Upgrading Through Innovation in a Small Network Economy: Insights from Taiwan's IT Industry

Economics of Innovation and New Technology Vol. 19, No. 4, 295–324, June 2010

Posted: 26 Apr 2016

See all articles by Dieter Ernst

Dieter Ernst

East-West Center; Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)

Date Written: April 23, 2010

Abstract

This paper analyzes the recent experience of Taiwan’s information technology (IT) industry to explore the challenges and opportunities faced by a small economy that is deeply integrated into global networks of production and innovation. I introduce a conceptual framework to examine how specialization, learning (‘absorptive capacity’) and innovation enhance the potential for industrial upgrading. Finding the right balance between firm-level and industry-level upgrading and between domestic and international elements is a moving target and requires permanent adjustments to changes in markets and technology.

Three findings distinguish this paper from prior work. First, absorptive capacity is critical for Taiwan’s attempts to upgrade its IT industry through innovation. Second, Taiwanese firms now must increase R&D to avoid diminishing returns of network integration. Third, integration into diverse networks of production and innovation may well provide new lower-cost opportunities for ‘industrial upgrading through innovation’. ‘Technology diversification’, which combines incremental and architectural innovations, can serve as a complementary and arguably less costly option to ‘technology' leadership’ strategies.

Keywords: globalization, internationalization of R&D, global innovation networks, global production networks, learning, innovation, innovation policies, industrial upgrading, Taiwan, IT industry

JEL Classification: F23, G34, L15, L22, L63, O14, O19, O3, R12

Suggested Citation

Ernst, Dieter, Upgrading Through Innovation in a Small Network Economy: Insights from Taiwan's IT Industry (April 23, 2010). Economics of Innovation and New Technology Vol. 19, No. 4, 295–324, June 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2769412

Dieter Ernst (Contact Author)

East-West Center ( email )

1601 East-West Road
Honolulu, HI 96848-1601
United States

Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) ( email )

57 Erb Street West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 6C2
Canada

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