The Bartlett School of Planning


Bong Kyung, Jeon

Innovation systems and the revitalisation of an old industrial area: The case of the textile industry in Daegu, South Korea.

Primary supervisor: Professor Nick Phelps
Secondary supervisor: Professor Fulong Wu 
Starting date: January 2014
Completion date: April 2018

National, regional and sectoral innovation systems are considered key concepts in economic and industrial analysis for understanding the (re)combination of existing knowledge and physical systems to produce innovation in goods and services. Therefore, the framework of innovation systems is widely analysed in both academic and policy circles given that it provides both theoretical and empirical insights. Yet, the extant literature is largely silent on a number of important matters – 1) the centralised top-down model, 2) low-tech industry and SMEs innovation, 3) the role of intermediaries, 4) the evolutionary process of innovation systems, and 5) a lack of consideration of policy leverage, which is part and parcel of innovation (systems). Furthermore, there is almost no study on how to connect three type of innovation systems within one single research framework.

To fill these gaps above, this research examines the restructuring process of an old textile region in Daegu, South Korea. Daegu’s textile industry was the subject of policy during the past developmental state period (from the 1960 to the end of the 1980s) and it has been the focus of the first government-led regional attempt at industrial upgrading in the post-developmental state (since the end of the 1990s) period. This suggests that the study of the contribution of the South Korean innovation system to industrial upgrading in Daegu requires an evolutionary approach involving in-depth longitudinal observation covering ample historical events to compensate for the typical methodological weaknesses of the static snapshots found in many innovation studies. 

With an evolutionary perspective of the Daegu textile industry as a case study, this research unearths: 1) how Korea’s innovation systems have contributed to the revitalisation of the old industrial region; 2) how local textile intermediaries themselves have evolved and stimulated knowledge dissemination; 3) how the local textile SMEs have transformed their businesses toward a high value-added one, and; 4) how the post-developmental state model has affected the regional upgrade, compared to the previous governance.