Joining Hands for Innovation in Asia

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

May 20, 2024

Asia, a region recognized for its swift economic development and technological progress, is increasingly becoming a center for innovation. 

Japan is leading the way in the field of industrial robotics technology. Seven of the ten world’s leading industrial robotics companies are housed in Japan. The country’s industrial robot makers have produced more than 50% of robots supplied in 2017, which is 39% more than the year earlier. Companies such as Kawasaki, FANUC, OTC Daihen, Epson, Denso and Mitsubishi are driving the development of industrial robotics in the country and beyond. Japan continues to be a testing ground for new applications of robotics. The country’s highly competitive research, development, and applied technologies are shaping the future of robotics.

Singapore has risen as a prominent fintech hub in Asia. From 2019 to 2022, the nation’s fintech sector attracted an impressive US$34 billion in venture capital investments. This success can be attributed to several factors.

The city-state’s innovation-focused government, high-quality talent, and business-friendly environment have helped it become one of the world’s biggest tech hubs that’s home to more than 37,000 international companies including Facebook, Google and Rakuten. In particular, blockchain and cryptocurrency is a field that’s dominated the Singaporean fintech scene. Global blockchain entities like Chainalysis, a blockchain data platform, and Gemini, a crypto exchange, have established their presence in Singapore. DBS Bank has launched its own digital currency exchange, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore has been pursuing its ambitions in distributed ledger technology, collaborating with the Bank for International Settlements Innovation Hub and other central banks to test the use of central bank digital currencies for international settlements.

As Asian nations continue to assert themselves on the global stage, there is a growing recognition of the need for collaboration in fostering innovation across the region. By joining hands, Asian countries can leverage their diverse strengths and shared interests to create vibrant innovation ecosystems that propel them towards a brighter future.

Areas of Shared Interests

Asia holds immense potential for growth through technological collaboration. The region has led the way, accounting for 52% of the global surge in tech-company revenues, 43% of startup funding, 51% of research and development spending, and 87% of patents filed. This potential can be further unlocked by collaborating in research and development, which can expedite innovation in critical sectors such as renewable energy, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence.

Simultaneously, encouraging trade and investment can stimulate cross-border cooperation and the exchange of ideas. This can be achieved by simplifying regulatory frameworks and reducing trade barriers, thereby facilitating the flow of capital, talent, and innovation.

Investing in human capital is another key aspect. Collaborative initiatives aimed at enhancing STEM education, vocational training, and lifelong learning programs can equip the workforce with the necessary skills for future jobs. An example of this is Singapore’s SkillsFuture Level-Up Program, which provides additional credit to citizens aged 40 or older, promoting lifelong learning and competitiveness in the evolving job market.

Infrastructure also plays a crucial role in enabling innovation. Collaborative projects in transportation, telecommunications, and digital connectivity can establish a seamless flow of ideas, goods, and services across the region.

Lastly, the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is vital for fostering innovation. By strengthening IPR regimes, promoting technology transfer agreements, and combating intellectual property theft, a conducive environment for innovation-driven growth can be created.

Building Innovation Ecosystems in Asia

Harmonizing policies and regulations can pave the way for smoother collaboration and investment across Asia. This alignment of standards, regulations, and incentives can create a conducive environment for innovation and entrepreneurship. The collaboration between governments, academia, and the private sector plays a pivotal role in building robust innovation ecosystems. Public-private partnerships can act as catalysts for R&D efforts, bridge gaps between research institutions and industries, and facilitate technology commercialization.

The establishment of incubators, accelerators, and innovation hubs can provide a nurturing environment for startups and SMEs. These platforms can offer access to mentorship, funding, and networking opportunities, thereby fostering a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurship. This can unlock the creative potential of the youth in Asia and drive disruptive innovation.

Investments in R&D are crucial for driving technological breakthroughs and innovation. By pooling resources and collaborating on large-scale research projects, Asian countries can leverage their collective expertise to address global challenges and capitalize on emerging opportunities. Encouraging collaboration networks and knowledge-sharing platforms can facilitate the exchange of best practices, research findings, and innovative ideas among Asian nations.

Initiatives such as joint research programs, innovation challenges, and technology consortia can foster cross-border cooperation and synergies. By identifying areas of shared interests, building robust innovation ecosystems, and promoting collaboration networks, Asian countries can harness the power of innovation. This can drive sustainable economic growth, enhance competitiveness, and improve the quality of life for their citizens.

Photo Caption: Innovation in Asia