The project

J-InnovaTech seeks to challenge the scholarly understanding of how Japan became a global industrial power and more broadly our conceptual understanding of what is innovation and how it happens. By bringing historical technological change into focus, the project challenges the notion of innovation as disruption. Instead,  drawing on the empirics from the human past, this project restores to sightline the diversity of paths to game-changing technologies. 

Japan was the first Asian nation to industrialize and in a space of several decades went from a relatively isolated agrarian economy to an industrialized nation. The project seeks to shed light on the pivotal period between 1800 and 1885 in order to identify salient features of the technological landscape that enabled Japan’s entry into the global industrial arena. To date, this transitional period has been widely acknowledged as crucial for later development but remains empirically poorly understood. Recognizing the complexity of causation, this project seeks to use technology as a site for forging a more nuanced understanding of the emergence of Asia’s first industrial power.