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The Role of Technology Commercialisation in the Operationalisation of Innovation and Industrial Policies in South Africa

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Nontombi Pearl Marule Innovation and Technology, Department of Trade and Industry Sunnyside, Pretoria South Africa

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Abstract

Innovation has been and continues to be recognised as central to promoting and supporting sustainable economic development; as such, South Africa has set the goal of becoming a knowledge economy. This is an economy that succeeds in producing knowledge and transforming itself into a technology-based from a resource-based economy that will stimulate growth and development of the country, while creating sustainable employment opportunities. The two key policies designed to drive strategic economic development in South Africa are the Innovation Policy and the Industrial Policy. This article considers the role of technology commercialisation strategy and how it can be utilised as a model for cooperation and collaboration to ensure achievement of the objectives of the innovation and industrial policies and present a homogeneous approach to policy implementation. The data was collected through a field survey of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMME s) which are technological oriented. Additional information was gathered through an in-depth, semi-structured interviews with selected stakeholders within the innovation landscape. The research findings confirm that commercialisation is the most significant and critical step of the innovation value chain, supported by collaboration and linkages of the innovation system players and it requires effective co-operation from both public and private entities. Successful technology commercialisation justifies efforts, funds and time committed to research and development and it propels enterprise development, spurs industrialisation, enhances enterprise technological capability, efficiency and competitiveness, create investment opportunities, and make research more demand driven.

Abstract

Innovation has been and continues to be recognised as central to promoting and supporting sustainable economic development; as such, South Africa has set the goal of becoming a knowledge economy. This is an economy that succeeds in producing knowledge and transforming itself into a technology-based from a resource-based economy that will stimulate growth and development of the country, while creating sustainable employment opportunities. The two key policies designed to drive strategic economic development in South Africa are the Innovation Policy and the Industrial Policy. This article considers the role of technology commercialisation strategy and how it can be utilised as a model for cooperation and collaboration to ensure achievement of the objectives of the innovation and industrial policies and present a homogeneous approach to policy implementation. The data was collected through a field survey of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMME s) which are technological oriented. Additional information was gathered through an in-depth, semi-structured interviews with selected stakeholders within the innovation landscape. The research findings confirm that commercialisation is the most significant and critical step of the innovation value chain, supported by collaboration and linkages of the innovation system players and it requires effective co-operation from both public and private entities. Successful technology commercialisation justifies efforts, funds and time committed to research and development and it propels enterprise development, spurs industrialisation, enhances enterprise technological capability, efficiency and competitiveness, create investment opportunities, and make research more demand driven.

1 Introduction

The concept of innovation as a source and driver of sustainable development has been investigated by many scholars from Schumpeter to Pavitt 1987; Etzkowitz and Brisolla 1999. Several scholars (Viotti 2002; Mazzucato 2007; Soete 2007; Lundvall et al. 2011, Soumoni 2016) have also documented how innovation can be a driver of development in different countries in the global north and south. The policy strategies that emerge range from innovation policies driving industrialisation agenda as is the case in the Global North (Balachandra and Friar 1997; Soete 2007; Aranguren et al. 2010), or industrial policies, having a strong focus on technology and innovation development (as is the case in China/the global south) (Wu et al. 2009; Barbieri et al. 2010; Cai 2014). What emerges from these cases is a strong focus on the interplay between the innovation and industrial policies for a focused industrialisation agenda that assist a country to achieve its developmental goals.

South Africa has set the goal of becoming a knowledge economy, i.e. a state that succeeds firstly in generating knowledge and secondly in transforming that knowledge into technology-based products and processes in order to compete internationally (DST 2008, NDP). The ultimate goal of transitioning into a knowledge economy is to stimulate growth and development of the country while creating sustainable employment opportunities (DST 2008). In addition, promoting and supporting small business development to accelerate the creation of decent jobs and the alleviate poverty is also a key government objective (National Small Business Amendment Act 2004).

