In recent decades, as Asia became the centre of world manufacturing, the mythology was that ‘Asia could not innovate’. It was thought the combination of rote learning in schools, paternalistic workplaces and authoritarian governments would undermine the capacity to innovate. But, today, the Asia-Pacific is buzzing with ideas, the start-up culture seriously means business, the internet is in use everywhere, and Korea has among the fastest broadband in the world. Western business assumed Asia would be content to gradually ascend the global value chain over a century or more of industrial development as happened in the West. What people forgot is that the Asia-Pacific was a fount of early civilisations, and that education is more highly valued in Asia than any other culture. In fact, Asian economies now have the largest concentration of research and development in the world. Their national innovation systems are promoting networks and collaboration between firms, governments, universities and research institutions, and there is an emerging commitment to eco-innovation around green products and technologies. In this riveting analysis, Thomas Clarke and Keun Lee reveal there are many implications here if Australia is to continue to service the Asian economies, not just with resources but with professional services (including higher education) and technological expertise, too.
Thomas Clarke is a Professor of Management in the UTS Business School.