Shift to a Science-based Economy and Industry-Academia Partnership

A hand holding a test tube.

Image: Flickr

Author: Kazuyuki Motohashi, University of Tokyo

At the plenary session of the annual Technology and Innovation Management (TIM) conference of the Academy of Management (AOM) held in Atlanta in August 2017, discussions were held based on a paper that has created a stir in academic circles (“The Decline of Science in Corporate R&D,” Arora et. al (2015)). This paper analyzed the cause of the trend of U.S. companies retreating from basic research and pouring efforts into development, which has been observed over the past three decades. As the contributing factors of the trend, the paper pointed to major companies’ approach of target selection and resource concentration (focusing on applications development in specific fields, rather than on basic research), the rise of China and other emerging countries and intensified competition (short-term orientation toward innovation), and the progress in the division of roles between companies and universities and other public research institutions engaging in basic research (division of innovative labor).

In Japan as well, companies’ retreat from basic research is reflected in a decline in the number of scientific papers written by corporate authors. As someone who has conducted studies on open innovation activities, including industry-academia partnerships, it is clear from the results of questionnaire surveys and interviews with Japanese companies that the intensifying competition is influencing major companies’ shift of emphasis in research and development (R&D) to applications development. Meanwhile, the importance of scientific knowledge for creating outstanding innovations is growing. Therefore, I am placing high expectations on industry-academia partnerships to make up for this basic research gap (Motohashi (2005), Motohashi, et al (2012)).

Read the entire article on the RIETI website.

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