The Past Ten Years: A Retrospect

  • John Jewkes
  • David Sawers
  • Richard Stillerman


Since The Sources of Invention was first published in 1958 much has been written on the subject, especially by authors in the United States and those connected with various international organisations. Research and Development has itself become the subject of much research and development. The purpose of this chapter is to summarise the new knowledge and to indicate how far it calls for changes in our own original conclusions.


Small Firm Large Firm Inventive Activity Design Team Small Company 
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  1. Enos: John L. Enos, Petroleum Progress and Profits (M.I.T. Press, 1962).Google Scholar
  2. Miller and Sawers: Ronald Miller and David Sawers, The Technical Development of Modern Aviation (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968).Google Scholar
  3. Schmookler: Jacob Schmookler, Invention and Economic Growth (Harvard University Press, 1966).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 2.
    Dr. Edmund Leach, the Provost of King’s College, Cambridge, in his 1967 Reith Lectures, has claimed that ‘scientific knowledge was changing our lives with ever– accelerating speed’ and that ‘science offered us total mastery over our environment’. It is interesting that in 1904 Lytton Strachey, a leading member of an intellectual group in Cambridge, also closely associated with King’s College, was writing: ‘We are the mysterious priests of a new and amazing civilisation … what is hidden from us? We have mastered all.’ But Strachey was registering these extraordinary claims not in the name of science but in that of philosophy. (Michael Holroyd, Lytton Strachey, vol. I (Heinemann, 1967), p. 198.)Google Scholar
  5. An official view of the same kind is found in O.E.C.D., Reviews of National Science Policy – United States (1968): ‘Under the influence of scientific and technical progress society is changing so profoundly that it has become possible to contemplate the deliberate application of the research and development effort to the achievement of new goals, widely different from the major strategic orientations hitherto prevailing.’ (p. 289)Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    O.E.C.D., The Overall Level and Structure of R and D Efforts (1967), Table II. It is, of course, often claimed that there is much ‘spin—off’ even from military expenditure. Serious doubts, however, have been expressed as to whether this ‘spin—off’ is considerable. Indeed, outside the electronic and space industries, industrialists in the United States are inclined to argue that the major Federal R and D programmes diverted talented research workers from more useful work.Google Scholar
  7. 2.
    This is a direct quotation from O.E.C.D., Reviews of Scientific Policy – United States (1968), p. 255. It is worth noting as an isolated and somewhat reluctant admission in official quarters of an awkward fact, which has always been evident. When one of the authors (J. J.) in his Presidential Address to the Economic Section of the British Association in September i960 – ‘How Much Science’ – ventured to point to this fact, he was much taken to task by British scientists for what was then considered to be heresy.Google Scholar
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    Edwin H. Land, ‘The Role of Patents and the Growth of New Companies’, Journal of the Patent Office Society, U.S.A. (July 1959).Google Scholar
  9. 1.
    John and Sylvia Jewkes, Value for Money in Medicine (Blackwell, 1963), chap. V.Google Scholar
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    It is interesting to find that the historian Froude, nearly a hundred years ago, was defending science and extolling the scientific life on grounds just the opposite of those now so commonly used: ‘So far, perhaps, the finest result of scientific activity lies in the personal character which devotion of a life to science seems to produce. While almost every other occupation is pursued for the money which can be made out of it, and success is measured by the money result which has been realised – while even artists and men of letters, with here and there a brilliant exception, let the bankers’ book become more and more the criterion of their being on the right road, the men of science alone seem to value knowledge for its own sake, and to be valued in return for the addition which they are able to make to it … they are happy in their own occupations, and ask no more; and that here, and here only, there is real and undeniable progress is a significant proof that the laws remain unchanged under which true excellence of any kind is attainable.’ James Anthony Froude, On Progress, 1876.Google Scholar
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    M. Moseley, Irascible Genius (Hutchinson, 1964), p. 145.Google Scholar
  12. 3.
    M. Josephson, Edison (Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1961), p. 186.Google Scholar
  13. 1.
    Reginald Pound, Harley Street (Michael Joseph, 1967), pp. 52 et seq.Google Scholar
  14. 2.
    Committee on Scientific Man Power, Scientific and Engineering Man—Power in Great Britain (1956).Google Scholar
  15. 4.
    Daily Telegraph, Dec. 1st, 1967. See also P. M. S. Blackett, Technology, Industry and Economic Growth, Thirteenth Fawley Lecture (1966).Google Scholar
  16. 6.
    J. Jewkes, ‘Are the Economies of Scale Unlimited’ in Economic Consequences of the Size of Nations (Macmillan, 1963), p. 102.Google Scholar
  17. 2.
    W. F. Mueller, The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity (Princeton University Press, 1962), p. 323.Google Scholar
