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.