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Going Soft: How the Rise of Software Based Innovation Led to the Decline of Japan's IT Industry and the Resurgence of Silicon Valley

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  • Ashish Arora
  • Lee G. Branstetter
  • Matej Drev

Abstract

This paper documents a shift in the nature of innovation in the information technology (IT) industry. Using comprehensive data on all IT patents granted by the USPTO from 1980-2002, we find strong evidence of a change in IT innovation that is systematic, substantial, and increasingly dependent on software. This change in the nature of IT innovation has had differential effects on the performance of the IT industries in the United States and Japan. Using a broad unbalanced panel of US and Japanese publicly listed IT firms in the period 1983-1999, we show that (a) Japanese IT innovation relies less on software advances than US IT innovation, (b) the innovation performance of Japanese IT firms is increasingly lagging behind that of their US counterparts, particularly in IT sectors that are more software intensive, and (c) that US IT firms are increasingly outperforming their Japanese counterparts, particularly in more software intensive sectors. The findings of this paper thus provide a fresh explanation for the relative decline of the Japanese IT industry in the 1990s. Finally, we provide suggestive evidence consistent with the hypothesis that human resource constraints played a role in preventing Japanese firms from adapting to the shift in the nature of innovation in IT.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16156.

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Date of creation: Jul 2010
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16156

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  1. William R. Kerr & William F. Lincoln, 2008. "The Supply Side of Innovation: H-1B Visa Reforms and US Ethnic Invention," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-005, Harvard Business School.
  2. Nick Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2006. "Measuring and explaining management practices across firms and countries," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 733, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Ashish Arora & Lee G. Branstetter & Matej Drev, 2010. "Going Soft: How the Rise of Software Based Innovation Led to the Decline of Japan's IT Industry and the Resurgence of Silicon Valley," NBER Working Papers 16156, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Hall, Bronwyn H. & MacGarvie, Megan, 2010. "The private value of software patents," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(7), pages 994-1009, September.
  5. Iain M. Cockburn & Megan J. MacGarvie, 2009. "Patents, Thickets and the Financing of Early-Stage Firms: Evidence from the Software Industry," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(3), pages 729-773, 09.
  6. Nick Bloom & Raffaella Sadun & John Van Reenen, 2007. "Americans Do I.T. Better: US Multinationals and the Productivity Miracle," CEP Discussion Papers dp0788, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  7. Dale W. Jorgenson & Koji Nomura, 2005. "The Industry Origins of Japanese Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 11800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. James Bessen & Robert M Hunt, 2004. "An Empirical Look at Software Patents," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000000167, David K. Levine.
  9. Magnus Blomström & Jennifer Corbett & Fumio Hayashi & Anil Kashyap, 2003. "Structural Impediments to Growth in Japan," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number blom03-1, October.
  10. Ricardo J. Caballero & Adam B. Jaffe, 1993. "How High are the Giants' Shoulders: An Empirical Assessment of Knowledge Spillovers and Creative Destruction in a Model of Economic Growth," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1993, Volume 8, pages 15-86 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Dudley, Leonard & Moenius, Johannes, 2007. "The great realignment: How factor-biased innovation reshaped comparative advantage in the U.S. and Japan, 1970-1992," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 112-132, January.
  12. Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, 2005. "Outsourcing and Skill Imports: Foreign High-Skilled Workers on H-1B and L-1 Visas in the United States," Working Paper Series WP05-15, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  13. Sadao Nagaoka, 2007. "Assessing the R&D Management of a Firm in Terms of Speed and Science Linkage: Evidence from the US Patents," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(1), pages 129-156, 03.
  14. Belderbos, Rene, 2001. "Overseas innovations by Japanese firms: an analysis of patent and subsidiary data," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 313-332, February.
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Cited by:
  1. Ashish Arora & Lee G. Branstetter & Matej Drev, 2010. "Going Soft: How the Rise of Software Based Innovation Led to the Decline of Japan's IT Industry and the Resurgence of Silicon Valley," NBER Working Papers 16156, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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