  18. 3.
    C. Wilson, Unilever 1945–1965 (Cassel, 1968), chap. 4.Google Scholar
  19. 5.
    C. Freeman, ‘Research and Development in Electronic Capital Goods’, National Institute Economic Review (Nov. 1965), p. 60.Google Scholar
  20. 1.
    T. A. Wise, ‘Control Data’s Magnificent Fumble’, Fortune (Apr. 1966). ‘Control Data’s Newest Cliffhanger’, Fortune (Feb. 1968).Google Scholar
  21. 2.
    W. P. Jaspert, ‘Lines of Development for Printers and Manufacturers’, Print in Britain (Dec. 1966).Google Scholar
  22. 3.
    M. J. Peck, Competition in the American Aluminum Industry 1945–1955 (Harvard University Press, 1961).Google Scholar
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    C. Freeman, ‘Research and Development in Electronic Capital Goods’, National Institute Economic Review (Nov. 1965).Google Scholar
  24. 4.
    R. R. Nelson, M. J. Peck and E. D. Kalachek, Technological Advance, Economic Growth and Public Policy (Brookings Institution, 1967), p. 71.Google Scholar
  25. 6.
    D. Hamberg, Research and Development (Random House, 1966), p. 16.Google Scholar
  26. 1.
    C. Freeman, ‘The Plastics Industry’, National Institute Economic Review (Nov. 1963).Google Scholar
  27. 2.
    Alfred P. Sloan, My Years with General Motors (Sidgwick and Jackson, 1965), chap. 5.Google Scholar
  28. 1.
    E. Gustafson, ‘Research and Development, New Products and Productivity Changes’, American Economic Review (May 1962).Google Scholar
  29. 2.
    E. W. Davis, Pioneering with Taconite (Minnesota Historical Society, 1964), p. 89.Google Scholar
  30. 1.
    R. Houlton, ‘The Process of Innovation: Magnetic Recording and the Broadcasting Industry in the United States’, Bulletin of Oxford University Institute of Economics and Statistics (Feb. 1967).Google Scholar
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    T. Marschak, ‘Strategy and Organisation in a System Development Project’, The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity (Princeton University Press, 1962).Google Scholar
  32. 3.
    L. A. B. Pilkington, ‘Float Glass’, Advance (Nov. 1966).Google Scholar
  33. 1.
    J. Schmookler (Hart Committee, Part 3, p. 1257) and D. S. Watson and M. Holman (‘Concentration of Patents from Government Financed Research in Industry’, Review of Economics and Statistics, Aug. 1967) have provided evidence that the cost for each patent is higher for larger than for smaller firms. A. C. Cooper (Hart Committee, Part 3, p. 1293) has suggested that because they are more cost conscious, enjoy better communications between their production and research workers and have a shorter chain of command, smaller firms may be able to make correct decisions in development more quickly than larger.Google Scholar
  34. E. Mansfield (‘Industrial Research and Development Expenditures’, Journal of Political Economy, Aug. 1964) has suggested that, in the chemical, petroleum and steel industries, ‘the inventive output per dollar of R and D expenditure in most of these cases seems to be lower in the largest than in the large or medium—sized firms’.Google Scholar
  35. 2.
    To quote briefly from among the writings: ‘There is in fact no positive linear correlation between size of firm and research intensity. … In technically advanced industries … there seems to be strong inducements to engage in research irrespective of size.… Historically, credit for most significant inventions is not attributable to the very large companies. … The large firms … may, in fact, as a consequence of their size resist change. … Small firms might be able to play a much bigger part in research than believed heretofore and may even sometimes provide the major stimulus.’ C. Freeman, Poignant and I. Svennelson, O.E.C.D., Ministers Talk about Science (1965). ‘If we were to devise a recipe for innovation, we would find diversity to be a necessary ingredient.’ Enos, p. 262. ‘If the trend were towards industrial sectors totally dominated by a couple of corporate giants with large research and development facilities – with formidable barriers to entry – I suspect that this is not an optimal industrial structure for facilitating technical advance.’ R. R. Nelson, Hart Committee, Part 3, p. n 52. ‘Both big business and small business play an absolutely essential role, and … it would be a shame to interfere with the natural world of either one and try to get it performed by the other who is less suited.’ R. Schlaifer, Hart Committee, Part 3, p. 1238. ‘It may be that the environment which typically evolves in a small company is remarkably suited to encourage efficient pursuit of product development projects, while other activities of the small company may or may not enjoy certain efficiency advantages.’ A. C. Cooper, Hart Committee, Part 3, p. 1307. ‘The case for bigness and fewness as a stimulus to industry R and D appears… quite weak. … Perhaps the sensible conclusion is that each industry should be treated as an individual entity.’ D. Hamberg, R and D, p. 68. ‘The qualities I am concerned about in corporate life are not related to bigness or smallness as such. There are small companies that are not orientated towards thoughtfulness and profundity, and there are a few large corporations in which they are encouraged.’ Edwin H. Land, U.S. Patent System 1790–1965. Proceedings, vol. II, The Patent Office Society (1966).Google Scholar

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© John Jewkes, David Sawers and Richard Stillerman 1969

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Jewkes
  • David Sawers
  • Richard Stillerman

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