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INDUSTRIAL POLICIES: Common Not Rare

Author

Listed:
  • Richard G. Lipsey

    (Simon Fraser University)

  • Kenneth I. Carlaw

    (UBC Okanagan)

Abstract

This paper reviews some of the myriad, often complex, ways in which the private and public sectors interact in the invention and innovation of the new technologies that are a major driver of economic growth. Several terms have been used to describe the public sector’s activities in these matters: technology enhancement policy, innovation policy, industrial policy, and national systems of innovation. We use the term Industrial Policies to cover all the public sector’s activities that, either directly or indirectly, encourage technological advance. We first outline some important concepts and definitions: two views of the place of the public sector in technological advance; the definition of technology and the facilitating structure; the main public sector organisations that encourage technological advance; the four evolutionary trajectories of a new technology: invention, efficiency, applications and diffusion; the growing importance of science in technological advance; and an overview of a successful industrial policy. In Section II we study 13 important technologies developed over the last century and a half, showing the extent that the public sector has provided finance for the various trajectories of these technologies. In Section III we consider nine public policies designed to encourage technological advance in general. Then in section IV, we discuss over 20 cases in which the government has attempted to pick and encourage specific winners, some of which were successes while others were failures. After each of our case studies in our three main sections, we offer at least one tentative lesson concerning the conditions that favour success and/or that tend to lead to failure. Section V offers a few concluding remarks ending with the statement that “The cases considered here reveal that those who would dismiss industrial policy with statements such as ‘Governments cannot pick winners’ are relying on an empty slogan to avoid detailed consideration of the actual complicated, multifaceted relationship between the private and public sectors in encouraging the inventions and innovations that are the root of economic growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard G. Lipsey & Kenneth I. Carlaw, 2020. "INDUSTRIAL POLICIES: Common Not Rare," Discussion Papers dp20-11, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
  • Handle: RePEc:sfu:sfudps:dp20-11
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    File URL: http://www.sfu.ca/econ-research/RePEc/sfu/sfudps/dp20-11.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lipsey, Richard G. & Carlaw, Kenneth I. & Bekar, Clifford T., 2005. "Economic Transformations: General Purpose Technologies and Long-Term Economic Growth," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199290895.
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    Keywords

    policy; technology enhancement; innovation; industrial policy;
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