Cross-Disciplinary Technology Transfer in Trans-World War II Japan: The Japanese High-Speed Bullet Train as a Case-Study
- Comparative Technology Transfer and Society
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 1, Number 3, December 2003
- pp. 305-325
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- Additional Information
This empirical case study examines a successful cross-disciplinary technology transfer in a non-Western country. The author argues that the invisible hand of contextual variables defined the contours of the cross-disciplinary application of engineering knowledge. More specifically, the migration of engineers, shaped largely by sociopolitical and cultural factors, constituted the pivotal part of the technology transfer. The central focus is the international and domestic context in which wartime aeronautical engineers developed the car truck of the Japanese high-speed bullet train after World War II. First, the paper analyzes the domestic and institutional context of postwar Japan—namely the Japan National Railways and Railway Technical Research Institute—to illustrate mainly sociopolitical factors that promoted the migration of the wartime engineers and cross-disciplinary technology transfer. As a case study, Dr. Tadashi Matsudaira's laboratory amply demonstrates the successful outcome of the process. The second half of this paper contextualizes the aircraft-to-bullet-train transition in a larger international framework. A series of German-Japanese comparisons highlights the sociopolitical cultures at the national level that contained accumulated wealth of wartime knowledge inside Japan. This case study is among the first to examine the cross-disciplinary transfer of military technology in an international framework.