Machinery spurred on by retail trade technology

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2012-05-31
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And then, Mrs Tyson continues, there is the importance of manufacturing to innovation. She notes that manufacturing accounts for 68% of business R&D spending, which might well be true, but which tells us relatively little about contributions to innovation. (To what extent does spending translate into innovation?) Ditto this, from a Brookings' paper:
All manufacturing industries, including such reputedly “low technology” ones as wood products, furniture, and textiles, exceeded the non-manufacturing averages for both product and process introductions, while only a few science-and information technology-intensive non-manufacturing industries (software, telecommunications/ Internet service/Web search/data processing, computer systems design and related services, and scientific R&D services) equaled or exceeded the manufacturing averages.
Now wait a moment. Many more Americans work in non-manufacturing industries like wholesale and retail trade than in manufacturing industries, and so we might think it damning to hear that most of these non-manufacturing industries are not particularly innovative. Yet a moment's thought brings the realisation that the retail trades are in the midst of revolutionary change spurred on by technological, process, and business-model innovation. It just happens that this transformation is being led by, "a few science-and information technology-intensive non-manufacturing industries (software, telecommunications/ Internet service/Web search/data processing, computer systems design and related services...)".
This brings us to the crux of the issue. Mrs Tyson's piece was in some ways a direct response to a column by economist Christina Romer, who argued in early February that manufacturers don't deserve special treatment. Mrs Romer also came in for harsh treatment at this morning's Brookings event. Manufacturing advocates (and plenty of others, I suppose) seem to enjoy poking fingers in economists' eyes.
Mrs Rom

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