Adopting triple helix approach
Technological Catch up
Briefly explain what “Technological Catch-Up” approach is ?
F. Kaboré: We are in a world of the knowledge economy and I will quote from the CAMES 2015-2019 strategic plan which says: “Economic development, once depended on the abundance of natural resources or the availability of cheap and low-skilled labor. It is now dependent on the production, dissemination and use of knowledge and new technologies. In this knowledge-based economy, innovation is the key to sustainable economic growth. In this respect, higher education and research play a key role, since they are able to create knowledge to promote it and to disseminate it. Raw materials without skills do not help a country to develop. Innovation, creativity adds value to the raw materials. Research is par excellence a tool for innovation.
It is within this framework that we propose an endogenous definition of the “Technological Catch-Up” “Technological Catch-Up”, is an economic concept, referred in technology. The process country A has to take to catch up with country B, knowing that the country B is the one whose level of development defines “the technological frontier”, ie, the most advanced technological level. But this means that the technological horizon, ie, what the technological efforts of country A are aiming for, is “outside” in country A. However, the (advanced) level of technology of country B meets the needs of the society of country B .What we are proposing is therefore a “Technological Catch-Up” whose technological horizon would not be of another country, as advanced as it may be, but the technological level that allows the same country to reach its ideal of development . The state can and must help to outline, in connection with the academic world and the business world. Suppose, for example, country B is a country in the Arctic at the North Pole. Country B will develop a technology that depends on its polar environment. It can therefore be assumed that such technology, among other things, will take into account the extreme cold, the lack of vegetation and the need for heating for survival. On the other hand, suppose that country A is a Sahelian or desert country. Even if country A can learn from country B technology, you will agree with me that country A does not need to develop exactly the same kind of technology as country B. If the country has, this leads to another problem that I call elsewhere “intellectual diversion” (Brain diversion) i.e the use of gray matter to solve problems that are not ours, or that are not relevant for us.
In short, I do not bring a radical innovation by evoking the “Technological Catch Up”. Economists like Keun LEE and Chaisung LIM, to name two South Koreans, have long dissected the question, but they use the concept in a certain sense that I will say is classical. My modest contribution is to propose a meaning that endogenously defines the technological horizon, as explained above; otherwise research in our countries would consist of “catching up with others”, but we do not necessarily pursue the same things. A good way to avoid this is that triple helix (state-university-business) works properly.
Monday CAMES: There is a very important notion that shows in your explanation the concept “triple helix” “University-State-Enterprise”. Does this also mean encouraging companies to fund research?
F. Kaboré: Absolutely. The concept of “triple helix”, originally proposed by Henry Etzkowitz in the 1990s, considers that the University, the State and the Enterprise (private sector) must work in synergy so that research and innovation meet the needs of society and thereby participate in development. CAMES, for example, works with governments and it seems to me that the vision of the Secretary General is to facilitate mutual enrichment and synergy between higher education, the private sector and the business world. From this point of view, therefore, it is clear that companies must be encouraged to fund research. But I will also say that in reality they should not be forced because it is also in their interest. The return on investment is guaranteed if the research itself is initiated in connection with the private sector.
In some countries, research is funded more by the private sector than by the public sector. If through research, we find the way to transform shea butter, atiéké, etc. it is not only the governments that win, it is the companies that will make their business to the delight of the people. But this assumes that research and university education are more demand-driven, ie, that they stem more from societal needs.
However, virtue is in the measure, it does not mean that basic research has no place. In fact, many aspects of applied research rely on basic research. But again, it is important that in dialogue with business, and with the support of the state, the academic world develops programs that meet the needs of our African societies. It is on this condition that research will no longer be considered a luxury in our countries.
Monday CAMES: We have the impression that in Africa innovation is the business of companies. As for the universities, their role is summarized, among other things, in executive training and basic research. African researchers are struggling to turn the results of their research into innovation. How does the Technological Catch-Up explain this?
