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Malaysian Manufacturing Systems of Innovation and Internationalization of R&D

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The study of innovation and technological upgrading experienced a significant interest in the academic literature, especially within the developing countries (Lall, 1998, 2001; Kim and Nelson, 2000; Ariffin and Figueiredo, 2004). The lack of involvement by developing countries in radical innovative capabilities (Rasiah, 1994; Hobday, 2005) and the interest of scholars in learning technological capability building and technological catch up processes has directed researchers to analyze various mechanisms or drivers that contribute to technological upgrading, especially in developing countries, more so in the manufacturing sector. This study aims to investigate the R&D activities and the internationalization of these activities undertaken by foreign firms within the Malaysian manufacturing sector. The study aims to provide answers to the following questions: 1. What is the status of the systems of innovation within the Malaysian manufacturing sector? 2. What is the role played by the agents of innovation, in particular TNCs or MNCs, in relation to R&D activities and its internationalization? and, 3. How is the Malaysian manufacturing (local and foreign) technological and R&D progress to date? This study confirms that the Malaysian manufacturing systems of innovation is weakly positioned but shows limited evidence of process innovation and not product innovation. However, evidence of innovation differs among states and sectors owing to differences in the systems of innovation. Although, Malaysia has not been chosen as a site for offshoring or outsorcing of R&D activities to a significant degree, it is found that one very important driver of innovation is the central role that multinational enterprises play in the Malaysian manufacturing systems of innovation. Process innovation is conducted by foreign subsidiaries and is on the rise in key the electronics industry. It is also found that technological learning by local firms is mainly through linkages, sub-contracting and technological transfer.

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V G R Chandran, Rajah Rasiah, Peter Wad

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