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Collaborative R&D in the robot technology in Japan: an inquiry based on patent data analysis (1991-2004)


  • Sebastien Lechevalier

    (EHESS and Maison franco-japonaise)

  • Yukio Ikeda

    (Graduate School of Social Sciences, Yokohama National University and Maison franco-japonaise)

  • Junichi Nishimura

    (Graduate School of Economics, Hitotsubashi University and Maison franco-japonaise)


The growing trend of collaborative R&D has been well documented recently, both at a global level and through national and industry case studies. However, there is no general agreement on its causes as well as on the motives of the firms collaborating in R&D with other players. The Japanese innovation system (JIS) is no exception. Furthermore, in this case, it is particularly important, because the JIS has been described since the 1970s as dominated by "in-house" R&D by large firms and this feature has been considered as one reason of the limits that the JIS reached at the end of the 1980s. By contrast to the existing literature on collaborative R&D in Japan, this paper focus on the case of the robot technology (RT), by using patent data applied in Japan between 1991 and 2004. The questions we address in this paper are as follows: Did the R&D collaboration in RT increase since the beginning of the 1990s? Did the R&D collaborations lead to higher quality of the outcomes? Is it possible to categorize different forms of collaborations and different types of players (depending on their degree of collaboration)? How to explain the evolution of R&D collaboration, if any? Our results are as follows. First, the level of R&D collaboration in the RT in Japan is overall low and dominated by inter-firm collaborations; but it has increased between 1991 and 2004, especially in the case of collaboration between firms and universities. Second, R&D collaboration has apparently a positive impact on the quality of the patents, but should be more carefully investigated. Third, we find a significant heterogeneity across firms in the practices of collaborations (number of collaborations, choice of partners and "fidelity" with the partners). Fourth, these patterns are tentatively explained by the structural characteristics of the RT (by reference to a transaction cost argument and to the role of science-based technologies) and by firms' capabilities hypothesis; however, it is not possible to clearly identify if one theoretical hypothesis is better supported by the facts.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastien Lechevalier & Yukio Ikeda & Junichi Nishimura, 2006. "Collaborative R&D in the robot technology in Japan: an inquiry based on patent data analysis (1991-2004)," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-453, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  • Handle: RePEc:tky:fseres:2006cf453

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Paola Giuri & Myriam Mariani & Stefano Brusoni & Gustavo Crespi & Dominique Francoz & Alfonso Gambardella & Walter Garcia-Fontes & Aldo Geuna & Raul Gonzales & Dietmar Harhoff & Karin Hoisl & Christia, 2005. "Everything you Always Wanted to Know about Inventors (but Never Asked): Evidence from the PatVal-EU Survey," LEM Papers Series 2005/20, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    2. Manuel Trajtenberg, 1990. "A Penny for Your Quotes: Patent Citations and the Value of Innovations," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 172-187, Spring.
    3. Tether, Bruce S., 2002. "Who co-operates for innovation, and why: An empirical analysis," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 947-967, August.
    4. Hagedoorn, John, 2002. "Inter-firm R&D partnerships: an overview of major trends and patterns since 1960," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 477-492, May.
    5. Nagaoka, Sadao, 2005. "Patent quality, cumulative innovation and market value: Evidence from Japanese firm level panel data," IIR Working Paper 05-06, Institute of Innovation Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    6. John Hagedoorn, 2003. "Sharing intellectual property rights--an exploratory study of joint patenting amongst companies," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(5), pages 1035-1050, October.
    7. Hagedoorn, John & van Kranenburg, Hans, 2003. "Growth patterns in R&D partnerships: an exploratory statistical study," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 517-531, April.
    8. repec:fth:geneec:00.02 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Johansson, Börje & Lööf, Hans, 2009. "The Global-Local Interplay of MNE and Non-MNE Firms," Working Paper Series in Economics and Institutions of Innovation 187, Royal Institute of Technology, CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies.

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