A nation’s science and technology (S&T) capacity is key to its sustainable development. Countries that lack S&T capacity can learn from others. This research elucidates Indonesia’s S&T capacity evolution from 1970 to 2018 and compares it to that of the Republic of Korea using the national innovation system framework and evolution dynamics. Indonesia’s S&T capacity as of 2018 has evolved little since 1970 and is similar to the Republic of Korea’s in 1970–2000. The context is then analyzed retrospectively using policies issued by the Republic of Korea. Policies that can be implemented in Indonesia include measures to increase the effectiveness of institutions, an increase in gross expenditure in research and development as a percentage of GDP by 1.84–3.47%, an increase in the involvement of industry through incentives and matching the needs of industry-research, stronger national messaging regarding the importance of S&T, and a more specific S&T capacity development roadmap.