Research and Innovation Policies for Social Inclusion: Is There an Emerging Pattern?


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Research and Innovation Policies for Social Inclusion: Is There an Emerging Pattern?

  1. 1. Globelics 2010 8th International Conference Making Innovation Work for Society: Linking, Leveraging and Learning 1 - 3 November 2010 University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia RESEARCH AND INNOVATION POLICIES FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION: IS THERE AN EMERGING PATTERN?Name of Judith SutzCorrespondingAuthor Dr., Academic Coordinator, University Research CouncilTitle & Position Universidad de la República, Jackson 1303, PC 11.200,Institution & Full Montevideo, UruguayPostal Address Address Globelics The Global Network for Economics of Learning, Innovation, and Competence Building Systems 1
  2. 2. RESEARCH AND INNOVATION POLICIES FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION: IS THERE AN EMERGING PATTERN? Paper submitted to the GLOBELICS Conference 2010 Rodrigo Arocena and Judith Sutz Universidad de la República, UruguayAbstract.- A new pattern for research and innovation policies seems to be emerging,characterized by its direct relation with pressing social needs. The conjecture isdiscussed in connection with academic production and policy initiatives. Such pattern ispresented as a possible answer to the problem of weak knowledge demand indeveloping countries. Preliminary examples related with university research are given.The systemic requirements for these policies to work are stressed.Key words: development, innovation policies and systems, social policies,developmental universitiesIndex:Introduction: presenting a conjecture1) Some academic contributions to a new role for research and innovation policies2) Examples of innovation policies that share inspiration with social policies3) The new gamut of innovation policies and knowledge demand4) Linking university research with social policies: a preliminary report of anUruguayan attemptConcluding remarks: on the systemic nature of research and innovation policies seen associal policiesIntroduction: presenting a conjecture The aim of this paper is to explore the following conjecture: we are witnessing anemerging pattern of research and innovation policies characterized by the purpose ofputting research and innovation at the direct service of solving all type of problemsaffecting marginalized populations. The conjecture refers to a new situation in whichthree distinct aspects start combining. The first aspect is that research and innovationpolicy agendas include, as a specific and legitimate commitment, the contribution to thefight against social marginalization. The second aspect is that research and innovationpolicy agendas take on board the whole spectrum of social marginalization problems.The third aspect is that research and innovation policies promote the work directlyconnected to the search for solutions to problems of social marginalization. The fundamental role that science, technology and innovation can play to improvethe quality of life of poor people has been forcefully highlighted since long ago. Tworelatively recent reports make a whole case for this (UNDP, 2001, Juma et al, 2005). 2
  3. 3. The message of these texts is that the might of biotechnology, ICTs, nanotechnology,can be harnessed to deliver pro-development and pro-poor solutions. But at the sametime, the texts recognize that the difficulties are huge, mainly due to the combination ofdominating market considerations and weak global and national public policycounterweight. The need to embed social policies with technology policies is hinted:―The first step is for countries to recognize that public health, food and nutrition,energy, communications and the environment are public policy issues deserving seriousattention through technology policy‖ (UNDP, 2001:114-115). The imperative to findnew-technologies-based-solutions is forcefully put forwards: ―Tapping the potential ofthese new technologies will depend on adaptations to the conditions in developingcountries, especially for poor users. Much will depend on innovations—technological,institutional and entrepreneurial—to create low cost, easy to use devices and to set upaccess through public or market centers with affordable products‖ (UNDP, 2001:33).However, the idea that contributing to social inclusion is a legitimate goal for researchand for innovation, deserving the same level of recognition and support than academicexcellence or business competitiveness, is not yet clearly stated. It is suggested thatincentives of a new type are needed for ―orphan problems‖ not to remain orphans, butwhich incentives would those be remains unanswered. The first aspect of our conjectureis that a specific type of incentives, related to the open legitimization for research andinnovation agendas to include problems of the marginalized, is appearing. ―Orphan problems‖ are well identified problems where: (i) research and innovationhave been recognized as necessary to provide part of the pieces out of which a solutioncan be built; (ii) stakeholders strong enough to put the problem in the public agenda aremissing and so effective demand is lacking; (iii) research around these problems isunderfunded and related innovation efforts are weak. The most notorious orphanproblems lie in the realm of health, a notoriety probably derived from their immediatedeathly consequences; among them ―neglected diseases‖, prevalent in developingcountries, are the most widespread. Medicines and vaccines in particular, so frequentlyinexistent or unaffordable for these diseases, have become the target of differentorganizations. WHO and Doctors without Borders have provided identification andvoice; non for profit private initiatives like PATH (Program for AlternativeTechnologies in Health) articulate various actors involved in designing solutions; bigglobal charities provide research and innovation funds. 3
