European cartels and technology transfer: the experience of the rayon industry, 1920–1940

Cerretano, V. (2014) European cartels and technology transfer: the experience of the rayon industry, 1920–1940. In: Donzé, P.-Y. D. and Nishimura, S. (eds.) Organizing Global Technology Flows: Institutions, Actors, and Processes. Series: Routledge international studies in business history (24). Taylor & Francis (Routledge). ISBN 9780415843904 (doi: 10.4324/9780203752982)

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The view that European cartels facilitated the international diffusion of technology came to be widely held in the interwar era. 2 During the negotiations surrounding the shape of the post-1945 global economic order, AngloAmerican planners rejected schemes for the international extension of the Sherman Act on the grounds that the complete banning of international cartels would hamper the interchange of technology between Europe and the United States. 3 Through cross-licensing and other cartel understandings, and irrespective of growing international political strains, this interchange had in effect taken place in most innovative, high-tech industries (some of which were of the highest military importance) from the early 1920s well into the war years. 4 Yet despite its importance, the technological dimension of international cartels has generally been overlooked in postwar scholarship. Only in the past two decades has it begun to receive renewed scholarly attention. 5 Because it was one of the fastest growing high-tech innovative sectors of the interwar era, the rayon industry offers rich insights into the theme at hand. A fibre spun out of melted wood pulp, rayon was the first of a large and ever growing family of man-made fibres. 6 The industry made its appearance at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, experiencing impressive growth after the First World War. As Coleman pointed out, one crucial factor behind this growth was the international spread of rayon know-how in the years immediately after the conflict. 7 The industry’s main protagonists from the industry’s beginnings in 1895 included the British concern Courtaulds, the German firm Vereinigte Glanzstoff-Fabriken (VGF), and the French conglomerate the Comptoir des Textiles Artificiels (Comptoir), and these three firms remained key players for some time thereafter. They were joined soon after the First World War by a number of fast-growing firms in Holland and in the United States, but also in low-wages economies, such as Italy and Japan, and these new firms began to challenge the position of the first movers. More importantly, while entering this business, before and once again after the conflict, the leading rayon firms set up a European cartel, cooperating on the technological front. They jointly developed a viable spinning system before 1914, and continually exchanged know-how until the late 1930s.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cerretano, Dr Valerio
Authors: Cerretano, V.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Publisher:Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
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