Korean SMEs and Innovation: Gauging market penetration, external linkages, support infrastructures, and inhibiting factors

Authors: Douglas Gress*, Seoul National University
Topics: Economic Geography, Asia
Keywords: Exports, Innovation, Innovation Policy, Korea, SMEs
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Beverly, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Terrace Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Some scholars posit that Korea has broken from the fast follower strategies that helped the country initially gain a foothold in global markets and has now entered into a competitive market leader position. Others conclude that Korea still has problems bringing early stage technologies to market and forging these technologies into market-dominant global standards. Statistics support the latter of these views, but where SMEs are concerned the verdict may still be out. Korea, for example, is situated near Thailand and Malaysia in terms of key export items globally (Mahlich and Pascha, 2007), while SMEs rank lowest in the OECD in terms of accessing GPNs. External R&D linkages and technology transfer are important for Korean SMEs in the innovation context, and the government has been keen to help overcome any barriers and to address issues of redundancy. Public – private cooperation is seen as vital to success. Korean SMEs have been characterized, however, by a deficiency in external linkage usage compared to their counterparts in the west. Based on quantitative analyses of data from the 2016 Korean Firm Innovation Survey, this research therefore examines four research questions in order to gauge the efficacy of Korean SME innovation architectures; RQ1: Does mode of innovation impact domestic and overseas market penetration for Korean SMEs? RQ2: What policies and support benefit the innovative activities of Korean SMEs? RQ3: What factors and policies inhibit the innovative activities of Korean SMEs? And RQ4: What external relationships and sources of knowledge contribute to innovation by Korean SMEs.

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