  4. 4. Neglected diseases have proved to be exceedingly complex, and in several casesresearch and innovation have been unable yet to deliver their part for the solution. Thisdifficulty is not only related to the health problems of 90% of the world population;several problems of 10% of the world population, even if receiving 90% of all researchefforts, remain unsolved due to their complexity. The point at stake is that the neglecteddiseases have reached a legitimate place in research and innovation agendas: they are byfar cognitively less neglected than some years ago. An example of this is the brand newCenter for Technological Development in Health, at the final stage of construction, aspart of the FioCruz Institute in Rio de Janeiro. Openly referred to as the ―NeglectedDiseases Institute‖, that Center exhibits a systemic institutional arrangement; itspartners include Brazilian national and federal funding agencies. It is connected with aninternational cooperative initiative, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative. The fiveinstitutional components of the ―Neglected Diseases Institute‖ are: (i) a non for profitpublic-private partnership for malaria treatment; (ii) an American private biotech firm;(iii) the Brazilian Ministry of Education, to assure the specialized human resourcesneeded; (iv) the Brazilian Ministry of Health through its R&D for Neglected DiseasesDepartment, and (v) the Institute of Economics of the Federal University of Rio deJaneiro, through its graduate program on public policy and development strategy. Several agricultural problems associated with poor rural populations have also awell established and legitimate place in research and innovation agendas, both atinternational and national level. However, not all problems present in developingcountries and affecting deprived populations, even in the realms of health andagriculture, enjoy this cognitive attention. The second aspect of our conjecture is that achange is occurring, and that research and innovation agendas are gaining morelegitimization to tackle not only some particular burdens affecting poor people, butproblems belonging to the whole spectrum of social marginalization. Various structural issues are at the roots of such problems, deeply entrenched withunderdevelopment and inequality. Limited access to education and limited opportunitiesto get good quality jobs are perhaps the most outstanding. Beyond them, though, lies theproductive structural heterogeneity, which feeds inequality through diversemechanisms. The role that research and innovation plays in the betterment of thisstructural heterogeneity has been forcefully put forwards, for the Latin Americansituation, in the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean‘s(ECLAC‘s) literature, since twenty years ago (ECLAC, 1990). In a text released in 4
  5. 5. May 2010, with the title ―The hour of equality‖, ECLAC revises extensively howscience, technology and innovation can contribute to make such hour arrive. The maingeneral message, well on line of that outlined already in 1990 is as follows: ―We mustreturn to the path of growth, based on the increase of a knowledge-and-innovation-supported competitiveness, on the strengthening of the institutions and mechanisms thatmake possible the diffusion of the benefits of growth to all sectors of the population(specially the disfavored ones), the sustainable use of natural resources and the caringfor the environment‖ (ECLAC, 2010: 23, our translation). This seems easier said thandone, given that what is missing in the region is the ―ideal combination‖ of amacroeconomic regime favoring development and a aggressive set of microeconomicand sectoral policies promoting structural changes based on technical progress. (ibid:118) There is some good news, though, related to some ideological advances, the mostimportant of which is the abandonment of the market fundamentalism of the 1980s and1990s. In particular, some structural principles related to the after Second World Warwelfare states have come back, ―hand in hand with practical and theoretical innovationswhere the idea of social capital, cohesion and assurance in face of risk reenter the debateand the design of public policies‖, with a special concern for inequality. (Ibid 192) It isclear from that text that in ECLAC‘s view research and innovation have a key role indealing with inequality and marginalization problems, but the way of playing such roleis rather indirect. No specific problems of the poor are part of the proposed researchand innovation agenda; such problems will be overcome as part of the improvement inthe development process following the removal of the structural barriers todevelopment. The third part of our conjecture is that a perspective is emerging forwhich the direct attack of all types of poverty problems is considered part of whatresearch and innovation policies have to deal with. If a combination of the three aspects of the conjecture is to some extent observable,then the possibility of the slow emergence of an ―inclusive‖ type of innovation systemscan be considered. However, caution is needed. Richard Nelson, who wrote in 1974 anessay, further transformed into a book, exploring the scope of the ―moon and theghetto‖ metaphor, revisited in 2010 his earlier reflections. He asks: ―To what extentare the kinds of technological innovations society is getting, and not getting, a functionof the innovations systems we have in place? And can we reorient our innovationsystems so that the innovations we get are better directed to meeting society‘s mostpressing needs?‖ (Nelson, 2010). However strong the temptation to give an affirmative 5
