Regionalism and Global Economic Integration: Europe, Asia, and the Americas

By William D. Coleman; Geoffrey R. D. Underhill | Go to book overview

7

Globalization, corporate identity and European Union technology policy1

Andrew Wyatt-Walter

INTRODUCTION

The acceleration of EU integration through the European Single Market Programme was in many ways a response to the perceived relative economic decline of Europe in the world economy since the 1970s. Nowhere has European concern been greater than in the area of high technology, where competition from American and Japanese corporations became intense over the past decade. This concern prompted the gradual emergence of a counterpart to the deregulatory strategy of the Single Market Programme, a co-ordinated European high technology policy. Yet the globalization of competition in key high technology sectors has confronted European policy-makers with a dilemma: if the promotion of European high technology sectors is increasingly viewed as a central aspect of Europe’s economic policy identity, how should the objects of such policies be defined? Specifically, with the growing physical presence of subsidiaries of US and Japanese firms in the EU and with European firms establishing important operations abroad, what does the promotion of ‘European high technology industry’ mean?

Such existential concerns have not prevented Europe from mimicking Japanese-style government-sponsored research and development (R&D) industrial consortia over the past decade. At the national level, programmes such as Britain’s Alvey programme, France’s Programme d’action pour la filière électronique, and Germany’s Informationstechnik plan were all aimed at boosting lagging national information technology (IT) champions in the 1980s. By the mid-1980s, there was a growing realization that national strategies alone would be inadequate, leading to the emergence of a European technology programme. The ‘Framework Programme’ has come to provide an umbrella for the promotion of European high technologies, such as the ESPRIT (information technology), RACE (telecommunications) and BRITE (materials) programmes. At a wider European level, the EUREKA programme has included such important projects as JESSI in semiconductors, and the HDTV project (Okimoto 1989; Fransman 1990; Sharp 1990; Sharp and Pavitt 1993; Mytelka 1991a; OTA 1991; Sandholtz 1991). In recent years,

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