The Institute for Economic Research on Innovation (IERI) was originally established in 2002 in the Faculty of Economic and Management Studies at the former Technikon North West. IERI was established to provide in-depth analysis of systems of innovation, science and technology policy and local economic development. It was designed to focus on local, provincial and national levels within South Africa, at the regional and continental level across Africa, and on the global level. Given the relevance of this line of research for the development planning process in South Africa, IERI was proposed as one of the support platforms for the furtherance of the African Renaissance project that was spearheaded by the former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki.
Over 2003, interviews were held for the post of Chief Director for IERI. Five suitably qualified academics were interviewed for the post but no applicant was found to possess the required set of qualities for the leadership role that the post required. IERI was carried into the merger of the three former founding technikons which became the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in 2004 and placed within the Faculty of Economic Sciences (later changed to Economics and Finance). In April that year, after a formal recruitment and interview process, Rasigan Maharajh was appointed to the post of Chief Director. Thomas Pogue was employed and appointed as a Research Fellow a few months later. That year IERI approached the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to present the scope of IERI operations. In September 2004, IERI was officially launched, under the patronage of DST, and with Deputy Minister Derek Hanekom delivering an endorsement to the event. Towards the end of 2004 IERI was awarded, in the face of stiff competition, the right to host the third international conference of the Global Network for the Economics of Learning, Innovation and Competence Building Systems (GLOBELICS) in South Africa for the following year.
The GLOBELICS conference was hosted at TUT in October 2005 with over 150 papers from 40 countries being presented. At the beginning of 2005, Meheret Ayenew was appointed as a Visiting Professor from the University of Addis Ababa. His term extended to the middle of 2006 and during this time he contributed to research, teaching within the Department of Public Sector Finance and supervised, to a successful conclusion, the doctoral studies of a staff member within that department. Lindile Ndabeni, who was then director of the SME Technology Centre in TUT, was appointed as a Research Fellow at the end of 2005. Towards the end of 2005 Lindile Ndabeni was seconded to the DST for six months to provide support for human capital development policy. Due to the lack of office space, IERI staff had worked mostly from their respective homes and at the beginning of 2005 a decision was made, with the backing of the former DVC Mbudzeni Sibara, to refurbish the ground floor of the MetroSkinner building as the new premises for IERI. In 2005 a consortium of tertiary education institutions in five countries (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa; Università di Trento, Italy; Polytechnic of Namibia, Namibia; University of Botswana, Botswana; Universidad São Tomás de Moçambique, Mozambique) was formed to design and offer an internationally accredited Joint Masters Programme in Comparative Local Development (JAMP) with TUT as the main partner in collaboration with Trento and IERI as the location for the programme.
In 2006 IERI was appointed as the Technical Service Agency for the Socio-Economic Country Assessment of South Africa in the African Peer Review Mechanism’ (APRM) process. Erika Kraemer-Mbula who was conducting her field research for her PhD at Oxford University was appointed on a part-time basis in 2006. She worked on the project on cooperatives commissioned by the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. Linah Toona joined IERI as a Senior Administrator in the latter part of 2006, providing some administrative support. Towards the last quarter of 2006, IERI was finally able to move into its formal TUT address at 159 Skinner Street, Pretoria.
The year 2007 saw IERI expanding its activities on a number of fronts. This year marked the start of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) research project on comparative systems of innovation. This four year project funded by the IDRC aims at an intensive comparative analysis of the national systems of innovation of the five countries. Mario Scerri joined IERI as a Research Fellow in June 2007 and on behalf of TUT, IERI was awarded a DST/ NRF-funded South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Professorship which would be taken up by Mammo Muchie. The IERI website went live at www.ieri.org.za towards the end of 2007 and the working papers series was started the year after.
In 2008, the JAMP programme was accredited by the Council for Higher Education (CHE) and the South African Qualities Authority (SAQA). Towards the end of 2008, Mammo Muchie the SARChI Professor of Innovation Studies was able to complete his transitional arrangements and join the full time complement of IERI. This allowed for the commencement of, among other activities, recruiting doctoral and post-doctoral researches from a number of countries. Rasigan Maharajh was seconded to the Presidency for an initial four months starting October 2008 as a member of the National Strategic Planning Task Team tasked with conceptualising a planning facility at the centre of government for South Africa. IERI hosted the 3rd International Seminar for the BRICS project in partnership with the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch. This seminar assessed country position papers and initiated the second phase of the project. IERI also began hosting the South African Node of the Millennium Project (SAMP). SAMP is the domestic link to a global participatory futures research think tank of futurists, scholars, business planners, and policy makers who work for international organisations, governments, corporations, NGOs, and universities.
The year 2009 witnesses the fifth anniversary since the launch of IERI and again sees an expansion of activities. These include the recruitment of graduate students; and the launch of the African Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development (AJSTID), an international peer-reviewed journal that aims to address the various aspects of African systems of innovation. The secondment of Rasigan Maharajh to the Presidency’s National Strategic Planning Task Team was extended for a further six months and IERI was awarded the coordinating function on the “Role of the State in the BRICS” Comparative Analysis Project. IERI also hosted, in partnership with the German Development Institute: Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik, a visiting research team which analysed the South African Innovation System and its contribution to Sustainable Development Patterns. Within the SARChI initiative, IERI has also finalised a proposal for an African Globelics Academy for Research, Innovation and Capability (AGARIC). IERI will also host the World Wide Views on Climate Change, a global citizen participation activity whereby South Africa will be linked to over 51 other countries in deliberating matters concerned with the state of the environment and sustainability. This is a preparatory event which will contribute to COP 15, the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.