Technology and Innovation in Japan: Policy and Management for the Twenty-First Century

By Martin Hemmert; Christian Oberländer | Go to book overview

3

THE INTERACTION BETWEEN TECHNOLOGY AND ECONOMY

Has the Virtuous cycle’ of Japan’s technological innovation system collapsed?

Chihiro Watanabe and Martin Hemmert

Introduction

The remarkable development of the Japanese economy throughout the last fifty years has largely been attributed to the driving force of industrial development and constant efforts to increase technological innovation. To date, a number of authors have identified the sources supporting Japanese industry’s technological progress (Mowery and Rosenberg 1989; US Department of Commerce 1990; Odagiri and Goto 1993). None, however, have scrutinized the aspect of positive feedback loops between technological innovation and economic development. In the postwar decades, an elaborate array of several reinforcing factors have evolved in Japan, leading to a ‘virtuous cycle’ (i.e. successful stimulation and inducing interaction) between technology and economic development (Watanabe 1995a). This mechanism, as a result of combined industry efforts and government stimulation, functioned quite well during the serious energy and environmental crises of the 1970s and early 1980s (Watanabe and Honda 1992). The MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) that was mainly responsible for industrial technology policy, stimulated and induced industry’s efforts in particular by establishing a policy system which has strengthened the dynamism of technological development (Watanabe, Santoso and Widayanti 1991; Watanabe and Clark 1991).

However, since the relaxation of energy constraints (starting in 1983), the sharp appreciation of the Yen (triggered by the Plaza accord in 1985), the succeeding ‘bubble economy’ (1987-90) and its bursting (1991), Japanese industry has faced a structural stagnation of R&D activities which may result in the collapse of the virtuous cycle between technology and economic

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