. My use of the term “modes of innovation” in this paper is distinct from its common usage in innovation literature as referring to two types of learning and innovation, primarily applied at firm level
. The basic theoretical foundation of this concept lies in a theory of value formulated in terms of streams of innovation, where the definition of innovation is drawn from the broader national system of innovation perspective
, over time and made manifest in the production of goods and services. From this perspective the value of all output is the outcome of innovation, defined in the broadest manner, which has gone into producing that output, including all past streams of innovation which are encapsulated in labour and in all the conventional means of production. This innovation theory of value lays the basis for a consideration of the “means of innovation” which are classified as the human and non-human means of innovation. The understanding of the former is grounded in a human capabilities approach to the human factor in production. The latter is close to a Marxian definition of the means of production, including the knowledge stock, containing both appropriated knowledge, where ownership is assured by patents and the lumpiness of knowledge capital, and knowledge which lies in the public domain. Modes of innovation are then defined in terms of the patterns of the ownership and control of the means of innovation. The latter has become increasingly more relevant in the context of the evolution of global economy since the Second World War. Modes of innovation are then used to classify national systems of innovation.
Modes of innovation offer a classification system (early, mature and post industrial) which helps to locate national systems of innovation according to a number of linked criteria. These include the configurations of the ownership and control of the means of innovation, human capital/capabilities requirements, labour/capital power relations, and the periodisation of the global political economy. The last criterion anchors the classification of modes of innovation to history; however, at any point in time any particular national system of innovation can be slotted into any one mode and may also exhibit the simultaneous presence of a number of modes within the same system.
Modes of innovation may also provide a novel approach to the assessment of the viability of a national system of innovation which may be broadly defined as the ability of a system to survive, grow and evolve within a changing global context. The assessment of the viability of a particular national system of innovation should be based on an understanding of the specific nature of the system of innovation, its constituents and its historical trajectories. The viability of a national system of innovation may be assessed on three broad levels. The first is in terms of its ability to survive and reproduce its structures. The second level is that of growth, i.e. the steady state growth of a given national system of innovation, retaining its main defining characteristics. The third level of viability looks at the evolutionary performance of the national system of innovation, primarily within a shifting global economic environment. At this level, two types of evolutionary path can be discerned. The first, the most common, is reactive, i.e. the ability of a system to mutate successfully to adapt to a changing environment. The second, more rare, is when a mutation in a particular national system of innovation alters the environment within which it is located, be it regional, continental, or global.
Viability in itself does not necessarily indicate the attainment of development goals. Viable systems of innovation can, and frequently do, exhibit high degrees of poverty, income inequality and generally low levels of human development. The co-evolution of innovation and underdevelopment is especially possible in economies which are heavily resource based and strongly reliant on export markets for their resource endowments. However, it is increasingly apparent that in a world where the fortunes of national systems of innovation are progressively more dependent on the broad based technological capabilities of a skilled labour force the long term prospects for any particular national system of innovation are strongly dependent on the quality of life and the life prospects of the general population. The further one moves up the viability scale, from survival, through growth, to evolution, the stronger is the dependence of success on the sustained enhancement of human development.
The assessment of the viability of national systems of innovation also has several layers of analysis, depending on the definition of the national system of innovation which is adopted. If the definition of the national system of innovation is narrow, limited to a sub-sector of the economy, the layer in which the analysis is grounded is closer to the focus of conventional economic analysis. On the other hand, the broader the definition of the national system of innovation becomes the more it is grounded in political economy. The approach adopted in this paper is based on a broad definition of the national system of innovation grounded in a political economy framework.
In the case of Africa the categorisation of modes of innovation is specifically linked to colonial and postcolonial phases. One of the parameters which differentiate the different modes is the nature of the engagement of African national systems of innovation with the global political economy. The choice of South Africa and Tanzania as the specific cases to be examined in this paper is based on the the consideration of these two national systems of innovation as relative outliers within the the context of Africa's postcolonial history. South Africa's postcolonial period effectively started with the granting of dominion status early in the twentieth century, but this entrenched a more indigenous system of racial segregation which transmuted into the regime of racial capitalism under apartheid. The heritage of the apartheid system of innovation was, and still is, a developed system of science and technology against a context of a badly impoverished national system of innovation.
Tanzania represents the longest lasting (until the mid-eighties) socialist experiment in Africa within a postcolonial history marked by exceptional stability and continuity. The analysis of these two national systems of innovation, in cognizance of their outlier status would serve to anchor this analytical approach to other, more representative country cases and enable a categorisation of national systems of innovation in sub-Saharan Africa.
The general structure of this chapter consists of four sections. The first elaborates on the theoretical base of the modes of innovation concept. The second section applies a classification system developed from this concept to a general case of African national systems of innovation. The third section develops the analysis for South Africa and Tanzania stemming from a historical account and leading to a mapping of the current national system of innovation of the two economies. The fourth section assesses the viability of the two systems of innovation within the national and the regional contexts. The concluding section looks at the implications of extending this approach to other systems of innovation in sub-Saharan Africa with the aim of developing sub-categories within the general approach. This section concludes with policy implications at the national and regional levels.
This proposed paper is a theoretical and empirical extension on a general approach I introduced in a paper “Modes of Innovation and the Prospects for Economic Integration in Africa”, presented at the Second Scramble for Africa Conference (May 23-24, 2012), Tshwane, South Africa, and forthcoming as a paper in a book published by the Africa Institute of South Africa.
See, among others, Jensen, M.B., Johnson, B., Lorenz, E. and Lundvall, B.Ǻ. 2007. “Forms of Knowledge and Modes of Innovation”, Research Policy, 36, pp. 680-693.
An appropriate broad definition of the national system of innovation is provided by Lundvall: “...the elements and relationships which interact in the production, diffusion and use of new, and economically useful, knowledge ... are either located within or rooted inside the borders of a nation state.” (Lundvall, B.-Å. 2010. 'Introduction', in B.-Å. Lundvall (ed.), National Innovation Systems: Toward a Theory of Innovation and Interactive Learning, London: Anthem Press, p. 2).