technological innovation governance for winning the future

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  • FROM MY PERSPECTIVE

    Technological innovation governance for winning the future

    M. Nawaz Sharif,1

    Myriad Solutions, Inc., Fulton, Maryland, MD, USAEngineering for Professionals Program of Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, MD, USAUnited Nations ESCAP's Asian and Pacic Center for Transfer of Technology (APCTT), Bangalore, India

    a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

    Article history:Received 23 May 2011Received in revised form 19 October 2011Accepted 7 December 2011Available online 21 January 2012

    Both developed and developing worlds today face significant economic crises. For winningtheir future, all countries will have to boost their capacity to innovate. Since technological in-novation has now become the mantra for employment generation through growth of exportedgoods and to ensure sustained economic growth, current national technological innovation ca-pacity governance policies need to be grounded on four basic pillars: (1) adopting an action-able taxonomy of technological system components utilized by enterprises operating in thefiercely competitive global marketplace; (2) relying on greater public-private partnership fortargeted specialization in emerging technology industries; (3) complementing research-university-linked incubators with metropolis-based innovation hotspots; and (4) mandatinga prioritized choice criteria function for technological innovation project funding. Why thesepillars are important and how to strengthen national technological innovation capacitybuilding-blocks are described in this essay on the basis of lessons learned from studies inmany Asian developing countries and some developed countries of the world.

    2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Keywords:Technological InnovationInnovation Capacity GovernancePolicy Decision Making

    Introduction

    Throughmany decades of studies, I have come to understand that a focused technology-integrated development planning pro-cess has led to the economic wonders in Japan and South Korea.

    The ascendancy of the latter, in particular, is simply amazing. As recently as the early 1970's, South Korea's GDP per capita wascomparable with that of the poorer countries of Asia and Africa. But by 2004, South Korea joined the trillion dollar club of worldeconomies, and currently is among the world's 20 largest, accomplishing this with a population of about 50 million and hardlyany natural resource reserves. I observe that a carefully-differentiated technological innovation drive (using the essence of theKaizen philosophy of Japan) has been the corner-stone of South Korea's economic development project financing strategy. Itnow seems to me that, under the current global setting, both the economic-recession-saddled industrialized countries and thestruggling developing nations facing a revolution of rising expectations could perhaps try to emulate a Korean-style carefully tar-geted technological innovation strategy for winning their future. In order to implement such a strategy, a country has to developtwo critical infrastructures by strengthening scientific and technological (S&T) education system for new knowledge and cre-ative talent development; and promoting technological innovation systems through public-private-partnership in research anddevelopment (R&D) efforts that lead to productivity-driven global competition by business enterprises. In this essay, I am focus-ing on the technological innovation requirement for winning the future by a country.

    Technological Forecasting & Social Change 79 (2012) 595604

    16845 Harbour Town Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20905, USA.E-mail address: Nawaz@myriadinc.net.

    1 Formerly, Dr Nawaz Sharif was a Chair Professor and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangkok, Thailand.

    0040-1625/$ see front matter 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2011.12.004

    Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect

    Technological Forecasting & Social Change

  • In order to appreciate the importance of technological innovation for winning the future, let me start by saying that it is onlynatural for all societies to do so. We know that making and continuously improving technologies are the hallmark of the humanrace, because technologies enhance human capacities of both mind and body with specifically aspired developmental goals. Nat-ural human creativity and an inner desire to compete with others have made technological innovation our second nature. There-fore, I am convinced that technological innovation is really in perpetual motion! Moreover, technological innovation hasaccelerated the process of globalization of the world's societies. Interestingly, history shows that earlier technological changewas a consequence of global societal evolution; but nowadays, it has emerged as a leader of desired societal progress. Therenow seems to be universal awareness that technological innovation is indeed the engine for economic prosperity of a country.Technological innovations provide limitless opportunities for all people to do: more things, newer things, better things, and thingsfaster than ever-before. Enterprises go for technological innovations as better transformation mechanisms in goods producing ven-tures and better operational platforms in services providing endeavors. Technologies provide leverages for productivity gains(through increased value addition, or by decreased cost of operation, or by achieving both simultaneously); gain in productivityenhances competitiveness and contributes to a positive value of trade (export minus import) in the current interdependent worldeconomic system.

    Internationally, through the increased application of technological innovations, industrialized societies are competing for bet-ter exploitation of available resources of our planet to achieve a higher quality of life for their people. However, even though tech-nological innovations have enabled people to get more out of less, technological advancements have also made sustainability ofhuman life a global concern due to a trilemma skewed population explosion, swelling natural resources depletion, and alarming en-vironment degradation. Obviously, even if these impacts may have been caused by increased application of technologies, they canonly be remedied by developing more and innovative technologies that maximize positive benefits and minimize negative im-pacts. Besides, the business world is now facing many mindboggling challenges: a dizzy pace of technological change, a messytype of social connectivity, a fuzzy state of the future, and a shaky kind of stakeholder loyalty. Unprecedented pace of innovationsin the information and communication technologies (ICTs, which include the Internet and digital Social Media) is an underlyingcurrent for creating the incredible new world that we live in today. It is evident that, in the present era of digital connectivity, noorganization and no society can remain insulated from globalization trends. The Internet is also eliminating traditional interme-diaries between consumers and suppliers, and forcing all firms to become flat, flexible, fluid, and mobile. Additionally, it may benoted that new ICTs have opened the eyes and ears of all people in all parts of the world. The growing unemployed middle-classpopulations of the world now wantand want it right awaywhat they can see affluent people (in nearby and faraway places)are enjoying. Thus, newer goods and services will continue to have great demand, providing opportunities for increased globaleconomic prosperity and social development.

    Given that globalization and technological innovation are inevitable, then what are the major imperatives for a country to winits future? In my opinion, current national technological innovation capacity governance policies of a country need to be ground-ed on four basic pillars: (1) an actionable taxonomy of technological system components utilized by enterprises operating in thefiercely competitive global market place; (2) increased public-private partnership for targeted specialization in emerging technol-ogy industries; (3) strong research university-linked incubators andmetropolis-based innovation hotspots; and (4) application ofprioritized choice criteria function for technological innovation project funding. These fundamental-issues are explained in thefollowing sections.

    1. Actionable taxonomy of technology system components

    What constitutes technology in the economic development context? My experience with the aspirations to integrate scientificand technological considerations into the development planning process in many Asian countries taught me that an underlyingdifficulty faced by most countries is the lack of reliance on an actionable type definition of the term technology that is acceptedby all parties concerned general public, academic community, science and technology community, research and developmentcommunity, and economic planning community. I recall an age-old clich: one cannot manage something that one doesn't fullyunderstand; and of course, one cannot manage it well if one doesn't try to measure it. Therefore, to win the future by integratingtechnological innovation considerations with development investment decisions, it is crucial to define technology in a way thatenables managers to pull levers for actions that will produce desirable outcomes.

    From the existing literature on strategic management of technology, I take a comprehensive definition given by Burgelman [1]to explain my point. In my judgment, as technology is what technology does, technology should be defined in the context of its ap-plication in all work places. I find that in all organizations (private or public), all work-packages [the term work-package is widelyused in project management where it is defined as a unit of

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