1 March 2019

PI: Ms Julienne Chen (LKYCIC, SUTD)
Co-PI: Mr Sree Kumar (LKYCIC, SUTD)

It is a common refrain that Innovation is the key to economic growth in the 21st century economy. Broadly defined, innovation includes disruptive as well as incremental transformation of goods and services, which in turn is associated with increased productivity, new consumption patterns and moving up the value chain.

That governments have a critical role to play in creating the conditions for economic growth is an accepted fact. However, despite many extensive and varied efforts to replicate the success of Silicon Valley, the magic formula to spawn a thriving innovation economy remains elusive. There is a large body of academic research, both theoretical and empirical, that studies different aspects of why some regions grow their innovation capacity while others stagnate. For this research, we are particularly interested in the policy instruments employed by governments to steer these trajectories – ranging from funding and tax incentives for R&D to ‘soft’ factors such as building dialogue, trust and social capital to generate knowledge networks and spark new ideas.

This research is meant to contribute to existing scholarship in two ways: one, the majority of previous studies originate and focus on the West and do not align with the specificities of the development trajectory of (East) Asia (Cooke, 2001; Fagerberg, 2013); and two, innovation policy is often examined as a whole, without explicitly differentiating between different scales of government (cf. the NESTA compendium of evidence on innovation policy). This has led in part to a lack of clear understanding of which policy instruments are, and should be, employed at which territorial level (Laranja et al, 2008, Rodriguez-Pose & Di Cataldo, 2015, Johnson, 2008).

Hence, the   aim   is   to   catalogue   the   urban (i.e.,   city-level) innovation policy instruments (policies, programs and services) being employed in ten East Asian cities and further consolidate them into a list of common government functions. This will serve as a first step to highlight different and like configurations across cities and to stimulate discussion on the role of the city in fostering a local system of innovation. We then take Hong Kong as a case study, examining the specificities of how their innovation policy is developed, implemented and evaluated for effectiveness.