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Competition, knowledge spillover, and innovation: technological development of semiconductor lasers, 1960- 1990

Shimizu, Hiroshi (2007) Competition, knowledge spillover, and innovation: technological development of semiconductor lasers, 1960- 1990. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

Knowledge plays an important role in economic growth. The role of technological knowledge significantly increased after the Industrial Revolution. Firms internalised technological knowledge in their R&D laboratories and placed knowledge creation in a central position in their business strategies. Both the stock and flow of technological knowledge and the tight interaction among science and engineering became indispensable to the competitive advantage of industry, as well as modern economic growth. Directing its attention to knowledge creation and spillover, this thesis scrutinises the development of semiconductor lasers from 1960 to 1990. The semiconductor laser became one of the most important developments in the optoelectronics industry underlying the drastic changes that took place during the last half of the twentieth century in information technology, and it has become the most widely used laser since the 1980s. Reviewing the optoelectronics industry in the U.S. and Japan, the Japan Technology Evaluation Center (JTEC) found that “Japan clearly led in consumer optoelectronics, that both countries were competitive in communications and networks, and that the United States held a clear lead in custom optoelectronics.” “Japan’s lead in high-volume consumer optoelectronics and related technologies gave it a dominant share of the overall global optoelectronics market.” This thesis explores how the patterns of comparative advantages emerged, which were indicated by the JTEC report. How did Japanese firms gain technological competitiveness in high volume product markets? How did the U.S. firms come to be competitive in niche markets? Through scrutinizing patent data, it examines the engineers’ network, mobility, and the pattern of technological choice in R&D competition. Introducing the two different types of knowledge--current technological domain specific knowledge and lateral utilization knowledge--it showed how different patterns of knowledge spillover emerged and resulted in the different paths of technological development in the U.S. and Japan. Based on the high star-engineers’ mobility and the well developed research network, the U.S. firms tended to spin off from their parent firms and targeted niche markets. Therefore, knowledge spillover emerged in the areas where semiconductor laser technology was applied and exploited to fill untapped markets. In contrast, the pattern of competition of Japanese firms induced knowledge spillovers to enhance the development of core semiconductor laser technology instead of exploiting niche product markets.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2007 Hiroshi Shimizu
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Supervisor: Hunter, Janet and Nicholas, Tom
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/84

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