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What Is Driving Asia’s Technological Rise?

Asia’s rapid emergence as a global technological leader over the last decade is a testament to the power of collaboration. And yet, in much of the world, the tide is turning toward isolationism and protectionism – a trend that will sap potential in many cutting-edge sectors.

SHANGHAI – Asia is a technological force to be reckoned with. Over the last decade, the region has accounted for 52% of global growth in tech-company revenues, 43% of startup funding, 51% of spending on research and development, and 87% of patents filed, according to new research by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). How did Asia get here, and what lessons does its success hold for the rest of the world?

Of course, Asia is not a monolith, and technology gaps within the region remain significant. India, for example, has fewer large tech companies than other major economies. Still, four of the world’s top ten technology companies by market capitalization are Asian.

China, home to 26% of the world’s unicorns (startups valued at $1 billion or more), leads the way in tech entrepreneurship in Asia, though it still relies on foreign inputs in core technologies. By contrast, advanced Asian economies like Japan and South Korea have large tech firms and a significant knowledge base, but relatively few unicorns. Asia’s emerging economies still invest relatively little in innovation, but they do provide growing markets for the goods and services produced by Asia’s tech leaders.