Nazar M. Hassan
UNESCO Regional Office for Sciences for the Arab States, Cairo
Purpose: The Arab region has generally failed to catalyse and convert knowledge production into innovation effectively, and/or add value to products and services in the different economic sectors. Insufficient government commitment for science, technology and innovation (STI) and research, poorly designed national STI policies, and government that is ineffective in doing business are some of the factors causing these disparities. This paper identifies the main areas on which the Arab Countries should focus to allow innovation to take off towards a knowledge-based society in the region.
Design/Methodology/Approach: This study adopts the comparative analysis approach to identify best practices and successful experiences from other regions of the world, and map the results to the particulars of the Arab region to identify discrepancies in public policy and institutional structures of the different national STI platforms in the region.
Findings: The Arab countries face a host of hurdles, including a lack of focus in research priorities and strategies, little awareness of the importance of good scientific research, inadequate networking, limited collaborative efforts and brain drain, a disconnect between policymakers, scientists and society in generating, sharing and utilizing scientific knowledge, and, to a higher extent, insufficient funding and a lack of the required technical workforce. Lack of the technical ‘critical mass’ in specific/priority areas of research, and similarly in certain productive economic sectors, has greatly affected these sectors region-wide.
Originality/Value: While most of the current research has addressed the existing impediments to innovation from the government viewpoint and associated inter-governmental bodies such as the League of Arab States (LAS), this research focusses on the private sector and non-governmental solution modalities to create the necessary innovation and entrepreneurship culture in the region.
Practical implications: Recommendations are made to create synergies between international organizations and private sectors. This is done by using out-of-the-box innovative financial solutions by the private sector through making periodic small donations under their social responsibilities budget. They do this in order to institutionalize a regional mega capacity building programme to develop the required technical critical mass, which is needed to support the development of the sought regional manufacturing capabilities that can compete with the international markets.
Keywords: Innovation; Knowledge-based; STI policies; Resource Mobilization; Manufacturability