The Rise of Asia's High-Tech Regions


Principal Investigator
Senior Fellow, Emeritus
  • Professor, Management, Emeritus
  • Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Emeritus

The Stanford Program on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SPRIE), in collaboration with its more than seventy research affiliates in seven countries, continues to describe and analyze rising high technology regions across Asia.

SPRIE-affiliated research teams completed data collection and analysis on Silicon Valley, Hsinchu (Taiwan), Zhongguancun (PRC), Singapore, the Teheran and Taedok Valleys (Korea), Bangalore (India), and Fukuoka (Japan). Their findings will be published in 2006 in a book edited by SPRIE leaders Henry Rowen, William Miller and Marguerite Gong Hancock. Results document that regions across Asia have significantly increased their capacity and, more importantly, their capability for higher value-added activities.

On the innovation front, for example, as measured by U.S. patents granted, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea now account for more than one-quarter of all patents awarded each year. Moreover, their growth rates have been rapid. Between 1980 and 2003, South Korea went from 0 to 2 percent of the total, Taiwan from 0 to 3 percent, and Japan from 12 to 21 percent. More than just a large number, citation data show these patents' utility, as both Taiwan and Singapore leapfrogged the United States in the overall number of citations. China is the next wave. With more than 130 foreign R&D centers located in Beijing alone, and approximately 400 companies with research centers across China, business leaders have staked recent investments on the promise of fruitful innovation there.

Indications of burgeoning entrepreneurship are plentiful in Taiwan, Korea, India, and China. In Seoul's Teheran Valley, there were more than two thousand start-ups by the end of 2002, with 69 percent involved in IT industries. Between 1988 and 2003, high tech ventures in Zhongguancun (in Beijing) grew from 527 to more than 12,000. Beyond the sheer numbers -- which are staggering -- the quality of many new generation companies is world-class. In under four years, for example, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), founded in 2000 and headquartered in Shanghai's Zhangjiang High-Tech Park, has emerged as the largest foundry in China. SMIC boasts five manufacturing sites, over four thousand employees, and $365 million dollars in revenue (2003). The company completed its IPO in March 2004 in Hong Kong and on the NASDAQ, raising more than $1 billion. SMIC represents a new breed of companies in Asia: located in one region, but positioned from the beginning to be global powerhouses.

This rise in Asia's high tech regions -- both as producers and consumers of high technology goods and services -- has brought about a paradigm change. Gone are the days when Silicon Valley, or the United States, was the hub of the high technology universe. From R&D to manufacturing to marketing, key activities are migrating to, and within, Asia. Motivations reach beyond the well-known lures of lower costs: the quest is for higher value-added productivity, growing markets, and deep pools of talent. Companies and regions across Asia now participate in complex, globally integrated value chains in which national borders are greatly reduced in significance. High technology activities will become increasingly concentrated in specialized regional clusters, as well as more highly distributed in global networks.

As the dynamics of each region unfold, emerging areas of comparative advantage are difficult to predict. Cooperative -- and possibly competitive -- relationships will evolve. In the future, SPRIE will continue to study Asia's rising high technology leaders, with a focus on Greater China, in a new three-year initiative with research partners in the United States, Taiwan, Singapore, and mainland China.