Classification of Industries by Level of Technology: An Appraisal and some Implications
By Peter Carroll
Modern growth theory acknowledges that a country’s economic prosperity depends in large part on its capacity for technological innovation. Empirical evidence, however, supports the view that not all sectors are equally innovative. As a result, it seems desirable from a public policy perspective to identify and promote sectors displaying both a high innovation rate and, in an increasingly competitive international economy, a high degree of international competitiveness. It is frequently argued that the high-tech industry sectors, in contrast to low-tech sectors, satisfy both conditions, with the clear implication that public policy should be directed to enhancing the performance of high-tech sectors. This approach raises at least two important issues. The first is whether such classifications can be meaningfully constructed given both the intractability of the concepts involved and the difficulties in data collection. A second issue is the basic assumption that policy emphasis should be placed on technology-intensive industries because they have a greater impact on growth. In this paper, we argue that while it may be possible to construct indices of technological intensity that are useful for some purposes, the ones that are currently proposed do not, in fact, address questions of economic growth and firm performance very well. In part, this is a reflection of the technicalities involved in formulating and operationalising the indices, but it also reflects problems in the underlying premise, namely technology-intensive sectors are more growth-inducing than low-tech sectors. We call, therefore, for the adoption of a more sophisticated and detailed approach that would provide a sensible classification of industries and new policy insights.
page: 417 – 436
Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation
Volume 18, Issue 4