Introduction: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Innovation in East Asia
Previous research on developments within East Asian societies has demonstrated that the “East Asian miracle,” and with it the region’s renewed ascent to being an economic, political, and cultural hub, is a lot more than just the story of labor surpluses, the diffusion of established knowledge, and imitation. Novelties that quickly come to mind range from Japanese production systems (e.g. Womack et al. 1990) and the more recently discussed Chinese manufacturing approaches (Berger 2013; Steinfeld and Beltoft 2014), to Japanese humanoid robotics, Korean online gaming, and various other pop cultural phenomena associated with “Cool Japan” and the “Korean Wave” (e.g. Storz 2008; Wagner 2009; Wi 2009). Developments and achievements like these raise expectations that the region will also originate thought-provoking and impactful responses to those societal challenges that are currently high on the agenda of decision makers around the world. Among the most pressing challenges faced are those that are identified, for instance, in the European Union’s “Horizon 2020,” which comprise, inter alia, food security, healthcare, the provision of “smart, green and integrated transport” — particularly in urban environments — and “secure, clean and efficient energy.” (Horizon 2020) In short, the manifold developments within the region are a valuable source of inspiration, knowledge, and reflection in two respects: for finding tools to address real-world problems and for pushing innovation research more generally. Tapping the full potential of the vast repertoire of regional experiences, initiatives, and solutions is, however, impossible to achieve without cross-disciplinary exchange and the provision of fora for bringing together different lines of research.
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