Framework Conditions for Innovation in Southeast Asia
The region of Southeast Asia shows highly diverse macro-economic framework conditions. Although patterns of economic growth are promising, they are also uneven. Still, with the region's increasing integration in the global economy through international value and supply chains, growth is likely to continue to be positive, and promises to ensure continued supportive conditions for innovation. However, other issues are more challenging for the region. For example, gross expenditures on R&D as a share of GDP (GERD) is for most of the countries very low. Exceptions are Singapore and to some extent Malaysia and Thailand. Levels and quality of human capital are also highly diverse, with many of the countries in the region experiencing challenging situations.
With the mixed and often poor macro-economic framework conditions, institutional conditions play a correspondingly important role. Across the region there is a general need to stronger commitment to investing in research and innovation and capacity building on an institutional level, as well as a greater awareness of training needs, governance of research and innovation institutions and cross-national cooperation.
The three particular areas of framework conditions treated in this report confirm this picture. More precisely, cooperation in e.g. biological research and related bio-technological research and innovation benefits highly from international arrangements on a multilateral level. The case of material transfer agreements illustrates well that framework conditions for innovation are, given the cooperative and more formal nature of today's innovation processes, heavily dependent on conducive arrangements on a trans-national level that create less risk and a transparent playing field for researchers and innovators. The same is the case for IPR, where lack of awareness, resources and institutional capacities for IPR governance are key issues. Trans-national cooperation is important, and initiatives such as the ASEAN IPR Helpdesk supported by the EU represent important and relevant support for e.g. European small and medium-sized enterprises. PPI is less mature as an institutional tool to promote innovation, but some countries in Europe and Southeast Asia are including it in their policy portfolios. Exploiting the demand side in the economy for innovation and growth is all the more important in countries where demand conditions in general are poor. Further, PPI is increasingly being introduced to better address global challenges, thereby also representing a potential strategic tool for green innovation, as in the case of Malaysia.
This report's key message is that relying on general framework conditions for innovation is not enough. The innovation process is cooperative or collaborative, with interactions between many partners in different sectors, such as research institutions, users and producers of knowledge. Hence, dedicated institutional framework conditions, many of which are multilateral in nature, need to receive more attention. Awareness building, learning and capacity development related to such cooperative institutional frameworks are examples of efforts to be made across countries to ensure transparent and effective framework conditions for innovation.