UK tops import charts

November 29, 1996

The United Kingdom has the fastest growth rate in the import of technology over the past 20 years out of ten countries surveyed by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development.

In 1996 Science, Technology and Industry Outlook, the OECD says imports of goods and services containing high levels of technology was most important in Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands. But "the fastest growth rates were in the UK and United States". Japan was the only country with negative growth.

For the UK, the share of total acquired technology, or "embodied R&D", obtained from imports jumped from just over 10 per cent in the 1970s to 55 per cent in 1990. Over a similar period the US share rose from less than 5 per cent to 13 per cent and France's has doubled from around 20 to over 40 per cent.

The largest importers of this embodied trade tended to be the computer and office machinery, and communication and semiconductor equipment sectors.

Aeroplanes tailored to the specification of individual airlines; the knowledge embodied in products such as a photocopier so that, for instance, the user knows how to unjam it are both examples of intangible, service-like trade in "embodied technologies".

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