From History of Computing
Innovating for Failure
Government Policy and the Early British Computer Industry
This first in-depth history of the early British computer industry provides a valuable case study in the implementation of public innovation policy with lessons for any country trying to compete for sales in international high-technology markets.
From computers to body scanners, from hovercraft to monoclonal antibodies, British researchers have been among the world's leaders in scientific discovery and invention. But British business has failed repeatedly to exploit these discoveries. This first in-depth history of the early British computer industry provides a valuable case study in the implementation of public innovation policy with lessons for any country trying to compete for sales in international high-technology markets.The birth of modern computers in Great Britain coincided with the establishment in the late 1940s of the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), which was charged with assisting commercial development of new technologies. John Hendry details ten years of effort by the NRDC to establish a British computer industry able to compete internationally, particularly with IBM. He examines the reasons for their failure to achieve this and explores the consequences and implications of this failure.Focusing on the creation, implementation, and management of government sponsorship policies and the responses of businesses to those policies, Hendry discusses the broad issues of government policy and the exploitation of technology in the United Kingdom the commercial development of computer technology in post-World War II America and Britain, the genesis and impact of NRDC policies for commercializing the new technology, and the conflict between national competitiveness and the ideals of fairness and consensus.
Innovating for Failure is included in the History of Computing series edited by I. Bernard Cohen and William Aspray.