  6. 6. answer may be, Nelson puts two cautionary concerns to a too rapid optimism. The firstconcern is that these problems can be extremely difficult to tackle, so ―those of usadvocating reform of innovation systems need to be careful not to promise successwhere success is unlikely‖. The second concern is that redesigning innovation systemscan be quite difficult, because the set of ―institutions and policies that work in one arenamay not work in another‖. These sensible cautions notwithstanding, the conjecture thatthere is indeed an emerging consensus among researchers and policy makers thatwidens the scope of what research and innovation policies can achieve in terms of socialinclusion is worth exploring. The paper will do that along four sections: section 1 isrelated with academic contributions, section 2 with examples of policies, section 3 withthe knowledge demand, and section 4 with university research.1. Some academic contributions to a new role for research and innovation policies There is a growing uneasiness among researchers stemming from the difficultiesshown so far by research and innovation policies to contribute to the improvement ofthe life‘s conditions of vast parts of the world population. More public funding forresearch, more opportunities for young people to build academic careers and moreinternational networking and exchanges have occurred, even if with very asymmetricalpatterns. The asymmetries that worry the most, however, are not those observable interms of input indicators; they are rather those present in terms of social impacts and, atthe very start, in terms of the problems included in the research and innovation agenda.It is indisputable that asymmetries in funding have strong impacts in all type of otherunbalances. Institutions and researchers tackling with well defined problems ofmarginalized populations continue to put the highest priority on getting their effortsfunded appropriately. Institutions and researchers involved mainly with research andinnovation policy, though, are increasingly expressing more qualitative concerns. In June 2010 ―A New Manifesto‖ was presented by the STEPS Centre (Social,Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability), based at IDS (Institutefor Development Studies) and SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit), University ofSussex. The term ―new‖ refers to the ―old‖ manifesto, issued in 1970 by the sameinstitutions and the same subject, at the United Nations request. This New Manifestoacknowledges that science, technology and innovation have essential roles to play in 6
  7. 7. fulfilling main moral and political imperatives of our time, like poverty reduction andsocial justice. However, this will only be possible ―if there is a radical shift in how wethink about innovation‖ (STEPS 2010:2). Part of this radical shift lies in science andtechnology working directly for these aims: the text rejects explicitly considering onlyindirect ways through which science and technology can contribute to povertyalleviation, like trickle-down from economic development. Also important is therecognition and fully exploitation of the diversity of options that always exist to addressproblems. For these and other features of the radical shift, people‘s involvement isessential, particularly marginalized people, providing bottom-up and distributedinitiatives able to capture the attention of the highest levels of policymaking. People‘s involvement in the building of solutions or improvements of their lifeconditions is at the same time necessary and difficult. There are plenty of examples ofhow ingenuity in scarcity conditions leads to innovation, able to solve everyday lifeproblems of great importance. One of the purposes of the Honey Bee network, ―a voiceof creative grassroots innovators and traditional knowledge holders‖, has been preciselyto highlight innovations like these in India. When academic knowledge is needed tosupport solutions, though, the whole issue of mutual involvements gets morecomplicated. This has been proved true even when such mutual involvements relatepeople belonging to similar cultural milieus, like patients and researchers in the samedeveloped country. Explorations done in The Netherlands, on how to include patients‘cognitive inputs into biomedical research, conclude that ―patients‘ experientialknowledge, when translated into explicit demands, ideas or judgments, can contribute tothe relevance and quality of biomedical research‖ (Caron-Flinterman et al, 2005: 2575).Such approach, though, faces difficulties derived from current biomedical researchpractices: ―The majority of patients have difficulties with holding their own whenfacing a team of professionals; they easily become overruled by professionals causingthe collaboration to degenerate into tokenism‖ (Caron-Flinterman et al, 2006: 292). When the people involved in cooperation to solve problems come from verydifferent backgrounds, like poor farmers and biotechnologists, the communicationdifficulties become huge, and the joint governance of the process much morecomplicated. The developers of the Interactive Learning Approach, ILA, from theAthena Institute at the Free University of Amsterdam, have worked for twenty years inthe issue of building effective relationships between modern biotechnology and poorfarmers‘ needs and problems. It is a highly time consuming process, in need of a radical 7
  8. 8. revision of the tacit hierarchies of knowledge held by each participant, that cannot workwithout mutual trust and common understanding. Following the path of Everett Rogers,a scholar not frequently cited in the main stream innovation literature, the ILA approachis concerned with the weak rate of diffusions of innovative solutions intended to solvethe problems of the poor (Bunders et al, 1999). The importance of studies like those ofthe Athena institute lies in their focus on cutting-edge science and technology, and howto turn them into effective tools for improving the quality of life of marginalized people.In this way they build a bridge between two ineffective extremes: ―high science andtechnology is all we need to solve problems‖, or ―high science and technology hasnothing to offer to the problems of the poor‖. They do not promise an easy wayforwards, but they clearly legitimate the building of research and innovation agendasthat envision putting the best academic