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BRICS for an Innovative South?. Michael Kahn, Tshwane University of Technology Trivandrum, 19-21 August 2009 The Challenge. Technological Great Surges. Industrial revolution (machines; factories; canals) The Age of Steam (coal, iron, rail)

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brics for an innovative south

BRICS for an Innovative South?

Michael Kahn, Tshwane University of Technology

Trivandrum, 19-21 August 2009


Technological Great Surges

  • Industrial revolution (machines; factories; canals)
  • The Age of Steam (coal, iron, rail)
  • Age of steel and heavy engineering (electrical, chemical, civil and naval)
  • Age of automobile (mass production, petrochemicals)
  • Age of Information Technology and Communications
  • Age of ? Bio/nano/cogno?

Location specific; diffusion 50+ yrs

  • Distinct techno-economic paradigm
  • Knowledge as factor of production
  • Bubbles and busts as technology and finance get misaligned
  • Society and politics essential aspect of local technological evolution and innovation

Technological innovation is critical to long-term economic growth. Most technological innovation consists of incremental change in existing industries. …. Sustained growth can occur only with the continuous introduction of truly new goods and services—radical technological innovations that disrupt markets and create new industries. The capacity to turn science-based inventions into commercially viable innovations is critical to radical technological innovation.’

(Branscomb and Auerswald, 2002)


Brazil: aerospace; mineral and crop commodities; energy; s/w; pharm; medical

India: aerospace; crop commodities; s/w; pharma; automotive

Russia: aerospace; nano; bio; energy

China: manufacturing & services

South Africa: mineral and crop commodities; s/w; services; medical; energy


Watch this space

  • Leader in Plant Varieties #9; animal breeding, animal and plant health => potential for innovation?
  • Shift toward Infectious Diseases plus molecular biology competence => reality in the Farmer to Pharma concept
  • Government does pick winners! SASOL, SUNSPACE; now PBMR
  • No shortage of ideas or funding

A Poverty of technology or

  • a poverty of politics?
  • Services led economies with service delivery failure
  • Innovation failure or a failure of process?
  • Informal sector unquantified
  • What barriers of entry to informal sector?
  • Unintended consequences of policy
  • Examples of innovation: financial services; repair shops; cellphone banking