Tendências emergentes, factos e dados reveladores da evolução dos media, cultura, economia e sociedade. Impacto social, económico e cultural da tecnologia.


terça-feira, junho 14, 2005

Innovative Asia

Statistics, albeit incomplete, show a rapid surge in Asia’s research and development investment and scientific output. Thomson ISI, the research analysis company, says the number of “high impact” research papers from China has risen from just 21 in 1994 to 223 in 2003 (a paper’s impact is assessed by the frequency with which it is cited by other researchers). Taking a longer view, China’s contribution to the world’s scientific journals has increased from 0.4 per cent in 1981 to 5.1 per cent (40,000 papers) in 2003.

China’s research and development spending roughly trebled between 1998 and 2003, says Georges Haour, professor of technology management at IMD, the Swiss business school. There is scope for much more growth. China still devotes only 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product to research and development, compared with 2.5-3 per cent for the most successful industrialised countries - a level that South Korea and Singapore have already reached. India’s government plans to lift the country’s research and development investment from below 1 per cent of GDP to at least 2 per cent.

Some in the west fear Asia’s growing scientific prowess as a new competitive threat. Until now, countries such as China and India have essentially been cheap, efficient processing centres and workshops, for which the intellectual input came ultimately from elsewhere. If they can use science to climb the value chain and innovate effectively, western economies will have lost their last great competitive advantage.

Asian policymakers give short shrift to such arguments. “Fears in the west about the rise of Asian science are very much exaggerated,” says R. A. Mashelkar, the Indian government’s chief scientist. “Particularly in the US, people like to keep themselves on edge with talk of a ‘threat’ but in reality there is none.”

Many western authorities with experience of Asian science agree. Lord Sainsbury, the UK science minister, says that “people who claim that China is making unbelievable progress and will soon have the biggest high-technology businesses in the world” should remember the panic in the 1980s about the rise of Japan’s high-technology industry. “We thought then that Japan had some sort of magic formula not given to the rest of us,” says Lord Sainsbury, “but the formula turned out not to exist.”

Asia’s greatest overall advantage is its huge supply of scientists and engineers, particularly in China and India, at a time when students in the west are turning away from science and engineering. Companies in the US and Europe that find it hard to recruit top-quality research staff at home can exploit Asia’s trained workforce by building research and development centres there or collaborating with Asian companies and universities.

FT.com / Analysis - Innovative Asia


Add a comment