Standards, innovation, and latecomer economic development: Conceptual issues and policy challenges

Dieter Ernst, Heejin Lee, Jooyoung Kwak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Little is known about the impact of standards on the economic development of countries which are latecomers to industrial manufacturing and innovation. Standardization is regarded primarily as a technical issue, and hence receives only limited high-level policy support. However, technical standards contribute at least as much as patents to economic growth. As a key mechanism for the diffusion of technological knowledge and due to the dominant leadership by advanced countries in patenting, technical standards have emerged in latecomer countries as an alternative to patenting. However, latecomer countries and their firms have a set of capabilities and constraints that are fundamentally different from that of advanced countries and firms. This paper argues that latecomer countries should adopt assessment criteria that are more fitted with latecomer contexts which emphasize learning effects and building dynamic capabilities. The paper discusses current issues that are essential in understanding the rise of Asian countries in standardization. We also examine the critical role that patents play for standardization and argue that "strategic patenting" to generate rents from de facto industry standards can stifle latecomer economic development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)853-862
Number of pages10
JournalTelecommunications Policy
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Nov

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government ( NRF-2011-330-H00002 ). An earlier version of this paper was presented at the International Workshop on Asia and Global Standardization, Center for International Standardization, Yonsei University and Korean Agency for Technology and Standards, Seoul, April 19, 2013. That earlier version has been published as Standards, Innovation, and Latecomer Economic Development—A Conceptual Framework ( Ernst, 2013 ), East–West Center Working Papers, Economics Series, No. 134, .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Communication
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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