The two main policies that are central to South Africa’s strategic economic development are the Innovation Policy (South African White Paper on Science and Technology, DACST 1996b) and the Industrial Policy (National Industrial Policy Framework, the dti 2007). This article explores the role of the technology commercialisation strategy and how it can be utilised as a model for cooperation and collaboration to ensure harmonising the objectives of the Innovation and Industrial Policies and ensuring their implementation.

1.1 The Role of Innovation in Industrial Development

In 1994 South Africa experienced a major change in regime. Post-1994, a number of new policies were put in place to align the interactions of institutions and organizations in order to set the new nation’s innovation propensity agenda and paths. For example, the South African White Paper on Science and Technology (DACST 1996b) was a new science policy development that took cognizance of the nature and strength of the institutions and organizations within the science system (OECD 1999). The new science policy recognised their relationships with one another, their importance to the economy and to South African society, in particular, their importance to the implications and impacts of various government policies (Grobbelaar 2007).

Yet another post-1994 key policy is the National Systems of Innovation (NSI) which was formulated as a policy position for the development of science and technology in the country (DACST 1996a). In its policy making, the South African government was the first developing country to adopt the NSI framework (OECD 2002; DACST 1996b; Blankley and Booyens, 2010). This concept was chosen because it focuses on the harmonious and aligned interaction of all elements and linkages in the system to ensure effective and sustainable outcomes and impacts (Paterson et al., 2003; Rooks and Oerlemans 2005). According to Paterson et al. (2003), the NSI approach is useful and attractive to policy makers because it concentrates on the system outputs and the derived benefits to the citizens and the society, instead of emphasizing processes as institutions or research is undertaken.

The White Paper (DACST 1996b) for example used Metcalfe’s NSI definition i.e. “that set of distinct institutions which jointly and individually contribute to the development and diffusion of new technologies and which provides the framework within which governments form and implement policies to influence the innovation process”. As such, the NSI is a system which interconnects institutions to create, store and transfer knowledge, skills and artefacts that define new and incremental technologies. The White Paper (DACST 1996b) prescribes that an efficient and well-coordinated technological and socially innovative system must be established; a system within which two-way partnerships between stakeholders can be forged in order to benefit not only themselves but also the nation’s innovation propensity at large (DACST 1996b).

There is a view that private-sector research is focused on advances in technology and innovation to enable the enterprises to remain competitive (Pavitt 1987). The industrial development policy deems public sector driven research as essential especially for driving long term national interest strategies, the development of focused technology development and human capital development. Therefore and for instance, the Science and Technology White Paper of 1996 identifies the stakeholders or constituencies in the South African NSI as the central policy departments. These include, but not limited to, the DST and the President’s Office, government-line departments and agencies, Science, Education, Technology and Innovation institutions (SETI’s), and state-owned corporations. These also include Higher Education Institutions (HEI s) and non-government organizations all of which should be science and technology (S&T) oriented, should perform research, provide scientific services and be involved in education and training (DACST 1996b). Therefore, the development of the South African NSI brought about the restructuring, re-scaling and re-orientation of its many building blocks (Saad 2004; OECD 2007).

The NSI approach seeks the re-orientation of its many building blocks (from the generation of ideas to the provision of scientific services and the development of human capital feedstocks) but not the commercialization of knowledge.

1.2 The National Industrial Policy

Innovation is, on the other hand, identified as a key driver of long-term prosperity in the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) and not knowledge (IPAP 2016/17–2018/19). Equally; innovation is also a critical factor of transformation of the structure of the economy; through industrialisation as per the National Development Plan 2030. The operationalization of the National Industrial Policy and particularly the diversification of the economy of South African away from the current reliance on raw mineral commodities and non-tradable services through industrialisation is the objective of the National Industrial Policy Framework (NIPF) (the dti 2007).