F. Kaboré: Let me again; once again, rely on CAMES ‘strategic plan to show convergence of view. The strategic plan states that “at the creation of the CAMES in 1968, the priority option for higher education in sub-Saharan Francophone Africa was to provide managers and technicians to the Public Administration to ensure the succession of French technical assistance.
Today, the problem of higher education and research in sub-Saharan Francophone Africa arises in terms of quality, efficiency, relevance, efficiency, attractiveness, competitiveness, growth and development.
At least three reasons can explain the phenomenon you have identified.
The first is institutional and concerns the system of incentives put in place at the level of research funding. If the researcher’s incentive is to “find” something and publish a scientific article to progress in his professional career, you will agree with me that as soon as he finishes publishing he moves on to something else, without trying to to know if what he has found will one day turn into a real solution to a human problem, ie, an innovation. We must therefore find a way for the researcher to be interested in seeing that his invention is transformed into innovation. Comparison is not right, but the example of the United States can enlighten us. Prior to 1980, there were very few patents or operating licenses resulting from research funded by the US federal government, partly because once a scientific article was published, the researcher had more his interest in his career was to look into another problem, especially since the legislation at the time required that any patent resulting from government-funded research be the property of the federal government. In 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act changed the game. From now on, a university could take ownership of patents and operating license revenues from research funded by the federal government. Since then, there has been a considerable change. Universities and researchers have also had an interest in translating their research into innovation and marketable products. This means that the institutional environment is very important. If you want to know more, I published an article “Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Private Partnership in Africa”, in the Science and Technology Review of the National Center for Scientific and Technological Research (CNRST), about this in 2014 .
The second reason may be related to the fact that triple helix synergy does not work very well. If there is no strong collaboration between the university and the company, the university may think that once its research is done, it must go away. But there should be a continuous exchange, a back and forth, between the two entities. Once an innovation is made, the company can return to the university / research center to request an improvement, a substitute, etc.
The third reason may stem from a mismatch between research results and the needs of businesses and society. If researchers are looking for and finding and still innovation is the business of companies, as you rightly said, there is a certain “Technological Catch-Up” in the classical sense and exogenous. In this case, the university trains executives and engages in basic research to “do like others”, for example as the West. In its endogenous sense, the true “Technological Catch Up Is oriented towards the satisfaction of endogenous societal needs. The problem you raise is real, in part because much of the funding for research in our countries is not necessarily endogenous. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), in the United States, the federal government funded academic research up to 75% in 1965, and 58% in 2000. I do not have exact figures for our countries, but the share research funding from public funds may be lower. But state involvement ensures that the probability that research does not meet our local priorities is zero.
CAMES Monday: You recently published an article entitled “Research and” Technological Catch-Up. In Africa: The Role of the State What are the main conclusions you have reached?
F. Kaboré: Three main conclusions stem from this research which compared the technological trajectory of South Korea to that of Côte d’Ivoire. First, as recognized in the CAMES strategic development plan, raw materials are not a sufficient condition, let alone necessary for economic development. Secondly, it is through research and innovation (whether of university origin or not) that a country creates added value, enriches itself and consolidates its place in the concert of nations in a world of the economy of knowledge. Third, the role of the state is crucial to creating an ecosystem conducive to the harmonious development of research and the emergence of innovation for development. In this regard, I borrowed and adapted an image used by the World Bank in a book published in 2010 on innovation policies to say that if research was a flower, the state would be the gardener to plant it in a soil enriched by the humus of education, to prune it by creating the appropriate incentive environment and to water it financially for its growth. You can find the article in issue 10, January-March 2016 of the Social Sciences Journal of the Strategic Support Program for Scientific Research (RSS-PASRES), a review based in Côte d’Ivoire and recognized by the CAMES .
Interview was conducted by Conseilafricainetmalgache pour l’enseignementsupérieur (CAMES)