Abstract: Collaborative Research Networks in Semiconductor Laser Technology, 1960-2000: A Comparative Perspective on Networks and Breakthroughs in the United States and Japan

Hiroshi Shimizu and Takashi Hirao


The semiconductor laser was one of the most important technologies underlying the dramatic changes that took place during the last half of the twentieth century in information technology, and it has been the most widely used laser since the 1980s. In this essay, we investigate collaborative networks and breakthroughs by exploring collaborative research in semiconductor laser technology from 1960 to 2000. Development of this technology began in the early 1960s; by the 1980s, inter-organizational collaborative research was occurring. By mapping breakthroughs, we show that, since the 1980s, organizations involved in inter-organizational research produced many of the breakthroughs. By exploring six examples, we observe different patterns in network formation in the United States and Japan. In the United States, many "star" engineers were involved in inter-organizational collaboration and played a nodal role in the networks before achieving significant breakthroughs, whereas in Japan, the star engineers played a nodal role only after achieving a breakthrough.

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