Technology and innovation in developing East Asia: an interpretive survey Hill, Hal

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Hill, Hal
Technological innovations - East Asia - Economic aspects.; East Asia - Economic conditions - Case studies.; country profiles
[Conclusion]: Our paper has emphasized a number of issues. One is that technology and innovation are gradual processes of evolution, especially for developing East Asian economies, which with a few exceptions are ‘followers’ and net technology importers. The issue is how to import, absorb, assimilate, and diffuse technology, rather than to undertake new R&D at the frontiers. Second, these are extraordinarily diverse economies in their histories, levels of development, international orientation and institutional capacity. As a result, there is no one unique path of technological development. It is clear, though, that the role of the government shifts over time. Among the late industrializers in Southeast Asia, the principal role of government is to provide competent macroeconomic management, an open economy, and good basic public services (education and health especially) and infrastructure. Explicit technology and innovation policies are not central to this mission, although extension services and other agencies which diffuse technology are important. However, as countries approach middle-income status, and there is a loss of comparative advantage in labour-intensive activities, governments need to play a role in the upgrading process, in strengthening institutions, building supply-side capabilities, and encouraging the emergence of a national innovation system. The major challenge here is to decide where markets work and don’t work, and to intervene cautiously. Much depends in this context on administrative capacity. Finally, all countries present a mixed record of notable strengths and persistent weaknesses, and it will be useful here to summarize some of the salient features. An emphasis on challenges is not of course meant to imply that past achievements have been insignificant.
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