The NIPF recognises that the industrialisation process can be enhanced through the use of existing technologies to increasing innovation and development of domestic technologies. Three technology channels are identified; these are (i) domestic research and development (R&D) that generates indigenous technologies, (ii) embodied technology in the form of foreign direct investment (FDI); and (iii) technologies imported from abroad and adapted and adopted to local conditions. The domestic R&D is acknowledged to be the most difficult of the three but potentially the most rewarding form of innovation and technology (I&T) that a country can engage in. This is attributed to its long-term planning, implementation and funding requirements and risky nature of investment in new technologies or innovations (the dti 2007). The rewards include ownership of the technology, home-grown skills and know-how in the manufacturing of products derived from that technology and use of local input materials, just to mention a few.

Clearly and according to the findings of the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) (CeSTII 2017), the lack of joint delivery planning mechanisms, joint implementation platforms and end-to-end funding instruments as the possible reasons responsible for this current NSI framework.

1.3 Context and Objectives of the Study

The White Paper on Science and Technology advocates for the establishment of an efficient and well-coordinated technological and socially innovative system (DACST 1996b). The NIPF concurs, “As a middle income developing country South Africa needs to increasingly invest in its innovation and technology capabilities. It is widely recognised that investment in innovation and technology is underprovided by the market due to its risky nature and long-time-horizons. Therefore greater support for innovation and technology is necessary in order to contribute to the national target of increasing and sustaining R&D expenditure to one percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)” (the dti 2007, p. 26).

Many internal and external factors come into play and influence the outcome of the innovation outcomes and some studies have pronounced the state as less effective and unaccountable (Altenburg 2008) in the delivery of the innovation policy. In the case of South Africa, relatively few of the research outputs reach the market despite the country’s international recognition of strong research-intensive universities and science councils which produce considerable research outputs. (OECD 2007). The South African Innovation Survey which provides useful data for public policy and is designed to measure the extent of innovation in the business sector of a country (Blankely and Moses 2009) indicates that with businesses undertaking innovative activities in 2008, only four out of ten succeeded in reaching a commercial phase and bringing their innovative products to the market (CeSTII 2017). Furthermore, the role of the industrial policy in ensuring industrial outcomes from these research outputs has not been clearly demonstrated.

Therefore, with the view to contribute to this discourse, the main research question of this work is the following: “What is the role of technology commercialisation strategy and activities for the implementation and achievement of the objectives of the innovation and industrial policies?” Furthermore, can technology commercialisation be utilised as a model for cooperation and collaboration for a homogeneous approach to policy implementation.

This study seeks to demonstrate that in the South African context, more attention needs to be directed towards optimising technology commercialisation strategies and implementation in order to ensure effective Innovation and Industrial policies. This research will be limited to the joint implementation of two South African Policies; the Industrial Policy and the Innovation Policy.

2 Methodology

2.1 Data Sources

The analysis and findings of this study are based on primary data collected from the Study of Factors Contributing to Successful Technology Commercialisation for Innovative Enterprises. The study was completed in 2016. An online survey and interviews with stakeholders within the South African National System of Innovation (NSI) were conducted.

A total of 420 Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMME s) were invited to participate in this survey. These are SMME’s and their partners that have participated in various technology development incentives. 86 responded to the survey and 71 completed it, amounting to a response rate of 20.5% and a completion rate of 16.9%. This is a good response rate, as experience shows that a 10% response rate is usually achieved with online surveys [consider finding a ref here]. Furthermore, semi-structured interviews were used to obtain the views of the relevant constituencies of the NSI: these are researchers, programme managers, technical experts as well as innovation drivers and funders. A number of different stakeholders were interviewed as part of the study. Interviews focused on understanding the role that each stakeholder played in the NSI, the challenges experienced by entrepreneurs/inventors (SMME s in particular) with respect to commercialising their products or process, and the gaps and ways to improve the NSI as far as commercialisation is concerned. In all, over 40 stakeholders were interviewed.

