Aim and Focus of the Conference:

The purpose of this conference is to provide historical perspectives on the regional dynamics of industries and the competitiveness of regions in the global economy.
The questions addressed and methodologies employed at this conference are the following.

  • 1.What industries have become competitive in each region and how has the situation evolved over time?
    ・ Comprehensive study of the historical development of regional competitiveness in each industry.
  • 2. In cases where changes the competitiveness of a given region took place, why and how did they occur?
    ・ Analyses of decisive elements that caused changes in the historical dynamics of competitiveness.
  • 3. Why is there such great variety across industries and regions in terms of the patterns and forms of the “catching-up” process in addition to the rise, decline, maturity and recovery of an industry?
    ・ a) Inter-industry comparisons and 2) Investigation of the “matching” and “mismatching” of the characteristics of the industry and its region-specific conditions.

By examining the first and second questions using individual studies and by synthesizing them at the conference, we will be able to reach a clearer understanding of the regional dynamics of competitiveness.


Background Understanding on the Topic:

While there is a plethora of historical studies of industries, they contain three major deficiencies that have yet to be explored. First, there are many publications on individual firms and historical analyses of the cases of many industries; however an overarching study combining both is still lacking.
Second is the lack of a clear and common methodology. Contrary to economic history focusing on the macro level (i.e., the economy) and business history on the micro level (i.e. the enterprise), industry history that deals with the mezzo level lacks a clearly defined and shared methodology. Comparative studies of several key industries based on common (but minimum) criteria and viewpoints will bring about a more systematic understanding of industry-specific features and the dynamics of their development in a long-term historical perspective.
Third is the lack of a regional focus due to the geographical and linguistic segmentation of the existing studies. While much research on transnational economic activities and networks was inspired by the rapid and deep economic integration in Europe and North America and the changeover from a vertical division to a horizontal division of labor in East Asia, studies of industry history focusing on the ‘Region’ as a unit, such as East Asia (including Southeast Asia), Europe and North America do not fully address all the key issues. Most of the work focusing on regions compare national industry histories and do not pay sufficient attention to the real geographical distribution of the economic activity. Focusing on the ‘Region’ would serve to better elucidate the transnational or global value chains within an industry that transcend national borders.
The competitiveness of the region will be a key concept in exploring these two deficiencies for two reasons: (1) industry is an arena where competition and cooperation take place; and (2) it is competitiveness that explains the rise and decline of an industry in a given region and geographical distribution of each element of a given industry.
In this respect, this conference will focus on industry history by giving particular attention to industries’ intrinsic features as well as region-specific conditions. Transnational intra- and inter-industry networks, commonly shared competitive advantages in the region and features of the industry in the given regions will be also analyzed.