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The Impact of Japanese Investment on the New Town of Milton Keynes

by Alexander Roy

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Institution: Leeds University Business School
Advisor(s): Kathy O'Donnell
Degree: M.A. Industrial & Labor Studies
Year: 1996
Volume: 66 pages
ISBN-10: 1581120257
ISBN-13: 9781581120257


Foreign direct investment (FDI) is pivotal to the UK economy, with the UK being both the second largest investor abroad and the second largest host to foreign companies. Although since the Second World War FDI has been dominated by the USA, the more recent rise of Japan as both an international force in global markets and as an investor, has seen increasing amounts of Japanese FDI being directed towards the UK. Further, the perceived innovativeness of Japanese work organisation is held by many to have an even greater qualitative impact than the quantitative significance of Japanese FDI would indicate, providing both a 'demonstration' effect and a competitive spur to indigenous companies that it is believed has the power to transform the UK's competitiveness.

However, many aspects of the 'Japanese challenge' have become mythologised, and it is important not to simply take these claims as axiomatic, especially as Government policy - including financial inducements to inward investors - are based upon these assumptions. Therefore, this dissertation uses primary and secondary research to assess the impact Japanese investment has had upon the new town of Milton Keynes (MK), which is the home to a significant cluster of Japanese investors, with a composition that broadly reflects FDI into the UK from Japan as a whole. The conclusion is that although there have been benefits in terms of employment, any positive transformative effect upon either indigenous industry or human capital has been limited. Further, the structural weakness in skills of the UK economy mean that Japanese investment may impose longer-term costs upon UK welfare.