2.1.1 Industry and Sector Size

Figure 1 shows that the majority of respondents are micro-enterprises, followed by medium enterprises. Small, large and very small enterprises were almost equally represented in the survey.

Figure 1
Figure 1
Distribution of business respondents per size

Citation: Triple Helix 9, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10013

Figure 2 shows that the biggest part of business-respondents (four out of ten) worked in the manufacturing sector, followed by three out of ten that either work in the ICT or “professional scientific and technical activities” sectors.

Figure 2
Figure 2
Key economic sectors represented by business-respondents

Citation: Triple Helix 9, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10013

2.1.2 Skill Profiles and Managerial Experience of Respondents

Almost two-thirds of all labour force employed by business-respondents represent highly-skilled employees; two out of ten employees among the businesses responding to the survey are semi-skilled, and the rest are low-skilled employees, see Figure 3. This shows that business-respondents have, for the majority of them, a very skilled workforce.

Figure 3
Figure 3
Labour force profile by skills level at business-respondents

Citation: Triple Helix 9, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10013

It was also gathered that the majority of businesses (eight out of ten business-respondents) were managed by the owner or one of the owners themselves. Furthermore, most of the business-respondents’ managers (eight out of ten) had a higher education diploma, degree, or certificate; while only two out of ten had some form of higher education or incomplete higher education. Importantly, the majority of people managing businesses that participated in the survey had vast managerial experience and have participated in the national systems of innovation.

3 Findings

Having evaluated the innovation value chain, the research findings indicate that commercialisation is the most significant and critical step in the coordination of the Innovation and Industrial policies. Furthermore, effective co-operation from both public and private entities supported by collaboration and linkages of the innovation system players forms a solid foundation through which commercialisation activities can be successful.

The achievement of the goals of the innovation and the industrial policies may be fast-tracked by employment and deployment of technology commercialisation strategies. However, many internal and external factors come into play and influence the outcome of the technology commercialisation process. While some of these factors and their respective effects are not easy to pinpoint, the government can play a critical role in the innovation process by assisting in addressing market failures and creating an environment conducive to successful commercialisation of new or significantly improved products and processes.

The approach of this section will firstly describe the Innovation value chain within which the technology commercialisation activities are located.

The research findings confirm that commercialisation is the most significant and critical step of the innovation value chain, supported by collaboration and linkages of the innovation system players and it requires effective co-operation from both public and private entities.

3.1 Innovation and the Innovation Value Chain

From an economic perspective, innovation is the “implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), a new process, a new marketing method, or a new organisational method in business practices, workplace organisation, or external relations” (Bloch 2005). Implementation in this context is understood as the introduction of a new or improved product to the market (Bloch 2005). Following the same logic, the dti defines innovation as “the process of transforming knowledge into new products, processes, systems, and services, which in turn generate new economic benefits and add value” (the dti 2015).

The linkage of innovation to economic development outputs is done practically through a continuum of an innovation process that seeks to demonstrate stages of development and number of players critical for each stage and this is termed the innovation value chain. There are three broad overlapping sub-processes of innovation and these are; Research/Discovery, Development and Commercialisation. Figure 4 depicts the basic (and simplistic) understanding of the innovation process.

Figure 4
Figure 4

Technology Innovation Value Chain

Citation: Triple Helix 9, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10013

Knowledge production and application: Knowledge generation results from a continuous interaction between the process of identification of the need or recognition of the problem and the collection and assimilation of knowledge. Such interaction could follow one of the two approaches that result in the creation of R&D or non-R&D innovation:

Research and experimental development (R&D), which comprises of “creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications” (OECD 2002). The term R&D covers three activities: basic research, applied research and experimental development (OECD 2002).

