This paper aims to assess the extent to which materials R&D and materials innovation are being taken into account in a strategic sense by companies involved in new and improved materials production and use in the UK.
The paper maps changes in materials technology that affect such companies, and looks at how twelve UK-based large materials-innovating companies deal with materials strategy issues. It shows increased attention being given to materials in corporate-level strategy making. It shows that companies acted to diversify their materials interests in the early and mid-1980s, but then retreated somewhat in the difficult circumstances of the later 1980s and early 1990s.
Our results show a trend toward the increased adoption of materials strategies, but also a diversity of approaches to the build-up of competencies within firms. Although it is a part of most companies' materials strategies, internal restructuring has not sufficed. Acquisition of large, usually foreign, companies was also very important, as was the development of international producer-user collaborations.
Since the mid-1980s a fragile, but effective, set of relationships has emerged between influential UK individuals and institutions with an interest in developing new initiatives to improve materials innovation. As yet, the government has not responded with significant coordinated policies to improve integration of materials research, technology, training and innovation.