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  • Developing National Systems of Innovation: University-Industry Interactions in the Global South by Eduardo Albuquerque, et al.
  • VGR Chandran
Developing National Systems of Innovation: University-Industry Interactions in the Global South. By Eduardo Albuquerque, Wilson Suzigan, Glenda Kruss and Keun Lee. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2015. Pp. 298.

This book presents a rich account of the nature of interactions of the various actors in innovation systems in developing countries from three continents — Africa, Asia and Latin America. In so doing, the book makes several contributions to existing knowledge. First, it applies a new framework to the study of innovation systems in countries at different stages of development. Second, it expands beyond the National Innovation Systems approach, which largely focuses on the current context, to more fully appreciate processes of change over time.

The introduction sets out the book’s principal argument — and contribution — that it is inadequate to apply a framework for understanding innovation systems in developed countries to industrializing countries. In its place, the book proposes an interesting alternative, namely, the “One Common Question, Different Approaches” framework. To this end, the chapter lays out the system evolutionary framework that analyses the interaction among innovation at the firm level, the surrounding knowledge “system” and policy learning based on three different phases of structural change. It would seem that this approach aligns well with the so-called “One Economics, Many Recipes” argument put forward by Dani Rodrik (2008), as the book shows that university-industry linkages (UILs) differ in many ways even within a particular country; for instance, with regard to sectoral and ownership structure across industries. In addition, the book attempts to capture the heterogeneity of the countries it surveys and shows how the university-industry relationship differs in each case.

The first part of the book, comprised of four chapters, discusses the interaction of universities and industries across regions at different stages of development. In the case of sub-Saharan Africa, Uganda has the least developed NIS while South Africa is seen as trapped and stagnated in phase 2. Moving to Phase 3 is difficult and is something that only a few have managed to achieve, for example, South Korea and Taiwan. The question of whether UIL is meaningful for industrializing countries, particularly those far from the innovation frontier, was investigated by comparing five Asian countries — South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, China and India — which are classified as first and second generation catch-up countries and the [End Page 430] two largest emerging economies respectively. The chapter argues that the key for the catch-up process includes strengthening the absorptive capacity of firms. Proximity is seen as important for UILs, since greater distance is detrimental for interactive learning. With regard to China, in particular, knowledge transfer from universities to industries is occurring, but too slowly. The discussion on the interaction and benefits between Public Research Organizations and industry in four Latin America countries, namely Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico found that various distinctions exist between those countries, most notably in how information is channelled from universities to industry and vice versa.

The second part of the book, which spans Chapters 5 to 7, offers insights on dynamic interactions between universities and industry, with discussions on matches and mismatches over time. This is followed by a discussion on the benefits of UILs on research institutions, universities and industry. The identification of the matches and mismatches is seen to provide a means for industry and universities to foster better linkages. As a whole, these chapters go into further detail on the nature of UILs, using different datasets. While they offer some additional insights, they nevertheless seems to highlight similar issues discussed in the previous chapters.

The third part of the book contains only one chapter and offers a framework for the global interaction between universities and firms. It addresses one important issue that the NIS literature misses given its national focus — the role of transnational corporations. Connecting the NIS to the concept of Global Production Networks (GPN) is important, given that, in many countries, learning occurs through local firms and universities interacting with foreign firms, and through plugging into global production networks. To this end, the chapter gives a detailed...


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pp. 430-432
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