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Panelists explore 'Innovation Technology in a New Asia'

MIT panelists and their counterparts in Singapore swept aside an almost 13-hour time difference with a live seminar on "Innovation Technology in a New Asia."

The April 17 event was the first Joint Seminar hosted by the Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA) and the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) Singapore Forum.

More than 100 students from MIT, the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) attended, watching the presentation on large projection screens and questioning the panelists. The live simulcast was broadcast via Internet 2 connections.

The hour-long panel discussion featuring three MIT experts and three industry leaders from Singapore addressed distinctive modes of innovation that can be empirically associated with different countries or regions of the world--particularly as applied to the various developed and late-developing states in Asia. It also addressed the consequences of globalization and innovation in several industries.

William Keller, associate director of MIT's Center for International Studies, observed that new imperatives driven by economic and political instability may influence the ways in which Asian governments and companies think and behave regarding critical technology assets.

Eleanor Westney, the Society of Sloan Fellows Professor at the Sloan School of Management, focused on the role of multinationals in national innovation systems, the trend towards centers of excellence in innovation systems and the dissemination of best practices in technological innovations.

Simon Johnson, the Michael M. Koerner 1949 Career Development Associate Professor of Entrepreneurism, said state-sponsored research and multinational companies, rather than individual entrepreneurs, will be the source of innovation in the 21st century. Further, political stability and openness to trade will be the key elements of Asia's economic growth over the next 50 years.

The Singaporean panelists, Chua Taik Him, Lap Chan and Teh Bong Lim, discussed innovation capacity of a country as both a function of market pull and technology push; the development of Taiwan and Singapore's semiconductor industry in three phases of innovation; and typical modes of innovation in local manufacturing enterprises in Singapore--incremental process innovation, industry/government alliance or innovation, and process innovation in new industries.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 8, 2002.

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