K-School Gets Research Grant From Japanese Corporation

The Kennedy School of Government has received a $250,000 grant from a Japanese electronics corporation to research international trade and business development strategies.

The NEC corporation, one of the world's largest computer communications firms, financed the proposed "International Competition Project" after K-School Dean Graham T. Allison '62 suggested the idea, said Dr. Koji Kobayashi, NEC chairman.

Our purpose is to facilitate greater communication between the two countries on these issues," Kobayashi said. "We have no short term objectives, we are looking at the long term and expect much from this study."

The research--which will be carried out by the K-School's Business and Government Center will focus on a number of closely related international economic concerns including competitive strategies, industrial organization and U.S.-Japanese trade relations. In addition, the team of researchers will look at the roles of some of the more developed countries in international competition.

Professor A. Michael Spence, newly appointed Dean of the Arts and Sciences and a leading scholar of market signals and the effect of information on market strategies, has formed a 17-member team of business administration and economics professors from Harvard, MIT and other universities in the U.S. and Japan to work on the project. "There are no other collaborative research projects of this proportion at the Business and Government Center," Dean Allison said.


"The goal of the project is to study the nature of competitiveness," Spence said, "One component of that is the concept of competitive advantage not only in the Japanese and U.S. case, but other countries as well."

We have a long term interest in a collection of things," he added. "Growth, transition of an industry in size and competitiveness are just a few of the important factors in the international scope of the project."

The eventual goal of the research team is to publish a book on the subject, possibly in another year. The first conference will be in June at the K-School, and by then Spence says, "most of the preliminary work should be done, I hope."

The research is being divided among different groups of professors, according to each person's forte.


NEC also gave a filmed demonstration of one of its newest projects: a small personal computer which works as an electronic translation phone. A person speaking Japanese at one end of the line can be heard in English at the other end and vice versa. "I have been speaking English for 60 years now," Kobayashi said. "And still I have trouble." So he asked his younger engineers to work on the project which will be perfected in the next 20 years.

Founded at the turn of the centry as a telephone equipment manufacturer, NEC was originally a joint U.S.-Japanese venture, and for that reason it is "natural to sponsor such a study in the U.S.," Kobayaski said.

The company has since become a multinational giant, grossing more than $7 billion in sales last year. It has expanded to computers, satellite and telecommunications equipment with several manufacturing units in the United States