Frankfurt working papers on East Asia
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.