The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted economies and expectations for economic growth and development the world over. But even before the pandemic, Asian economies were reassessing their growth strategies.
In a podcast conversation about the new edited volume Shifting Gears in Innovation Policy: Strategies from Asia, APARC's Korea Program Deputy Director Yong Suk Lee discusses some of the impediments Asian countries face in trying to encourage economic development and entrepreneurship, but also the inherent strengths that could allow innovative strategies take hold and grow in East Asia. Listen to the full conversation below.
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Edited by Lee, Gi-Wook Shin, and Takeo Hoshi, Shifting Gears in Innovation Policy is the first of three volumes resulting from APARC's Stanford Asia-Pacific Innovation project that produces policy research to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in East Asia and the greater Asia-Pacific region.
Lee explains, “Many Asian countries achieved economic growth by importing new technologies from advanced economies like the U.S., using them very effectively, and then expanding exports. But now where East Asia stands, many of these countries have already successfully caught up to the technological frontier of advanced economies, so if they want to maintain growth, there needs to be a shift in their strategies.”
The shift Lee and the other volume authors propose is one towards economic growth that is driven by innovation and entrepreneurship rather than the ‘catch-up’ model that Asian economies have commonly relied on. Unlike startup hubs such as the San Francisco Bay Area of California, Asian countries often lack an entrepreneurial tradition because of antagonistic financial structures and differences in cultural definitions of success. These additional financial and social risks have cast entrepreneurial endeavors in an unattractive light for multiple generations of workers.
But encouraging entrepreneurship and endemic innovation are crucial to maintaining stable economic growth. With rapidly aging populations, greater interconnections in both trade and diplomacy, and transformation in the workforce, workplace, and work itself, effectively adapting development strategies to meet present and future challenges remains a central priority for East Asia policymakers and innovators alike. As Lee advises, “There’s strong infrastructure in East Asia, both physically and digitally, which is a great advantage. But they’re now at a frontier with no trajectory to follow, and there needs to be indigenous growth and continuous innovation in order to not be surpassed by competitors.”