products: brewer's yeast is an example. In the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, biological agents were also used to develop several vaccines. However, modern biotechnology, which is rooted in genetic engineering, is definitely a postwar...

    (pp. 99-112)

    It may seem odd to include transportation equipment in a study of alliances in advanced technologies. After all, self-propelled transportation equipment has existed for two centuries. Steamships were invented in the late eighteenth and steam locomotives in the early nineteenth century, soon to be joined by the internal combustion engine in 1860 and the electric railway and the aircraft in the early twentieth century (McNeil 1990).

    However, there are several reasons for including transportation equipment in our study. First, this is one of the most important industries in which technological alliances take place. Any study of strategic technological partnerships would...

  11. 7 Implications for Government and Business
    (pp. 113-121)

    Industrial research and development in Canada started early in the twentieth century, often on the basis of experience gained in the testing laboratories of a few chemical firms, for example. Over the years, a “linear” model of R& D emerged: the corporate research department produced new or improved processes and products and then sent them to manufacturing for analysis and eventual incorporation into production; the marketing and financial departments entered only later in the process of innovation. Conventional research was an in-house activity, basically conducted behind closed doors, with only occasional external technical collaboration. So the present collaborative revolution brings...

  12. 8 Conclusions
    (pp. 122-130)

    Since the early 1980s, Canadian companies of all sizes have been engaged in technical cooperation on a massive scale, among themselves and with foreign partners, and there is no indication that this trend will be reversed. Through networking, companies have sought specific advantages, such as economies of scale and scope in R&D. They have also hoped to capture complementary technology, design new and improved products, and obtain entry into new markets. More generally, the search for external information suggests that collective learning is a major goal of technological alliances.

    Strategic partnerships seemed to be appropriate devices for attaining these goals,...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 131-140)
  14. Index
    (pp. 141-142)