Unlocking Potentials of Innovation Systems in Low Resource Settings

Abstract: This study examined the dynamics, challenges and opportunities of developing innovation systems in low resource settings with a particular focus on Uganda. It applied perspectives of technoscience and concepts of innovation systems, triple helix as university-industry-government relationships, mode 2 knowledge production and situated knowledges in understanding the context, identifying key policy issues and suggesting ways to address them. A mixed methodology combining both quantitative and qualitative methods was used in the study. It involved review of key policy documents, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and meetings with scientists, business leaders in the target organizations and firms, community members as well as observations of production processes in firms. Findings underscore the need for greater interaction and learning among actors in the emerging innovation systems in Uganda and eastern Africa. An opportunity for this to happen may be the growing number of entrepreneurial initiatives at the university and some public research organizations in the country. These entrepreneurial initiatives are driven by scientists, who are enthusiastic about moving their research results and innovations to market. This makes it plausible, in low resource settings like in Uganda, to promote the university working closely with public research organizations and firms as a locus for research and innovation. However, enabling conditions, which foster interaction and learning among actors, should be put in place. First, there is need to formulate specific policies and strategies with clear goals and incentives to promote growth of particular innovation systems. Second, a clear national policy for financing research and innovation is needed, which involves on the one part core funding to universities and research organizations, and on the other, competitive grants for research and innovation. Third, business incubation services should be established and/or supported as places where entrepreneurial scientists and other persons develop and test their business ideas and models. Fourth, there is need for institutional reforms to make administrative processes less bureaucratic, more costeffective and efficient. These reforms are necessary for example in processes involving procurement and financial management, research project approvals (for ethics and safety), technology assessments, contracting and licensing and other registration services. The findings and conclusions from this study demonstrate that technoscientific perspectives and innovation systems approaches can be adapted and used as a framework for identifying and explaining conditions that promote or hamper innovation in low resource settings as well as policy options to address them.