Frankfurt working papers on East Asia
The emergence of new industries between path dependency and path plasticity : the case of Japan's software and biotechnology industry
- In contrast to the US and recently Europe, Japan appears to be unsuccessful in establishing new industries. An oft-cited example is Japan's practical invisibility in the global business software sector. Literature has ascribed Japan's weakness – or conversely, America's strength – to the specific institutional settings and competences of actors within the respective national innovation system. It has additionally been argued that unlike the American innovation system, with its proven ability to give birth to new industries, the inherent path dependency of the Japanese innovation system makes innovation and establishment of new industries quite difficult. However, there are two notable weaknesses underlying current propositions postulating that only certain innovation systems enable the creation of new industries: first, they mistakenly confound context specific with general empirical observations. And second, they grossly underestimate – or altogether fail to examine – the dynamics within innovation systems. This paper will show that it is precisely the dynamics within innovation systems – dynamics founded on the concept of path plasticity – which have enabled Japan to charge forward as a global leader in a highly innovative field: the game software sector as well as the biotechnology industry.
Japan's silver market: creating a new industry under uncertainty
- It has often been asked whether today´s Japan will be able to move into new and promising industries, or whether it is locked into an innovation system with an inherent inability to give birth to new industries. One argument reasons that the thick institutional complementarities among labour, innovation, and finance among its enterprises and the public sector favour industrial development in sectors of intermediate uncertainty, while it is difficult to move into areas of major uncertainty. In this paper, we present the case of the silver industry or, somewhat more prosaically, the 60+ or even 50+ industry, for which most would agree that Japan has indeed become a lead market and lead producer on the global market. For an institutional economist, the case of the silver industry is particularly interesting, because Japan´s success is based on the cooperation of existing actors, the enterprise and public sector in particular, which helped overcome the information uncertainties and asymmetries involved in the new market by relying on several established mechanisms developed well before. In that sense, Japan´s silver industry presents a case of of what we propose to call successful institutional path activation with the effect of an innovative market creation, instead of the problematic lockin effects that are usually associated with the term path dependence.