Ministerial Roundtable breakfast on ‘Local innovation clusters in emerging countries’

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Ministerial Roundtable breakfast on ‘Local innovation clusters in emerging countries’ as part of the first days of the ECOSOC High-Level Segment on July 2, 2013.

The breakfast offered an opportunity to discuss emergence of local innovation eco-systems in developing countries, an important area that hitherto has remained under-measured globally.

In setting the tone for the discussions, the introductory remarks reminded participants that local innovation is occurring across the world as highlighted in the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2013. High-level guests then discussed the following questions:
1) To which extent are innovation clusters in emerging countries different to those in high-income countries?
2) How connected are they to other well-established innovation clusters around the world and what are complementarities among clusters at home and abroad?
3) Not all attempts to create innovation clusters or ‘innovation spaces’ at the local level have been successful. What was the role of history, business and, respectively, policy in the development of these clusters? Do clusters need critical mass to succeed?

A full summary will follow soon, but here are a few initial highlights.

Question 1: To which extent are innovation clusters in emerging countries different to those in high-income countries?

Most developing countries are not replicating the innovation models from developed countries. Innovation clusters and their connections to each other are not always based on the same formal institutions and structures. While universities are at the center of innovation clusters in the developed world, for instance, the same does not systematically apply for the developing world. The participant from Huawei explained in some detail that the region of Shenzhen has developed differently and not emerged based on a strong university for instance. Discussions also noted the encouraging trend of local innovation in human capital and social economy clusters in many developing countries. Discussions also referred to the role of intellectual property (IP) as an important equalizer in the innovation process.

Question 2: Is there any room for more cooperation between clusters?

Discussants highlighted the importance of trust, openness and institutional mechanisms as necessary prerequisites for cooperation to occur between clusters. Institutions are essential to create trust which lie the foundation for open innovation processes. Participants emphasized the role of education from an early age, the need for cooperating clusters not to stifle competition as well as the important role of microfinance for the establishment of new clusters. It was also noted that clusters today no longer form solely around physical regions but that they also increasingly form around problem and issues in a decentralized manner and also thanks to innovation networks and information technologies.

Question 3: What are the ingredients for successful clusters?

It was recognized that successful clusters require governments to create a stable and enabling environment. Switzerland was cited as an example where the government played a limited role in forming clusters yet many industries successfully clustered amongst themselves. Discussants cited the experience of Croatia and other countries where the government actively supported the creation of clusters. Participants also highlighted the significance for successful entrepreneurs to be able to leverage funds by monetizing their intellectual property.

Posted by:

Bruno Lanvin, Executive Director, INSEAD European Competitiveness Initiative
Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, Senior Economist, Economics and Statistics Division, WIPO


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