This article critically reviews the national innovation systems of the four little tigers in East Asia, namely Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea, in fostering RandD and technological research. A national innovation system is characterised by the interactions between the state, industries and universities in promoting innovation. This article attempts to explore such interactions in the four societies, paying particular attention to the role of higher education. Specifically, university–industry collaboration is the main body of analysis. Drawing from comparative perspectives, this article finally maps out the national innovation systems of East Asia.