IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Technological Accumulation, Diversification and Organisation in UK Companies, 1945--1983

Listed author(s):
  • K. Pavitt

    (Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9RF, United Kingdom)

  • M. Robson

    (Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9RF, United Kingdom)

  • J. Townsend

    (Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9RF, United Kingdom)

Registered author(s):

    A survey of more than 4,000 significant innovations and innovating firms in the UK from 1945--1983 shows that the scope and organisation of technological activities vary greatly as functions of firms' principal activities and size. 1. Technological opportunities and threats are greatest in firms in chemicals and engineering. Opportunities in such science-based and specialist supplier firms in general emerge horizontally (in related product markets) and downstream (in user sectors). In scale-intensive (e.g. steel, vehicles) and supplier-dominated (e.g. printing, construction) firms, opportunities tend to be upstream in related production technologies. Breakthrough innovations in science-based firms also induce clusters of technological opportunities upstream for suppliers, horizontally for partners, and downstream for users. Their effective exploitation requires diversity of firms' technological activities greater than that strictly required for current output. 2. The nature of technological opportunities, and of organisation for their exploitation, also varies with firm size. Firms with fewer than 1,000 employees have major opportunities with specialised strategies in mechanical engineering and instruments. The prevalence of broad front technological strategies, and of divisionalisation, increases sharply with firm size, together with dependence on formal R and D activities. The size of innovating divisions has diminished sharply over the period. Divisionalisation improves the "goodness of fit" between the core business of innovating divisions and the innovations themselves, but 40% have remained consistently outside the core business of divisions. 3. These findings help identify the key tasks of technological strategy in firms in different industries, and of different sizes. Thus, in large firms, divisionalisation can create the small size of unit conducive to effective implementation, but it cannot absolve central management from the continuous task of matching technological opportunities with organisational forms and boundaries.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

    Volume (Year): 35 (1989)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 81-99

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:35:y:1989:i:1:p:81-99
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    7240 Parkway Drive, Suite 300, Hanover, MD 21076 USA

    Phone: +1-443-757-3500
    Fax: 443-757-3515
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:35:y:1989:i:1:p:81-99. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mirko Janc)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.