efforts at the direct service of socialachievements. From a more macro perspective, researchers at Innogen (Centre for Social andEconomic Research on Innovation in Genomics, UK) have tried to answer the questionof how to make biosciences innovations work for the poor. They have analyzed severalorganizational forms in which academic research in diverse branches ofbiotechnologies, in agriculture and health, have been developed and embedded indiffusion practices. Their conclusions emphasize with equal weight the need of soundR&D in the academic milieu and of well attuned communication channels between thegreat variety of institutional and organized actors which participation is needed todeliver solutions (Chataway et al, 2006 a). This can sound as pure common sense, but itwas not so commonsensical in very recent times. Around ten years ago, the concept ofhealth systems was centered on health care, leaving aside R&D efforts as part of thesystem, and the other way around, R&D policies did not so often focus directly onhealth issues, occupied as they were with economic growth issues (Hanlin, 2006). Theidea of an innovation health system, integrating research, innovation and applicationsunder the same umbrella, is indeed rather new. The importance of the early interventionof the intended final users of innovations in the searching process has been highlightedby several Innogen studies; the issue of communication has shown again to be criticallyimportant (Chataway and Smith, 2005). On the research side, this implies that businessas usual not longer holds. Neither totally internally defined agendas nor agendas shapedby funding agencies priorities per se warrant that the work done will be effective fordevelopment purposes. 8
  9. 9. The contribution of these studies to evidence based R&D and innovation policiesconcerned with social impacts needs not be stressed. One of its commonsensicalconclusions has to do with the current academic reward system. The way of measuringacademic research excellence is nowadays one important obstacle for putting the mightof knowledge at the service of development. In fact, as Chataway et al put it,―‗excellence‘ does more than label science as a success or failure but also seeks toprescribe how research is conducted, organizationally and conceptually‖ (Chataway etal, 2006 b: 3). Moreover, ―there is a question of whether a measure of scientificproductivity such as the number of peer-reviewed journal articles provides the rightincentives to scientists involved in development research. It is unfortunate forresearchers in organizations in both developing and developed countries that currentpeer review mechanisms and research assessment exercises do not provide rewards forcontributions made to development‖ (ibid: 14). This aspect is critical regarding theemergence of developmental universities as described in section 4. Changing theacademic rewarding system in a way that warrants that sound research will be producedand that the agenda will take on board development problems is by no means an easytask; besides, is not clear that the need for such a change raises wide consensus. But ithas become an issue, a part of the intellectual effort to put research and innovation fordevelopmental purposes in a more systemic light. The issue of inequality has reached the framework of thought of the ―neo-schumpeterian‖ community of innovation researchers, or, more broadly, the ―politicaleconomy‖ community of innovation researchers, that includes a wide array ofdisciplinary backgrounds. Just to give an example, the GLOBELICS conferences, wheremany members of such community meet, have included since Mexico 2008 generalthemes related to innovation and inequality. ―Innovation, economic development andinequality‖ was a conference theme in 2008; in Dakar 2009 the very title of theconference included the concept of ―inclusive growth‖, and one of its themes was―Innovation, education, health, inequality and development‖; Malaysia 2010 fosters atheme on ―Science and technology for the poor‖. Different focuses occupy this new pathfor innovation studies. Just to name a few, we have concerns on the distributionaleffects of new technologies in developing countries (Cozzens, 2009), worries about thedivorce between innovation policies and social policies (Arocena and Sutz, 2006),claims that the poor, particularly those poor that live in the least developed countries,are not taken into account in innovation studies (Lorentzen, 2009), requests that the 9
  10. 10. focus of innovative efforts for the poor shift from government actions towards theenhancement of basic institution of the market economy (Altemburg, 2008). Thesefocuses are hardly harmonized; some can even be considered as rather antagonistic froma policy point of view. But all of them contribute to put at the centre of the debate theneed of a specific branch of research and innovation policies that have people in themargin as their specific target. A spin-off of the GLOBELICS gathering, the BRICS project, that studies thenational innovation systems of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, islaunching a series of books issued from their common efforts. One of them, ―BRICSand Development Challenges: Inequality and National Innovation Systems‖ (Couto etal, forthcoming a) is a good example of the new accent in the direct relationshipsbetween inequality and innovation. As a general approach, the book considersinequality ―in its multi-dimensional character, embracing a phenomenon that goesbeyond the mere income dimension and is manifested through increasingly complexforms, including, among others, assets, access to basic services, infrastructure, andknowledge, as well as race, gender, ethnic and geographic dimensions‖ (Couto et al,forthcoming b: 13). The chapter on Brazil analyzes how inequality, thus conceptualized,interacts negatively with the actual system of innovation, ―restricting the endogenizationof technological progress and limiting the capacity of acquisition, use and diffusion