Commercialisation: According to the literature on the subject, there are few well-established definitions for commercialisation. It has generally been associated with “the process of taking a new product to market and undertaking the processes of marketing and selling, or licensing the product or the technologies associated with the product” (Mazzarol and Reboud 2011). In essence, it describes “the process of taking an idea to market and creating financial value” (the dti 2016). Moreover, it should be noted that a new or significantly improved product (goods or services) only becomes an innovation if it was introduced to the market; and it is successfully commercialised only if the innovation generated profit.

Figure 5 demonstrates the practical integrated national approach for innovation and industrial policies through technology commercialisation.

Figure 5
Figure 5

Technology Innovation Value Chain

Citation: Triple Helix 9, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10013

Technology commercialisation is a complex process that does not evolve linearly. The models and approaches followed in taking new technology to the market differ from industry to industry and from private sector (mainly market-driven innovation) to the public-sector (mainly technology-driven innovation). A generic process of commercialising technology encompasses specific technical, marketing, business, financial and IP- protection related activities and tasks and collaborative mechanisms need to be considered along the way.

Technology push strategies are made up of R&D and implementation of right ideas and converting them into products and services for them to they reach success/market. Likewise, businesses are always looking for new strategies to improve their market status, increase their business awareness and develop successful products/services will employ market pull strategies to do so.

4 Discussion and Recommendations

According to CeSTII (2017), the lack of joint delivery planning mechanisms, implementation and funding as the possible reasons responsible for this system failure.

This work demonstrates how the application of some of these theories is limiting and/or limited when dealing with the South African innovation system in particular. It will further propose re-oriented thinking and application of these theories with the emphasis on the technology commercialisation focus.

4.1 Systemic “National Systems of Innovation”

The National System of Innovation (NSI) is described by Niosi et al. (1993, p. 212) “as the system of interacting private and public firms, universities and government agencies, aiming at the production of science and technology within national borders. Interaction among those units may be technical, commercial, legal, social and financial, in as much as the goal of the interaction is the development, protection, financing or regulation of new science and technology”. When this definition is juxtaposed with the definition of technology commercialisation a number of parallels and similarities can be inferred. This definition includes elements central to innovation that drive economic benefit; namely (i) internal organisation of firms, (ii) inter-firm relationships, (iii) role of public-sector, (iv) institutional set-up of the financial sector; and (v) R&D intensity and R&D organisations (Adeoti 2002).

The lack of coordination among all the above factors renders the system un-systemic, which is the case in South Africa (Manzini 2012). In SA the university-firm, and firm-firm linkages are weak which limit the extent to which knowledge can be transferred and commercialised.

Johnson et al. (2004) meticulously link the use and importance of innovation systems to economic development, especially in developing countries. An emphasis is placed on the introduction and utilization of knowledge into an economy, which requires interactive learning, by individuals and organisations in order to derive economic benefits (Johnson et al. 2004). Altenburg (2008) examined specific challenges facing developing countries in terms of the innovation policy success. The “weakness of formal institutions” – private and public institutions and “less effective and accountable governments” are cited as some of the challenges for innovation policy in developing countries (2008, pp. 39 and 44). These are the areas of concern and action for South Africa.

4.1.1 Implications for the South African Government

Strategic coherence and coordination for technology commercialisation between government departments and agencies are key. The value chain-thematic approach is necessary for project-to-project focus. This may be actioned through the adoption of national, long-term strategies to increase policy coherence for technology commercialisation in SMME s and the public sector. These include very detailed descriptions of challenges, specific targets, expected outcomes and concrete initiatives (e.g. High Impact Programmes) and the establishment of Innovation Clusters and/or Technology Business Incubators.

4.2 Operational “Triple Helix” Orientation

The second theoretical framework used for this work is a Triple Helix as a model for Innovation studies (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff 1998; Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff 2000). This model is embedded in the Innovation Policy as a concept for its implementation (DACST 1996b). The Triple Helix model emphasizes the inter-dependence and the organisation of the university, industry and government as within the NSI (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff 2000).

