- Botswana Innovation Hub

20I4 IASP African Division Conference
Neville R Comins
9 -11 April 2014
The Origin of STPs, Technoparks and Innovation Centres
 Concept is now some 60 years old with examples in many
developed and developing countries
 Africa has been slow in uptake (6 full members of IASP)
 Over the past decades, many projects have been started but have not been
sustainable as STPs
A few examples show real promise
 What have we learned as a Continent and do we have adequate systems of
innovation or appropriate models to meet the needs?
 Many are established by Governments, but do they have policies to establish the
optimum eco-system and drivers for success?
 Africa’s S&T Consolidated Plan of Action (2006) has defined
Programme 5.6 to ‘Promote the creation of technology parks’
 Why has there been no real response over 7 years?
Following the Developed World
 The dominant STP paradigm followed has been based on
the developed world philosophy of ‘STI’
 Systems of Innovation based on strong traditions of R&D
 Good experience of transfer of technology to business and industry gave
rise to ‘linear thinking’
 Clear understanding of the difference between ‘invention’ and ‘innovation’
 Understanding of how innovation centres and STPs could link the R&D
and market emergence of new technologies
 The CPA shows this approach where ‘technoparks’ are defined as
‘ensuring R&D generates products and services’
 Our R&D, however, is limited on a global scale and often far from or not
connected to market needs or opportunities
 Are STPs, Hubs and Innovation Centres built in our countries, based on
such models. sustainable or set up for difficult futures or even failure?
What goals are often set for our STPs?
 Too often we start with a ‘real estate ‘ perspective
it and they will come!!’
Foreign investors must be attracted
Financially viable and sustainable projects will develop within a few years
There will be lots of spin-outs from research
Jobs will be created
‘Let’s start a new high-tech cluster’ (usually for in a new technology)
 Little financial priority compared to that granted to R&D or S&T
 The staff appointed as initial management are often from government
 Controls and management are based on government regulations, e.g. PFMA
in South Africa
 Unfortunately none of these aspects create the necessary environment
 Sometimes we can be on the way to creating ‘monuments’.
STPs, Innovation Hubs and Centres in Africa
 Membership of IASP African and North African Divisions
 South Africa
 Namibia
 Botswana
 Kenya
 Nigeria
 Tunisia
3 Full members
3 Associate members
1 Full member
1 Full member
1 Affiliate member
2 Affiliate members
1 Full member
2 Affiliate members
 BongoHive (Zambia) and iHub (Kenya) study (2013)
 Over 100 Hubs, Centres, etc. in 27 African countries with
similar objectives to have a socio-economic impact (mostly <5
years old)
 Why is there so little overlap and linkage?
 Only 2 IASP members were included in the study
Types of ‘innovation hubs’
Science parks
generation cocreation models
S&T Park
in Mozambique
• State-of-the-art new facilities
• Attract research-based start-ups in high-tech sectors of the economy
• Large amounts of capital investment
• Usually government-driven
Botswana IH
VUT S&T Park
Namibia business
Innovation centre
• Range of origins – business community, university, etc
• Lesser focus on physical facilities - location
• Focus on value added services (building on strengths)
• Assisting entrepreneurs with identified needs
• Regional business networks
Mlab, SA
• Integrating social and commercial objectives
• Creating synergies amongst stakeholders – informal communications
• Focus on providing ‘inspiring spaces’
• Openness to risk
• Giving youth an opportunity and support to learn
Courtesy of Comins and Kraemer-Mbula (2014)
BongoHive, Zambia
The Fringe, SA
Mode I: Traditional Science Parks
 Profile
 Emphasis on building state-of-the-art infrastructure
 Efforts on design and implementation
 Promotion of the establishment of high-tech /knowledge-based companies
 Government-driven
 Advantages
 Reputational effects
 Alignment or dependent on regional and national policy strategies
 Nurturing competitiveness of communities of leading high-tech companies –
potential spill-over effects & attraction of FDI
 Financial sustainability, if government provides ongoing support
 Challenges
 Lengthy take off – complex and long construction (typically 5-7 years)
 Capital intensive
 Difficulty in finding the optimum type and number of tenants
 Rigidity in the objectives and measures
Courtesy of Comins and Kraemer-Mbula (2014)
Mode II: Activity-based hubs
 Profile
 Less emphasis on infrastructure but accessibility (location) and
 More value added services
 Innovation programmes and activities designed to promote
entrepreneurship. Low on staff
 Broader range of origins: focus on strategic partnerships (e.g. universities &
trainings institutions, international organisations, large local and
international companies, etc)
 Advantages
 Explicit business needs
 Emphasis on business cooperation – networking, exchanging experiences,
market creation and lowering costs.
 Challenges
 Obtaining strong support from government, often linked to the actitivies
 Financial more sustainability
Courtesy of Comins and Kraemer-Mbula (2014)
Mode III: Co-creation hubs
 Profile
 Broader set of goals (e.g. regeneration of urban areas, solutions to emerging
social and environmental challenges) – e.g. Innovation Hub or STP
conceived as an urban experiment
 Integration of complementary agendas of societal stakeholders. Innovation
for societal and commercial purposes
 Advantages
 Reliance on synergies amongst a variety of stakeholders – territory matters/
innovation ‘districts’
 Environment that allows for failure / openness to risk
 Building on what already exists – focus on the “soft” aspects
 Wider culture that is accepting of change/flexibility
 Challenges
 Managing alignment of the interests of a wide range of stakeholders
 Government buy-in but financial sustainability still seen as challenging
Courtesy of Comins and Kraemer-Mbula (2014)
Factors affecting the establishment and
growth of STPs
 Policies which focus on R&D and do not adequately
understand the demands of innovation processes
 Inadequate linkages of S&T and Education policies with industrial
 Measurement systems for STPs based on high-level government
priorities, e.g. numbers of jobs created
 Regulatory system for ‘government agencies’ limits freedom to act
as a business operation
 R&D base generally fragmented and focused on HRD, and lacking
entrepreneurial emphasis.
 Inadequate buy-in or alignment with local business community
 Not enough ‘fire power’ to attract FDI
What are the real needs?
 Successful innovations in Africa are more likely to spin-out
from business environments or be based on the spirit of
natural entrepreneurship (especially from the youth)
 They seek environments which stimulate collaboration, co-creation,
networking, neutral facilitation, access to funding, access to markets, market
visibility locally and internationally
 Convenient and good services, e.g. ICT, meeting space, etc.
 Often lacking all the necessary business experience, they need:
Pre-incubation and incubation
Advice on governance, company law and people management
IP counselling
 Thinking beyond 1st world market ambitions to the solutions for local
 Policies to invest in the right people with passion for
innovation and support value-adding services
 the real estate can follow
Some lessons
 Be careful of adopting modalities based on an underlying
conceptualisation & understanding of how innovation
takes place
Understand the demographics of the region (e.g. 50% of
the population under 25 years)
Tailor the projects to each country, province or city
Experimentation & piloting are critical – start small –
physical infrastructure is important but not essential from
the start
Avoid paralysis by lack of capital – strategic support and
buy-in can be as important – a lot can be done with little
Innovation is about ‘interactive learning’ (Lundvall)
 Share more and learn more!!
The IASP STP Community
needs to understand the growth
and success of the other hubs!
We need to up our game!
Thank you

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