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National System of Innovation

Background
In the previous articles I reviewed the concept of open innovation and crowdsourcing and the benefits and challenges of this form of innovation.  Another innovation concept that deserves attention is the National System of Innovation (NSI, also sometimes called a National Innovation System).
Let us first look at some definitions.  Freeman defines a NSI as: “… the network of institutions in the public and private sectors, whose activities and interactions initiate, import, modify and diffuse new technologies”. Lundvall defines it as: “…the elements and relationships which interact in the production, diffusion and use of new, and economically useful, knowledge … and are either located within or rooted inside the borders of a nation state”.  There are other, even more detailed definitions, but the focus of all these definitions are on the system of interconnected institutions which create, store and transfer the knowledge and skills which define new technologies.
National System of Innovation
There has been a shift in the governing and managing of science and technology on a national level, in the sense that many countries of the world have implicitly or explicitly adopted the notion of a NSI.  So the key question with regards to the concept of a NSI is:  Why approach a country’s innovation performance as a set of relationships?  According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), technology-related analysis has traditionally focused on inputs (such as research expenditures) and outputs (such as patents), but the interactions among the actors involved in technology development are as important as investments in research and development and they are key to translating the inputs into outputs. The study of national innovation systems directs attention to interaction within the overall innovation system.  An understanding of these systems can help policy makers develop approaches for enhancing innovative performance in the knowledge-based economies of today. The smooth operation of innovation systems depends on the fluidity of knowledge flows – among enterprises, universities and research institutions. Both tacit knowledge (or know-how exchanged through informal channels), and codified knowledge, or information codified in publications, patents and other sources, are important. The mechanisms for knowledge flows include joint industry research, public/private sector partnerships, technology diffusion and movement of personnel. So how does Namibia measure up with regards to developing a NSI? Although we have some challenges, as any country do, there has been some very good progress in terms of developing the NSI in Namibia.  In the early 2000s, various development strategies referring to knowledge enhancement, innovations, and technology were approved. The monumental Namibian Vision 2030 strategy expressed the necessity to modernise Namibia, to become a competitive, knowledge-based, industrial society.  Also during the past few years, some relevant institutions regarding a NSI were set up in the government and in the higher education institutions.   The responsibility for building a NSI has remained within the Directorate of Research, Science and Technology (DRST) located in the Ministry of Education. The Directorate is in charge of the on-going process of drafting both the National Innovation Policy and the Indigenous Knowledge Policy.  Other relevant ministries for the NSI have been the Office of Prime Minister and the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Next Time
This will be the last article for this year.  I wish all the readers a blessed Christmas and please remember to make a New Year’s resolution to be (even) more creative and innovative in 2014!  I will kick off the New Year with some innovative inspiration to help readers to achieve this objective.  The final quote for 2013 comes from David Pogue: “What is innovation if not our ticket to every business interest in the world? It’s the ticket to solving the world’s problems – the energy problems, the pollution problems, the global warming problems. If it isn’t for science and engineering, how will we compete in the new world”.

Sources:
Lundvall, B-A. 1992. National Innovation Systems: Towards a Theory of Innovation and Interactive Learning. Pinter: London. Freeman, C. 1987. Technology and Economic Performance: Lessons from Japan. Pinter: London.\ OECD.  1997.  National Innovation Systems. Paris.

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