This organisation is graphically depicted in Figure 6.

Figure 6
Figure 6

Triple Helix Model of University-Industry-Government Relations (adapted from Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 1998)

Citation: Triple Helix 9, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10013

For R&D outputs to be evident, technology development to lead to products and processes in the market and proliferate in the market; it is critical for these relationships function optimally to deliver the goals of the system. The object of interest for many scholars in this field is the linkages as described in Figure 6, between industry – academia – government.

This “Triple Helix” model places collaborations between the university, industry and government equally central to and the key actors in the success of innovation. This concepts further purports that understanding the linkages among the actors involved in innovation is key to improving technology performance.

Technology commercialisation strategies and activities respond adequately to this model in terms of the technological and sectoral innovation system. Inter-governmental (DST and the dti in this case) programme and project approach is imperative in this case. Figure 5 demonstrates the integration of activities in a technology-commercialisation continuum that practically forms the basis of programme and project planning for the collaborating partners. This eliminating the gap in funding and ensures delivery of intended outcomes for the innovation and industrial policies. These programmes can be governed by all the representative stakeholders in the system, as such projects similar to the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology programme and advanced manufacturing for various sectors should be modelled using this concept.

Furthermore; within the Innovation Systems (IS) discourse there is a differentiation between the narrow and the broad definition of the IS. The narrow perspective of the IS focuses on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI mode) of knowledge generation, it maps and measures research and development (R&D) indicators, which include patents, science and technology (S&T) personnel, and relationship to sales, profits, and economic performance (GDP). This narrow perspective complements the Triple helix model in terms of placing collaborations between the university, industry and government central to and the key actors in the system, but does not usually capture “quality of relationships” which require nurturing and optimisation.

According to Metcalfe and Ramlogan (2005), differences in economic and technological performances across these states will be brought about by that the combinations of institutions involved and their interactions. This, therefore, places the manner in which different institutions import, improve, develop and diffuse technologies, products and services at the heart of national innovative performance (Metcalfe and Ramlogan 2005).

4.2.1 Implications for the South African Government

The triple helix approach is possibly insufficiently developed in South Africa.

The establishment of the strategy, formalising of implementing units (emphasis of roles and responsibilities), identification and acquisition of technical experts and state of the art infrastructure will lay a good foundation for any collaborative programme or project to successfully commercialise its derivative products. This formation enables the partners to obtain maximum gain and results at a minimum cost (Vrakking 1995, in Cozijnsen et al. 2000). Adopting and effectively applying the triple helix approach to technology commercialisation, including programmes for skills development, access to financing, and revitalisation of poor areas may advance technology and economic. Following the innovation value chain-thematic approach underpinned by the technology commercialisation activities, identification and engagement of relevant stakeholders become central to the implementation of the projects. The state should play a catalytic role in funding, prioritising innovation projects which a predominantly demand-driven and public and private players drive the completion of these projects.

4.3 Homogeneity of the “State”

The orientation of the South African innovation policy towards the concept of the National Systems of Innovation (NSI) is intended to strengthen interactions and linkages of all the constituencies and overcome the fragmentation and duplication of activities in the system (Edquist 2005). The academic discourse is more concerned with the linkages among different stakeholder and models developed to encourage the interaction between these stakeholders. The state is treated as a unit, the assumption is that the intent and directive between different government departments is homogenous and effective. However, a close analysis of the South African NSI demonstrates that the state is made up of a number of different units. These are government departments and their agencies that possess different mandates and implementation plan.

The innovation survey indicates that with two out of three businesses undertaking innovative activities in 2008, but only four out of ten succeeded in reaching a commercial phase and bringing their innovative products to the market (CeSTII 2017). Lack of joint delivery planning mechanisms, implementation and funding were cited as part of the reasons that cause this system failure.

This work proposes that technology commercialisation activities/strategies be utilised for state-driven innovation projects.

