Japan_Technology_Champions_Economist

Japan_Technology_Champions_Economist - Databases selected...

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Unformatted text preview: Databases selected: ProQuest Research Library Full Text (2721 words) Invisible but indispensable; Japan's technology champions Anonymous . The Economist . London: Nov 7, 2009. Vol. 393, Iss. 8656; pg. 64 Abstract (Summary) About 40 nuclear reactors are under construction around the world, designed by half a dozen companies from America, China, France, Japan and Russia. But to obtain a huge, solid-steel vessel to contain the radioactivity, all must turn to a single firm, Japan Steel Works, on the northern island of Hokkaido. Though smaller or welded vessels exist, only the Japanese company has the technology to forge the critical $150m part from a single 600-tonne ingot. Few companies find themselves in such a privileged position. But Japan Steel Works is only the most visible example of an insufficiently appreciated feature of corporate Japan. The country has a host of medium-sized firms that dominate speed global markets. Some of these are in simple engineering. But it is in the arcane corners of electronics, engineering and materials-science that Japanese companies reign. The technologies are largely invisible to consumers, but the firms enjoy outsize market shares because they are essential for making particular products. For example, around 75% of motors for hard-disk drives in computers come from a firm called Nidec. Japan's technological prowess is a reminder of the country's industrial strength at a time when it is struggling to overcome nearly two decades of economic stagnation and is poised to lose its place as the world's second-largest economy to China. Japan's hidden champions will probably need to unite in some form to maintain the financial and technical strength they need to stay dominant. They will also have to be wary of antitrust watchdogs, even if they have largely avoided them hitherto. (Copyright 2009 The Economist Newspaper Ltd. All rights reserved.) A host of medium-sized Japanese electronics firms have developed dominant positions in many areas of technology. Can they keep them? ABOUT 40 nuclear reactors are under construction around the world, designed by half a dozen companies from America, China, France, Japan and Russia. But to obtain a huge, solid-steel vessel to contain the radioactivity, all must turn to a single firm, Japan Steel Works, on the northern island of Hokkaido. Though smaller or welded vessels exist, only the Japanese company has the technology to forge the critical $150m part from a single 600-tonne ingot. Few companies find themselves in such a privileged position. But Japan Steel Works is only the most visible example of an insufficiently appreciated feature of corporate Japan. The country has a host of medium-sized firms that dominate speed global markets. Some of these are in simple engineering: Shimano earns around $1.5 billion a year by supplying 60-70% of the world's bicycle gears and brakes; YKK makes around half the world's zip fasteners by value, and used to control far more. But it is in the arcane corners of electronics, engineering andfasteners by value, and used to control far more....
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