ofinnovations in the country‖; vice versa, ―the dynamic of the Brazilian innovation systemhas not contributed to break the vicious circle of inequality‖ (Couto and Podcameni,forthcoming: 37). This is valid far beyond Brazil; the question of how to break suchvicious circle systemically calls for a deep rethinking of the system of innovationconcept as an analytical tool for policy design and implementation. In Latin America, the most unequal region of the world, the issue of research,innovation and inequality has been present among innovation researchers for some time.The approaches to the issue are indeed diverse, but they have in common the explicitaim of influencing research and innovation policies, and sometimes social policies aswell, to make innovation work directly to the benefit of marginalized people. For somescholars the leading term is ―social technologies‖ (Dagnino 2009, Thomas 2009); forothers ―inclusive innovations‖ is preferred (Arocena and Sutz, 2010); a brand newnetwork involving several Latin American countries with Spanish support has beenlaunched where the defining concept is ―social cohesion‖. What is discernible in theway the problem is addressed, all the differences notwithstanding, is that research and 10
  11. 11. innovation policies cannot continue as they have always been if the might of knowledgeis to be put at the service of alleviating poverty and inequality. This is a conviction thatis slowly leaking from academic circles into policy circles, a bit everywhere.2. Examples of innovation policies that share inspiration with social policies In 2008, the S&T division of the Inter American Bank, IDB, launched a newprogram: ―Innovation for an Inclusive Development‖. Conceived as a competitive callfor projects, ―the program will support pilot projects that foster innovation in products,processes and services to create solutions, both technology-based and non-technology-based, to improve the living conditions of the vast majority of people living in povertyin the region.‖ (IDB web page) In the case of innovative solutions for disabilities, amethod of detecting demand for solutions was implemented through a specific websitewhere the problems‘ descriptions were posted until a date; after the deadline for posting,a selection was made followed by a request for innovations able to solve the selectedproblems. Under the title ―social innovation‖, ECLAC gives prizes to innovative initiatives,some technological, some not, that involve communities developing solutions for someof their more pressing problems. This initiative started in 2004, and each year since thenreceives tenths of documented experiences of the sort. Some institutions have put in practice systematic efforts to build innovative andtechnology-based solutions for poor people. The experience of the MIT D-Lab is worthrecalling. Inspired by the relatively new concept of ―user-driven innovations‖, and thefact that 80 to 90 % of all medical equipment in developing countries is second-hand,and that 80% of it fails in the first 6 months, a whole series of health-related innovationintended to be used in poor or remote settings were developed by students and teacherswith the active participation of local communities. The real impacts of the innovation insitu remain to be seen, but the important point is that ―innovating otherwise‖ withtechnical success (at least) is possible. Other important point is the academic legitimacythat this endeavor has won. Perhaps this has been facilitated by the fact that MIT hasalready gained the fame of being among the three most prestigious research universitiesin the world; nevertheless, the case has merit as a demonstrating example. 11
  12. 12. In Latin America, in terms of public policies, there are some relatively newexperiences that show that the commitment to social inclusion is making its way intoinstitutions that used to see themselves as side-mindedly technological or research-oriented. The National Institute for Industrial Technology (INTI), in Argentina, has anextension unit that works out ways of transferring technologically-related workopportunities to specific communities. One example relates to machinery and know-how to produce iron-enriched cookies with hemoglobin coming for the meat industry, apotentially important initiative, both in terms of employment and for nutrition aims. InBrazil, the Ministry of Science and Technology has a specific secretariat of S&T forSocial Inclusion, that five years ago gave impulse to the Network of SocialTechnologies, an important organization gathering a great variety of public and publicpartners in the whole territory. In the last Brazilian national conference on S&T, held inBrasilia, May 2010, the issue of social inclusion was an explicit point of discussion,with participation of trade unions, NGOs and social organizations. The issue has gainedmomentum through the periodic call for proposals stirred by the financial branch of theMinistry of S&T, which amounted to three calls in 2009. The problems around whichproposals have been presented include food security, nutrition, and digital inclusion; thegreat majority of the proposals came from research institutions, universities, NGOs andpublic bodies. In Brazil, it has been reported that some firms have started developing aninnovative strategy to reach poor and marginalized people through the specific design ofaffordable products and ―socially-driven‖ modalities of delivery, involving thecommunity (Couto and Podcameni, forthcoming: 33). Brazil is a country where, at leastin the realm of health, the engagement of this specific public policy and science,technology and innovation policy is relatively strong. As we have already mentioned,R&D for neglected diseases is stirred by the Ministry of Health, in close relationshipwith different branches of the Ministry of Science and Technology. In Uruguay, the STI National Plan released in 2009 - a sort of general policy guide -incorporates social inclusion among the strategic objectives of the STI policy. Is thisonly lip service without further consequences? It is too soon to know, but theincorporation per se is not to be easily dismissed. Once social inclusion gains, at least inpaper, the same status than strengthening the scientific country base or reinforcing thecompetitiveness of the main productive and export sectors, it is not so esoteric topropose policies linking innovation policies to social policies. Again, proposals of the 12
