Investigation of inventions that fail to take off

October 3, 1997

Edinburgh University researchers are to investigate the perceived failure of British industry to turn inventions into innovations over the past 50 years. The project, backed by Pounds 194,000 from the Economic and Social Research Council, will compare technology transfer in the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and the United States, tracking the exploitation of inventions patented and licensed by the British Technology Group. They will compare firms in different industrial sectors, and varying types of technology, as well as market economies and investment policies.

Graham Spinardi, of the research centre for social sciences, said that despite some highly successful industrial exploitation, some cases showed an almost complete failure to take advantage of indigenous inventions. These included carbon fibre, invented in the 1960s and used in the manufacture of mountain bikes and aircraft parts. With only one small manufacturer left in Britain, most carbon fibre now has to be imported.

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