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Scale And Scope In Technology: Large Firms 1930/1990

By Felicia Fai and Nicholas Von Tunzelmann

Abstract

We examine historical empirical patterns of change in corporate. technological scale and scope. Much literature on scale and scope by business and economic historians has conflated product markets and technology together. However, given the technologically complex environment of the late twentieth century, the relationship between scale and scope in production and products is not simple, and conflated discussions may be naive. Consequently we have two aims. Firstly, we wish to see if technological scale and scope follow the historical pattern of broader notions of scale and scope. Secondly, given increasing technological complexity, we consider whether the nature of corporate technological scope has changed over time. Using data drawn from the University of Reading's patents database, we examine the technological activities in 32 of the world's historically largest patenting firms over the period 1930 to 1990. Shin-sham analyses based on panel-data regressions examine the different influences on technologicascope over time. A technological trend closely resembling that of broader notions of scale to scope is observable in most of the sectors. although it does not proceed uniformly. We also find, that whilst increases in corporate technological scope through diversification are not particularly linked to technological relatedness in recent times, they are periodically influenced by the rise of pervasive, fast-growing new technologies.Scale, scope, diversification, technology, patents,

DOI identifier: 10.1080/10438590100000011
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