  13. 13. sort may not make their road immediately, but the mere fact that the STI National Planallows them is a not trivial improvement.3. The new gamut of innovation policies and knowledge demand The emerging policies we are concerned with in this paper are closely related withdemand side problems. In this section we summarize an approach to such problems(Arocena and Sutz, 2010). Most developing countries are more or less poor in terms ofaccess to knowledge and of use of knowledge. In order to be brief, we speak of theproblem of knowledge for development. Our main assertion is that one of its maincauses is the weakness of knowledge demand. History shows that importing knowledge has always been relevant for developmentsuccess but it also shows that the problem of knowledge for development was neversolved only by importing knowledge. Success and failure in development have been andstill are closely related with success and failure in building endogenous advancedcapabilities (see for example Fajnzylber 1984, Lall 1990, Bell 2007). Since productionand use of knowledge are increasingly intertwined, it is increasingly difficult to useimported knowledge without endogenous generation of knowledge. The last is evenmore relevant concerning problems that have solutions that are affordable in richcountries but are not affordable in poorer contexts, where they require specific research(Srinivas and Sutz, 2008). Now, when demand for knowledge is weak, in quantityand/or in quality, it is quite difficult to build endogenous capabilities for creativelyusing advanced knowledge. The role of knowledge demand has been stressed in different periods and contexts(see for example Porter 1990, Lundvall and Borras 1997, Laperche 2002, RICYT 2008).Nevertheless, demand seems to have been rather neglected recently (Georghiou, 2007).But it deserves close attention because, at least in Latin America, the mismatch betweenweak endogenous demand for knowledge and privileged foreign supply hampers theimpact of knowledge policies (Cimoli et al, 2009). Such problem was clearly describedlong ago (Sabato and Botana, 1968). It still holds and perhaps not only in LatinAmerica: ―innovation in the developing world is constrained not on the supply side butin the demand side. That is, it is not the lack of trained scientists and engineers, absenceof R&D labs, or inadequate protection of intellectual propriety that restricts the 13
  14. 14. innovations that are needed to restructure low-income economies. Innovation isundercut instead by lack of demand from its potential users in the real economy –theentrepreneurs. And the demand for innovation is low in turn because entrepreneursperceive new activities to be of low profitability.‖ (Rodrik, 2007: 101) Thus it is notstrange that knowledge supply does not create per se knowledge demand (concerningIndia see Bagla 2005). Summing up, in many developing countries market demand forknowledge is weak, partly at least because entrepreneurs think that on averageinnovative activities offer low profits. Since usual policies for fostering knowledge demand focus on firms, the problem ofknowledge for development seems to require a more diversified set of policies. Thisassertion is supported by the Latin American experience, where innovative firms arestill a quite small proportion of all firms and main innovations come through imports ofmachinery and equipments, so capacities built through the supply side science andtechnology policies are highly underutilized by firms. Another main reason for focusing on knowledge demand is that quite difficultaspects of learning processes are directly dependent on the level of such demand.Learning through studying at higher levels is not easy in developing countries but it isgetting on average steadily stronger (Altbach et al, 2009). Learning throughsystematically applying advanced knowledge to problem solving, is more difficult. Anexample of the last is ―learning by interacting‖ (Lundvall, 1988) between producers andusers of new products and processes. When complex problems are interactively solved,not only individuals learn but ―learning communities‖ (Visser, 1999) emerge. Thecollective dimension of possessing technical knowledge by firms has been stressed ingeneral by evolutionary economics (Nelson and Winter, 1982: 63). Learning by solvingis always costly and time consuming. The propensity to search how to solve problemsdepends on the perceived rewards of finding solutions to unsolved or not satisfactorilysolved problems. Such propensity is highly dependent on the level of knowledgedemand. It can be said that, in general, fostering knowledge demand is more difficult thanfostering knowledge supply. In many developing countries at least, the first issue is alsomore urgent and specific than the second one. It urgently requires complementing actualpolicies with a new set of policies aimed at backing social demand of endogenouslygenerated knowledge. The emerging policies we are considering in this paper appear asa possible answer to such request. 14
