Discussion Paper Series 2018 #04: Layering the developmental state away?

The knock-on effect of startup promotion policies on the innovation bureaucracy in South Korea

Abstract

The role of the state and public agencies has come to the fore again since the global financial crisis to spur innovation-led growth. Alimented by the success of global tech giants in particular, new policy rationales emerged in favor of government support for ICT startups. The paper addresses the crucial question of whether the corresponding organizational capabilities do exist to implement such policies. This article focuses on the case of South Korea, renowned at the same time for the strong capacities of the state and an institutional setting hostile to new ventures. The main contribution of the paper is to analyze institutional change within the Korean innovation bureaucracy and the evolution of its organizational capabilities, underpinning the startup promotion policies implemented since 2013. Under the appearance of continuity of state innovation capacities, the startup promotion policies foster a restructuring of the public infrastructure supporting the corporate sector. The results, drawn upon an extensive fieldwork in the Korean startup ecosystem, indicate that there is a loss of state capacities, which impede on the implementation of large-scale promotion of the manufacturing industries.

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