About CNS-UCSB Interdisciplinary Research Group 2

Since 2000, when the U.S. officially launched its National Nanotechnology Initiative, global public spending on nanotechnology has exceeded $70 billion. If one includes corporate research and private funding more generally, the total of public and private spending is predicted to reach as much as a quarter of a trillion dollars by 2015 (Cientifica, 2011).  Clearly, pubic officials across the world have come to see nanotechnology as the next technological revolution; firms and investors – no doubt in part attracted by the availability of public funding – have followed suit. Does this nanoscale “race to the bottom” – investing significant public resources in nanotechnology research, development, and commercialization – constitute industrial policy? How successful is it likely to be? 

In his classic work, MITI and the Japanese Miracle: the Growth of Industrial Policy, Chalmers Johnson (1982) made the now-classic distinction between “plan-rational,” “market-rational,” and “plan-ideological” state approaches to industrial policy. Johnson’s tripartite distinction of policy making was based on two interacting dimensions: the principal type of economic governance (market-driven v. state planning), and the principal type of decision-making (ideologically driven v. what might be today called “evidence-based”). In addition to the crudeness of the resulting binary distinctions, Johnson’s framework is missing a logical fourth category: “market-ideological.” As Henderson and Appelbaum (1992: 19) reformulated Johnson’s original typology, in “market-ideological political economies…public policy is oriented above all toward assuring free market operations.” Ha-Joon Chang subsequently emphasized the state’s engagement in “institutional adaptation and innovation to achieve goals of long-term growth and structural change” (1994), while Meredith Woo-Cumings incorporated similar notions in characterizing industrial policy as “the ability of the state sector both to accommodate itself to the changing requirements for remaining competitive in the global market place and to provide support for educational infrastructure and for research and development” (1999: 27).

Sean O’Riain (2004: 29) pointed out a facilitating role played by the states of Israel, Ireland, and Taiwan, such as fostering international networks, and establishing venture capital funding and innovation centers.  In the area of technology, industrial policy can take the form of what have been termed “horizontal technology policies” (HTPs) – policies that involve a class of subsidies that employ market mechanisms and self-selection to advance particular technologies (see, e.g., Hall and Rosenberg, 2010; Teubal, 1997; Breznitz (2007). In an effort to narrow the concept and adapt it to current conditions, economist Dani Rodrik (2004: 38) proposes that a “twenty-first century industrial policy” would involve “strategic collaboration between the private sector and government with the aim of uncovering where the most likely obstacles to restructuring lie and what types of interventions are most likely to remove them.” In Rodrik’s formulation, the government does not pick particular sectors; rather, it provides support for activities that seem likely to enhance economic advancement – for example, promising frontier technologies.  For IRG-2 collaborator Fred Block (2008: 172), this suggests that industrial policy should involve “four distinct but overlapping tasks – targeted resourcing, opening windows, brokering, and facilitation.” 

By the same token, bibliometric studies have been very nearly unanimous in concluding that science has globalized in two distinct ways.  First, there is significant evidence that it has become more internationally interconnected.  These interconnections are evident in the growth of international conferences, cross-border funding (Shapira and Wang, 2010), and in the share of peer-reviewed scientific publications involving authors from multiple countries. Second, research activity has become more evenly spread across countries, eroding national concentrations of scientific productivity.  This diffusion of scientific activity is apparent in the growing shares of emerging scientific powers in research publications, on editorial boards of journals (Braun et al, 2007) and in global patent filings (Dang et al, 2010).  In fact, the diffusion model, which connotes flows from center to periphery, may not adequately capture this process.  As a result of increasing rates of international collaboration and the global flow of scientific talent, significant scientific advances may begin simultaneously in center and periphery through collaborative endeavors that transcend national borders – or may begin in what is conventionally thought of as the periphery and diffuse to the center.  Nanotechnology research is of significant interest in this regard because the field is nascent, has seen major growth in the last twenty years, and, as noted above, has been accorded high priority by governments around the world. 

Building on these distinctions, where do efforts to develop nanotechnology – and, by inference, other emerging technologies that hold the promise of fostering significant economic gains – fall in terms of industrial policy? How can the study of international nanotechnology research collaborations shed light on the connections between national policies and the evolution of international scientific networks?  The principal goals of IRG-2 – since the beginning of CNS, and throughout this review period – have been to answer these questions.

To accomplish these overarching goals, IRG-2 has engaged in a number of interrelated projects and activities that draw on field interviews, documentary analysis, and quantitative bibliometric studies.  Our specific goals and accomplishments have included:

1.      Develop a comparative framework for understanding innovation policies in different countries through an extensive review of the literature on industrial policy, reflected in presentations and publications during this period

2.      Expand our previous work on Chinese industrial policy, focusing on China’s emphasis on indigenous innovation and its impact on nanotechnology R&D and commercialization, particularly in Shanghai and Suzhou Industrial park (SIP)

3.      Complete our research project on the development of nanotechnology into Mexico, through a supporting grant obtained through UC-MEXUS and CONACYT

4.      Establish relations with ReLANS (the Latin American Network for Nanotechnology and Society)

5.      Publish the book from our “Emerging Economies/EmergingTechnologies” conference (November 4-6, 2009, Washington, D.C.): Can Emerging Technologies Make a Difference in Development? (Routledge, 2012)

6.      Gauge the contributions of foreign-born scientists and engineers to the development of nanotechnology ion the United States through a study of recent PhD’s in nanotechnology

7.      Gain a better understanding of how nanotechnology diffuses, both within a country (focusing on China) as well as globally

8.      Build a nano-firm and organization database incorporating a global value-chain approach, using it to populate a “California in the Nano Economy” website

9.      Continue development of “GLOBONANO,” a large scale database including all nanotechnology-related scientific literature, patents, and eventually products, for nearly 60 countries (including the US, China, South Korea, Japan, India, Singapore, and EU countries), and – using this database – begin research on nanotechnology commercialization and international collaboration in nanotechnology research

10.  Develop our internal capability to conduct bibliometric and patent analysis, through the work of postdoc Luciano Kay

11.  Establish a working relationship/collaboration with Phil Shapira and Jan Youte at Georgia Tech, to advance our joint efforts in bibliometric and patent analysis

12.  Develop a global value chain website on nanotechnology in California, through the work of postdoc Stacey Frederick

13.  Conduct preliminary research on foreign graduate students in STEM departments at UCSB (“open doors” project)