  15. 15. 4. Linking university research with social policies: a preliminary report of anUruguayan attempt The concept of ―developmental universities‖ was elaborated as a tool for analyzingchanges in universities from the point of view of development purposes (Arocena,Gregersen, Sutz, 2004; Sutz, 2005a, b; Arocena, 2004; Arocena and Sutz, 2005a). It isrelated with the old but nevertheless still vigorous debate concerning the roles ofuniversities. What is usually called the ―research university‖ is characterized by thejoint practice of the roles of teaching and research that defines the ―Humboldtianproject‖ (Clark, 1997). Different versions of the ―third role‖ have emerged in differentcontexts, for example in the US during the second half of the 19th century (Rogers,1995) and in Latin America in the first decades of the 20th century (Arocena and Sutz,2005b). Prevailing approaches to a ―third role‖ of universities identifies it with directcollaboration with firms. A remarkable example of these approaches is the―entrepreneurial university‖, presented by Eztkowitz (1990, 1997, 2003) as adescription of a new phenomenon as well as a prescription for policies concerninghigher education. The ―developmental university‖ is different both as a description and as aprescription. The approach starts from empirical evidence concerning the contributionof universities to economic development; it suggests that providing high level teaching,which requires performing high level research, is at least as important as the directinvolvement of universities in solving problems of immediate interest for firms(Arocena and Sutz, 2005a). Similar assertions appear often in studies about knowledgeand innovation (see i.e. Nelson and Rosenberg, 1994). Innovation surveys show thatfirms tend to confirm them. The approach is rooted in the assertion that the normative ends of development arethe expansion of freedoms and the betterment of human life. It stresses the relevance ofimproving capabilities and upgrading the knowledge content of every useful activity,especially those related to the attention of social needs. In such context thedevelopmental university is characterized by the joint practice of three missions:teaching, research and cooperation for development with other institutions and 15
  16. 16. collective actors. It follows that developmental universities can only exist as activepartners in innovation systems. Part of the building of a developmental university has to do with the institutionalcommitment to put the might of the knowledge and research capacities cultivated at theuniversity at the service of social inclusion. This implies, as a first step, devising ascheme for stimulating and supporting initiatives in this direction. This is only a smallfirst step that must be followed by more difficult ones, like designing a systematicmethodology for detecting social requirements in need of new knowledge andinnovation, organizing this information so the whole university is aware of it,transforming the academic reward system to strongly back those audacious enough toengage in these endeavors. The first attempt to do this at the Universidad de la República, in Uruguay, was in2003: the University Research Council proposed a call for research projects orientedtowards ―social emergency‖. The reason was the social sequels of the 2002 crisis thathit the country in an unprecedented manner. It was not easy to get the councilconvinced: social commitment of the university yes, but why through research? A timidcompromise was achieved: the call was made but the funds were tinny, allowing for thesupport of three projects of the fifty presented. One of chosen projects, a rigorous economic and nutritional evaluation of theimpacts of a social policy consisting in giving lunch at public schools, was particularlysuccessful. It was continued to include the whole country through UNICEF funding andits results were taken by the Primary School Council, which was responsible for thepolicy. But perhaps its most remarkable feature was the accumulation of knowledge andexperience to tackle social policies. The same research team was called by the Ministryof Social Development in 2005 to help in the implementation of the most ambitioussocial policy of the new government, a program to reduce poverty and to half indigencethrough monetary transfers. This work was awarded an international prize in 2009, thefirst PEGNet (Poverty reduction, equity and growth network) Best Practice Award foreffective cooperation between research and practice, granted jointly to the research teamand the Ministry of Social Development in Uruguay ( In 2008, in the midst of an internal push towards university reform, in the traditionof the Latin American University Reform Movement, the program was re-launched, thistime called Research Oriented towards Social Inclusion. Four differences with the first 16
  17. 17. call are worth noting. The first is that it was heartedly supported by the university as awhole, and not only by the students, as the first time. The second difference, partlybecause of this, is that it was better endowed: previsions were made to back up to 12projects, finally backing 13. The third difference was that instead of leaving the callopen to any type of problems, three tracks were selected: (i) health, (ii) ICTs and socialinclusion, to allow a follow-up of the ―one laptop per child‖ program that was beingfully implemented in the country, and (iii) problems originated at the territorial level intwo poor neighbourhoods of the capital city, Montevideo. The fourth difference,stemming from a thorough conceptual revision of the aims of the program, was theattention paid to demand detection. The last is a very thorny difficulty: who knows what the problems causing socialexclusion that need new knowledge and innovation as part of its solution are? There isno single ―ex-ante‖ actor having this information; building such information is acollective endeavour, for which researchers are not well equipped. If the problemsinside the projects were to reflect not only the perception of the researchers that therewas a problem worth exploring, but the acknowledgment of other social actors thatindeed the problem was a real one, communication channels between researchers andsocial actors were needed. But putting researchers and social actors in contact, just likethat, would probably provide long silences and little communication. The encountersshould revolve around something concrete: the Academic Unit of the UniversityResearch Council provided this concreteness