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Making a Technological Catch-up: Barriers and Opportunities


  • Lee, Keun


This paper discusses several issues regarding the barriers and opportunities for technological catch-up by the late-comer countries and firms. As one of the barriers to technological catch-up, the paper emphasizes the uncertainty involved with the third stage of learning how to design. The barriers arise because as the forerunner firms refuse to sell or give license to successful catching-up firms who thus have to design the product by themselves. The paper discusses how to overcome this barrier. It also notes that if the crisis of design technology is a push factor for leapfrogging, arrival of new techno-economic paradigm can serve as a pull factor for leapfrogging, serving as a winder of opportunity. The, it emphasized the two risks with leapfrogging, namely the risk of choosing right technology or standards and the risk of creating initial markets, and how to overcome these risks. It discusses how to overcome these risks in leapfrogging, and differentiates diverse forms of knowledge accesses. Then, the paper takes up the issue of whether there can be a single common or several models for catch-up. A common element of catching-up is to enter new markets segments quickly, to manufacture with high levels of engineering excellence, and to be first-to-market by means of the best integrative designs. This observation is supported by the fact that Korea and Taiwan has achieved higher levels of technological capabilities in such sectors as featured by short cycle time of technology. The possibility of two alternative models for catch-up is also discussed in terms of the key difference between Korean and Taiwan, especially in the position toward the source of foreign knowledge and the paths taken toward the final goal of OBM. Taiwan followed the sequential steps of OEM, ODM and OBN, in collaboration or integration with the MNCs. Korean chaebols jumped from OEM directly to OBM even without consolidating design technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Lee, Keun, 2005. "Making a Technological Catch-up: Barriers and Opportunities," MPRA Paper 109776, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:109776

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Suh, Yongyoon & Kim, Moon-Soo, 2014. "Internationally leading SMEs vs. internationalized SMEs: Evidence of success factors from South Korea," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 115-129.
    3. Bonnín Roca, Jaime & Vaishnav, Parth & Morgan, Granger M. & Fuchs, Erica & Mendonça, Joana, 2021. "Technology Forgiveness: Why emerging technologies differ in their resilience to institutional instability," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 166(C).
    4. Binz, Christian & Truffer, Bernhard & Li, Li & Shi, Yajuan & Lu, Yonglong, 2012. "Conceptualizing leapfrogging with spatially coupled innovation systems: The case of onsite wastewater treatment in China," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 155-171.
    5. He, Xiyou & Mu, Qing, 2012. "How Chinese firms learn technology from transnational corporations: A comparison of the telecommunication and automobile industries," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 270-287.
    6. Xiao, Yangao & Tylecote, Andrew & Liu, Jiajia, 2013. "Why not greater catch-up by Chinese firms? The impact of IPR, corporate governance and technology intensity on late-comer strategies," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 749-764.
    7. Majidpour, Mehdi, 2017. "International technology transfer and the dynamics of complementarity: A new approach," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 196-206.
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    More about this item


    catch-up; technology; east Asia; barrier;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D


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