On the Sources and Significance of Interindustry Differences in Technological Opportunities

Posted: 17 Nov 2009

See all articles by Alvin K. Klevorick

Alvin K. Klevorick

Yale University - Law School

Richard C. Levin

Yale University - Department of Economics

Richard R. Nelson

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA)

Sidney G. Winter

University of Pennsylvania - Management Department

Date Written: 1995

Abstract

The concept of technological opportunity is examined and the following three categories of technological opportunity sources are discussed: (1) advances in scientific understanding and technique which expand the pool of technological opportunities, (2) technological advances that originate in other industries, and (3) positive feedback from a specific industry's own technological advances. Data gathered from 650 responses to the Yale Survey on Industrial Research and Development undertaken in 1983-1984 are used to measure the sources of technological opportunity and to ascertain inter-industry differences of technological opportunities. The participants were high-level R&D managers, representing 130 lines of business, who were asked to respond as informed observers on the typical situation in their field. Results suggest systematic differences between the role of science as a pool of knowledge and the role of new discoveries. Generally, university-based research in a field is not considered by the respondents to be as important to technological advances as is the overall body of science in the field. One field seen as the exception to this is biological sciences. The industries with technologies based in the biological sciences seem to be fed by new scientific developments from university-based agricultural and medical research to a substantial degree. Many industries highly value the contribution made to their technological progress by firms located somewhere else in the production chain. Specifically, contributions from suppliers of materials and production equipment were seen as extremely valuable. In addition to the importance of these extra-industry sources of technological advances, firms within the industry were seen as playing a vital role in generating technological progress. Finally, both university and government research were found to stimulate and complement industrial research and development. The differing sources of technology opportunities across industries may help to explain the different rates of technological progress. (SFL)

Keywords: Technologies, Technology innovation, R&D, Science, Technology acquisition, Academic research, University-industry relations, Interindustry relations, Colleges & universities, Technology transfer, Innovation process

Suggested Citation

Klevorick, Alvin K. and Levin, Richard C. and Nelson, Richard R. and Winter, Sidney G., On the Sources and Significance of Interindustry Differences in Technological Opportunities (1995). Research Policy, Vol. 24, Issue 2, p. 185-205 1995. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1505882

Alvin K. Klevorick (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Richard C. Levin

Yale University - Department of Economics ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States

Richard R. Nelson

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA) ( email )

420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Sidney G. Winter

University of Pennsylvania - Management Department ( email )

The Wharton School
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6370
United States

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