by lengthy interviewing different actors inthe three tracks of the program to gather the most pressing knowledge-related demandsthey were facing. Counting with this preliminary information a general workshop wasorganized, conveying people from different social belongings and researchers. After thewelcome by the President of the Republic, the information was socialized to the 400participants. The journey continued in three specific workshops, one in each track. Twomonths later more than thirty projects were received and evaluated, and those supportedstarted working. The 2008 call was indeed an improvement, but at least two problems remained. Thefirst relates to demand‘s detection and the second to the evaluation process. Afterstudying the projects of the 2008 call, it was apparent that efforts were made to makeexplicit the involvement of different stakeholders in the project. In several cases,though, such involvement was tenuous. This could have been the result of opportunismon the part of the researchers, which wanted the project done and had a light contact 17
  18. 18. with the social and policy counterparts only to show compliance with the formalities.But it could as well be the result of a flaw in the program design. Making soundcontacts with non-academic counterparts, whether to detect demand, to betterunderstand an already detected problem or to commit policy makers to theimplementation of the solution if founded, is difficult, time consuming, and involves lotof interactive learning. It was thought that efforts in this direction should be providedwith specific funding, so better full-fledged projects can be harvested in the next call.The 2009 call implemented this modality, alongside to the ―classic‖ one. The evaluation problem is common to all research programs involving more thanR&D. The counterparts express their interest and commitment in a written statement,but to what extent does this statement reflect the importance given to the problem andits solution by the stakeholder can remain uncertain. To face this question, interviewswith the stakeholders by the program committee and the Academic Unit of the ResearchCouncil have been included as part of the evaluation process. Almost fifty proposals were presented at the 2009 call, of which ten were ―demanddetecting‖ outlines. As in 2003 and 2008, the best represented area of work in theprogram‘s demand was health. Just to give some examples of what enters into thiscategory, we have proposals to develop cheap artificial skin, to produce a kit todiagnose streptococcus in women giving birth (poor women are suspected of not beingable to control for this infection during pregnancy), to develop a free software for thesurgery treatment of children‘s resilient epilepsies, and to produce a portable diagnosiskit not dependent on imported chemical inputs to generalize the measure of plumbcontamination, in children and workers, mandatory by law but hardly enforced due toimplementation difficulties. If research delivers results, a small step forward will take place. But the issue istruly systemic, and the will and the real possibilities to implement solutions out of theresearch results on the part of public policies, social organization and productive actorsbelong to a different sphere. This is why the notion of ―inclusive systems of innovation‖makes sense; this is why, too, the convergence that our conjecture puts forwards is soimportant. What the Universidad de la República‘s program wanted to achieve is, in part,getting solutions for problems of social inclusion. But the ultimate aim is far moredifficult and challenging: it is to call into action research-based-solidarity in anorganized way, as a means to call into action innovation-based-solidarity processes. 18
  19. 19. Concluding remarks: on the systemic nature of research and innovation policiesseen as social policies National Systems of Innovation in developing countries are often less than systemic.Links between actors are frequently quite weak. One of the causes of such phenomenonis the weakness of knowledge and innovation demand, particularly the part of suchdemand that is addressed to national producers of knowledge. That reflects the realitythat most developing economies are not in fact knowledge-based and innovation-driven.Consequently, on average entrepreneurs think that new activities are of lowprofitability. Since usual demand side innovation policies are addressed to firms, itfollows that such policies necessarily face serious obstacles. Thus, knowledgecapabilities fostered by supply side innovation policies remain underutilized. In turn,where social needs are pressing, the legitimacy of investing public funds in research andinnovation policies is not easy to defend. On the other hand, after the failure of the Washington consensus as the dominantparadigm for development, and especially after the arrival of the great crisis caused byunfettered financial capitalism, the legitimacy of social policies in the South is againrising. But the lessons of the past should not be forgotten, and the evidence of thepresent should not be neglected: social concerns without a solid knowledge base have adubious future, today more than yesterday. Consequently, it is not unnatural to searchfor a closer connection between knowledge policies and social policies. That seems tobe happening, as the paper has tried to show, albeit in a preliminary way, by consideringa few academic contributions, policy examples and university attempts. In order to conclude, it should be stressed that, even at this initial stage of the newset of policies, it is quite evident that they need to be even more ―systemic‖ than theprevious sets of policies. In fact, a new pattern of research and innovation policies forsocial inclusion will emerge only if the systemic imperatives are duly understood andtaken into account. In turn, if that happens, it will probably be a great help for buildingInnovation Systems in the South. 19
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