One of the learning areas from Mazucatto (2018) that can be adopted by the South African innovation and industrial policy implementers is about “mission-oriented framework”. She describes this framework as the framework “that differentiates between public policies that target the development of specific technologies in line with state-defined goals (“missions”) and those that aim at the institutional development of a system of innovation” (Mazucatto 2018, p. 9). She purports that the state should implement policies, this article argues that these could be innovation projects and as such learn from projects implemented how to improve the policy.

The words of Richard Nelson and Sydney Winter, 1982 in Mazucatto (2018, p. 13):

The design of a good policy is, to a considerable extent, the design of an organisational structure capable of learning and The Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) of adjusting behaviour in response to what is learned

4.3.1 Implications for the South African Government

Based on this work, it shows how several government departments and agencies involved in promoting R&D, technology commercialisation and innovation can come together, define priority areas for research and technology commercialisation, develop detailed plans with specific goals and implement those plans. This has to be done by involving a wide range of stakeholders with expertise in both research and business/technology commercialisation. This is a necessity for South Africa if the country wants to improve the coherence and effectiveness of the NSI by stimulating inter-governmental/agency collaboration and collaboration with the private sector, thus creating an enabling framework for successful technology commercialisation.

4.4 Entrepreneurial Universities

The role of universities has been changing, from being knowledge producers to being strategic economic entities (Hadidi and Kirby 2015). Universities commonly known as the source of technological innovation play an important role in transferring university-invented technology and expertise to the market. Research undertaken by the universities may be either curiosity-oriented (pure basic research) that leads to new knowledge generation or user-oriented (pure applied research) leading to innovation (Cooper and Schindler 2011), as such commercialisation strategies should be tailor-made to fit the chosen or suitable route for commercialisation. With sufficient and supportive infrastructure for technology transfer in place, academic entrepreneurs may form start-up companies and make profits based on intellectual property generated from these innovations. It is believed that for a successful new technology venture, entrepreneurs should possess a combination of different skill sets to face challenges in various stages of commercialization process. (Rahim and Chik 2014).

4.4.1 Implications for the South African Government

The strategies that need to be put in place include (i) Support for the development of academic entrepreneurs; (ii) Identification and exploitation of commercial opportunity; and (iii) Infrastructure that supports technology transfer within the universities. It is recommended that future work should investigate further the merits and modalities of an entrepreneurial university within the South African context. Universities play a critical role in knowledge transfer, technology commercialisation and ultimately economic development.

5 Conclusions

The key to the success of the Innovation and Industrial Policies towards economic development is technology commercialisation. This is the stage where new services and products are derived from new knowledge and through the process of technology commercialisation true value is added in order to achieve economic growth and to ensure a better future.

Knowledge and technologies that come from all corners of South Africa are equally capable of coming up with disruptive and incremental technologies. We can contribute towards radical economic transformation by giving our inventions and technologies the potential to be socially and economically viable when serving millions of people across the world.

Using technology commercialisation strategies and activities that are embedded in the innovation value chain will achieve the following:

  • A fully systemic South African Innovation system;

  • A functional cooperative and collaborative partnership that is based on the Triple Helix framework;

  • Render the state “homogenous” and focussed in terms of programme implementation and

  • Fast-track the development of Entrepreneurial Universities that deliver on the economic outcomes of the country.

The most effective interventions South Africa can undertake to fast track technology commercialisation are not necessarily about getting more funding or creating new support instruments. Rather it is about government creating a conducive policy and regulatory framework; a coherent funding mechanism as well as creating and shaping markets for locally developed technologies.

Acknowledgements

I wish to acknowledge Ms NYZ Shinga: Innovation and Technology, the dti for her encouragement and support during my two years of study, the dti for funding my studies and Professor Ronald Machaka of the CSIR who is first a classmate at MMIS at Wits Business School for the “think-tanks”, academic and professional collaboration and support.

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