Innovation, Industrial Competitiveness and British Regions in the Interwar Period




This paper investigates the regional distribution of innovation in Britain in the interwar period and contributes to the debate concerning the role played by corporate innovation in the relative decline of British industry. The paper is based on a novel dataset including more than 8,000 patents granted in the USA to British inventions in three benchmark years. This dataset enables us to study for the first time the Revealed Technological Advantage (RTA) of British regions, thus identifying those technological fields where regions held an international technological advantage. The analysis shows that corporate innovation and pre-existent technological specialisation had an impact on the regional RTA and suggests regional and corporate technological lock-in. These provisional findings support the argument that corporations were responsible for a considerable share of innovation. However, only to a limited extent was such innovation taking place in the fastest growing sectors.

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The Business History Seminar has been made possible by financial support from the Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM) and the Vereniging Trustfonds Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam.
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Abe de Jong Ben Wubs
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