Friday, May 04, 2007

Messy path to innovation offshoring

Is innovation outsourcing, the spread of hi-tech R&D in the Asia-Pacific Region, a win-win situation for both America and her trade partners in the region? That’s the focus of the Fellowship I’m attending right now. In truth, however, most countries are experiencing a lot of discomfort over this issue of outsourcing, not just of innovation but the entire outsourcing per se. America for one is agonizing over the loss of jobs and as well as the possibility that its going to lose grounds in hi-tech to China. Australia has the same predicament. Remember that most of these high technologies have dual use (both civilian and military).

South Korea is suffering the pain of its intellectual property being stolen by the Chinese. Japan, due to language barriers, has resisted offshoring but its managers are wondering how far companies could maintain such an approach without losing competitiveness. Singapore has lost of most of its electronics industries (particularly hard disk manufacturing) to China and it’s trying to go into digital media but lacks the manpower and innovativeness to do so. India, one of the most successful ones in the business of offhoring but is saddled by a serious manpower shortage. The Philippines is enthusiastic about the whole business but is also running the risk of suffering from a talent crunch.

Our session here at the East-West Center is over. We will soon move to the Silicon Valley, after which we will fly to China and India. I'll keep you posted.

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