ETHA, Working Paper Series, Paper No. 3,
Triple Helix Innovation in Africa, Abdurahman Ame
Tralee, Republic of Ireland, July, 2008
The paper has three parts. The first part begins by introduction of Triple helix of (University industry and government) relations. The second part provides analysis of the emerging dynamics of the interaction among the three helices taking empirical evidence of incipient u-i-g relationships from developing countries. Third part discusses the challenges and opportunities to adopt Triple Helix system of innovation in Ethiopia .
Part I: Introduction
‘‘Triple helix'' of university-industry-government relations developed by Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff is the concept that explain innovation in knowledge-based society. The "triple helix" is a spiral model of innovation that captures multiple reciprocal relationships at different points in the process of knowledge capitalization. ‘The first dimension of the triple helix model is internal transformation in each of the helices, such as the development of lateral ties among companies through strategic alliances or an assumption of an economic development mission by universities'. The second is the influence of one helix upon another, for example, the role of the federal government in instituting an indirect industrial policy in the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. When the rules of the game for the disposition of intellectual property produced from government sponsored research were changed; technology transfer activities spread to a much broader range of universities, resulting in the emergence of an academic technology transfer profession. The third dimension is the creation of a new overlay of trilateral networks and organizations from the interaction among the three helices, formed for the purpose of coming up with new ideas and formats for high-tech development(Etzkowitz 2002).
A triple helix of university-industry-government relations transcends previous models of institutional relationships, whether socialist (Fig. 1) or laissez-faire (Fig. 2), in which either the polity or economy predominated and with the knowledge playing a subsidiary role (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff 2000 quoted in Etzkowitz, Mohammed and Ame, 2004).
In the same article Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff (2000) blend descriptive and normative element analysis and argue that Triple Helix I is largely a failed developmental model. With too little room for "bottom up" initiatives, innovation was discouraged rather than encouraged. Triple Helix II is a laissez-faire policy, nowadays also advocated as shock therapy to reduce the role of the state in Triple Helix I. In one form or another, most countries and regions are presently trying to attain some form of Triple Helix III. The triple helix model (Fig. 3) is an attempt to account for a new configuration of institutional forces emerging within innovation systems
Fig. 1. An etatist or socialist model of university-industry-government relations
Fig. 2. A laissez-faire model of university-industry-government relations
Fig. 3. The triple helix model of university-industry-government relations
The triple helix of innovation
An innovative triple helix (Fig. 4) is one in which the overlay of communications and expectations at the network level guides the reconstructions of institutional arrangements. It is not expected to be stable. The subdynamics in the innovation process are continuously reconstructed through discussions and negotiations in the triple helix. What is considered as ‘industry', what as ‘market' cannot be taken for granted and should not be reified. Each ‘system' is defined and can be redefined as the research project is designed. Thus, the triple helix hypothesis is that systems can be expected to remain in an endless transition (p. 113).
Fig. 4. A triple helix of innovation
According to Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff (2000), in order to explain the observable reorganizations in university-industry-government relations, we have to move beyond the notions of "national systems of innovation" (Lundvall 1988; Nelson 1993); "research systems in transition" (Cozzens et al. , 1990; Ziman 1994), "Mode 2" (Gibbons et al. , 1994) or "the post modern research system" (Rip and Van der Meulen 1996).
The model exhibits several limitations. First, by resembling a known biological structure, the triple-helix promotes a normative view of innovation; that the relations between the academia, the state, and the market adhere to natural law. The triple-helix model is a convenient signification of technology transfer and innovation process that champions market-based adaptation much in the manner that social Darwinism or evolutionary economics justifies social stratification (Metcalfe 2005).
Crtics say there are challenges to all part of the triple helix, namely, universities, businesses and government at national and regional levels. For universities, the challenge is how to strategically incorporate their third stream activities in relation to their other activities, namely, research and teaching; and in relation to their regional partners. For businesses, the challenge is to recognise the relevance of, and find the appropriate way to use the resources at universities. Governments, at national and trans-national and regional and sub-regional levels, need to construct an appropriate infrastructure that will build sustainable relationships between universities and their regions. So far the model focused on the internal transformation of the university. The “triple helix” scholarship devotes little attention to the “transformations” in industry and government that are asserted to complement those in universities. The helix's emphasis on a more “industrial” role for universities may be valid, although it overstates the extent to which these “industrial” activities are occurring throughout universities, rather than in a few fields of academic research. But the “triple helix” has yet to yield major empirical or research advances, and its value as a guide for future empirical research appears to be limited(Mowery and Sampat 2003). A further problem is that the Triple Helix model is inadequately ‘contextuated', a criticism made of Gibbons et al. (1994) for a failure to recognise the role of social movements in shifting innovation targets, as with the impact of various ecological movements on mammalian testing, nuclear and genetically modified food science(Cooke 2004).
There is very little debate about what these relationships mean for countries with only limited industrial capacity, scarce financial resources, limited human capital, and whose S&T institutions are almost entirely dependent on international funding. The subject of the next part will be to explore the relevance of the Triple Helix model in developing countries mainly based on the presentation of the special triple helix conference held in Addis Ababa. The analysis of the emerging dynamics of the interaction among the three helices taking empirical evidences of incipient u-i-g relationships from developing countries :-Cameron, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia, Brazil, China, India, Israel, and Mexico.
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