Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Vernon Ruttan on the role of Public sector in technology development

The Role of Public Sector in Technology Development: Generalizations from General Purpose Technologies by Vernon Rutton:
"Abstract: In the new science and technology policy literature that emerged in the
early 1980's it was held , while public support for science is appropriate, that
public support for technology development represents an unproductive use of public resources. The perspective that emerges in my recent book, Technology, Growth and Development: An Induced innovation Perspective, is quite different. Government has played an important role in technology development and transfer in almost every U.S. industry that has become competitive on a global scale."
Towards the end of the article, he also discusses cases which do not fit into this scheme and says "A second lesson that emerges from U.S. experience is the importance of a decentralized national research system. The structure of the U.S. national research system took its present form in the half century between 1880 and 1930. This period witnessed the formation of scientific and technical bureaus within the federal government, the establishment of industrial research laboratories, the formation and growth of public and private research universities, and the emergence of philanthropic foundations to support research and education. These institutions drew on each other for their entrepreneurship and leadership. This decentralized structure has given the United States greater capacity to adjust to changing national and global priorities, and to direct research to the exploration of commercial opportunities, than in countries in which government-funded research is conducted primarily in national laboratories or research institutes only marginally linked with universities and in which private sector research is limited primarily to large firms"
The above article is drawn from his 2001 book mentioned above and in a 2006 article, he goes further to discuss the role of military and defence related research:IS WAR NECESSARY FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH?
P.S. I came across the articles though comments of E. Barandiaran in the MR post Who invented interchangeable parts?. E. Barandiaran also suggests the paper Modeling the Transition to a New Economy: Lessons from Two Technological Revolutions by Andrew Atkeson and Patrick J. Kehoe.

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