Technology Importation, Corporate Strategies, and the Rise of the Japanese Semiconductor Industry in the 1950s

During the 1950s, the Japanese semiconductor industry rose from nothing to a level that was roughly on par with that of the United States. It is undeniable that this was due in large part to the importation of advanced technology from leading U.S. firms. In the process of technology transfer from the United States to Japan, previous scholars have emphasized the importance of the role played by the highly restrictive government technology-importation policy during this period. The aim of this article is to analyze this story from the perspective of Japanese companies, which exhibited divergent strategies for acquiring foreign technology. These strategies were shaped by complex calculations that took into account firms' organizational capability and U.S. licensing practices and antitrust policy, as well as the technology-importation policy of MITI (Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry). In short, this article argues that Japanese firms were not passive receptors, but active agents in shaping the pattern of technology importation.