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Are There High-tech Industries or Only High-tech Firms? Evidence from New Technology-based Firms

  • Gellatly, Guy
  • Baldwin, John R.

Considerable attention has been directed at understanding the structural changes that are generating an increased need for skilled workers. These changes are perceived to be the result of developments associated with the emergence of the new knowledge economy, whose potential is often linked to the growth of new technology-based firms (NTBFs). Where are these firms to be found? Related work on changes in technology and innovativeness has been accompanied by the creation of taxonomies that classify industries as high-tech or high-knowledge, based primarily on the characteristics of large firms. There is a temptation to use these taxonomies to identify new technology-based firms only within certain sectors. This paper uses a special survey that collected data on new firms to argue that this would be unwise. The paper investigates the limitations of existing classification schemes that might be used to classify industries as high- or low-tech, as advanced or otherwise. Characteristically unidimensional in scope, many of these taxonomies employ conceptual and operational measures that are narrow and incomplete. Consequently, previous rankings that identify sectors as high- or low-tech using these measures obscure the degree of innovativeness and human capital formation exhibited by certain industries. In a policy environment wherein emotive 'scoreboard' classifications have direct effects on resource allocation, the social costs of misclassification are potentially significant. Using a comparative methodology, this study investigates the role that conceptualization plays in devising taxonomies of high- and low-tech industries. Far from producing definitive classifications, existing measures of technological advancement are found to be wanting when their underpinnings are examined closely. Our objective in the current analysis is to examine the limitations of standard classification schemes, particularly when applied to new small firms, and to suggest an alternative framework based on a competency-model of the firm. This framework differs from previous attempts in several important respects. First, it constitutes a multidimensional approach to industry classification. As different concepts - such as innovation, technology use, and worker skills - can be used to define high- and low-tech industries, we integrate each of these measures into a unified framework that captures the different dimensions of technological prowess. This, in turn, lessens the degree of bias that may arise due to narrow or incomplete conceptualization. Second, our competency-based approach focuses directly on the population of interest - new small firms. Often at the forefront of product development and advanced technology use, it is these firms that are seen as critical in the transition to knowledge-based production. Basing industry classification on new small firms thus alleviates the bias in favour of large firm characteristics that arises with the use of indus

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Paper provided by Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch in its series Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series with number 1998120e.

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Date of creation: 08 Dec 1998
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Handle: RePEc:stc:stcp3e:1998120e
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  1. Klepper, Steven & Miller, John H., 1995. "Entry, exit, and shakeouts in the United States in new manufactured products," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 567-591, December.
  2. Baldwin, John R., 1997. "The Importance of Research and Development for Innovation in Small and Large Canadian Manufacturing Firms," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 1997107e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  3. Baldwin, John R., 1999. "A Portrait of Entrants and Exits," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 1999121e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  4. Picot, Garnett & Dupuy, Richard & Baldwin, John R., 1994. "Have Small Firms Created a Disproportionate Share of New Jobs in Canada? A Reassessment of the Facts," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 1994071e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  5. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521465618 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Cohen, Wesley M. & Levin, Richard C., 1989. "Empirical studies of innovation and market structure," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 18, pages 1059-1107 Elsevier.
  7. Steve J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1991. "Gross Job Creation, Gross Job Destruction and Employment Reallocation," NBER Working Papers 3728, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Sabourin, David & Baldwin, John R. & Diverty, Brent, 1995. "Technology Use and Industrial Transformation: Empirical Perspectives," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 1995075e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  9. Gort, Michael & Klepper, Steven, 1982. "Time Paths in the Diffusion of Product Innovations," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(367), pages 630-53, September.
  10. Baldwin, John R. & Raffiquzzaman, Mohammed, 1998. "The Effect of Technology and Trade on Wage Differentials Between Nonproduction and Production Workers in Canadian Manufacturing," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 1998098e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  11. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521633574 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Samuel Hollander, 1965. "The Sources of Increased Efficiency: A Study of DuPont Rayon Plants," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026258235x, June.
  13. Klepper, Steven, 1996. "Entry, Exit, Growth, and Innovation over the Product Life Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 562-83, June.
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