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The Reconfiguration of a Latecomer Innovation System

Governing Pharmaceutical Biotechnology Innovation in South Korea

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Dirk Johann

The book examines the evolving governance of pharmaceutical biotechnology in South Korea in order to derive conclusions about the dynamics of a latecomer system transition. Based on an analysis of innovation activities in the biomedical sector, which is complemented by expert interviews, the research contends that the Korean post-developmental state should be geared towards coordinating the interplay of technologies, modes of organization and institutions. An integrative framework is developed to describe system change as a co-evolutionary process in which the national and sectoral dimensions intersect. The case shows that the shaping of an environment in which innovation systems can develop sectoral transformative capacity is a central aspect of latecomer innovation governance.

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1 Introduction

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South Korea (hereinafter Korea) has experienced a profound economic and industrial transformation, which remains an important subject of academic inquiry. After riding successfully the wave o f East Asia's economic dynamism for more than three decades, Korea plunged into a recession in the wake o f the 1997 Asian crisis. The crisis, which caused a systemic meltdown in the financial and corporate sectors across the economies of the region, revealed that the extended post-War era o f interventionist developmental state leadership in directing industrial development through vertical industrial policies (‘picking winners’) has finally drawn to a close. It also raised a fundamental question mark over the coordinative capacity o f the East Asian newly industrialised economies (NIEs) to cope with the new economic order shaping in the context of technological globalisation. A central aspect o f this order that developed in the aftermath o f the Cold War has been the emergence of technology-based innovation as the primary source o f industrial development and economic prosperity. From whichever angle we look at Korea's successful entry to the global industrial scene, the most arresting feature has been a developmental state1 that proved highly effective in coordinating the process o f industrial catch-up in sectors where the rate o f technological change was low and factor accumulation was more important than scientific knowledge production. While the worldwide spread o f science-driven industrial technologies made endogenous knowledge generation imperative for industrial development strategies2, the building of catch-up competitiveness in Korea was largely based...

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