IASP African Division Conference 2014

Science and Technology Parks expanding economic frontiers in Africa

clip_image002During two days last week my colleague Jörgen Eriksson and I were invited to the IASP African Division conference in Gaborone, hosted by the Botswana. Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) in association with the Southern Africa Innovation Support programme (SAIS) hosted the conference from the 9th to the 11th April at the Grand Palm Hotel.

The conference was well attended with several hundred people from a number of African countries and successful  from many perspectives.

The IASP is a worldwide network of science parks and areas of innovation with over 388 members in 71 countries and the conference brought together leaders, experts, and professionals from National and Regional Governments, Science and Technology Parks, areas of innovation, technology-based incubators, (all collectively referred to as STPs & AIs) academia, other public sector actors and businesses.


The overall theme of the conference was ‘Science and Technology Parks expanding economic frontiers in Africa‘ and it had three sub-themes; the first being Science Parks and Economic Diversification discussing the role STP’s play in addressing job creation and socio-economic challenges. The second sub-theme, Africa and Innovation, discussed the challenges in the continent that science, technology and innovation can and is addressing. The third sub-theme, Science, Technology and Sustainable Development outlined the role of STP’s and AI’s in sustainable development, with particular emphasis on sustainable energy production, water conservation, waste management, service delivery and productivity in Africa.


My colleague Jörgen Eriksson was on stage in the first plenary session discussing experiences and development of STPs and AIs in Africa over the past decade, with special emphasis on lessons learnt regarding funding, stakeholder involvement, performance matrices programmes, selection of focus areas, staffing as well as development of infrastructure. The panel also explored the nature of future STPs and AIs, particularly in Africa’s desire to shift its economy from being resource and commodity based.

The panel was moderated by Luis Sanz, Director General for IASP and the other panellists included Alan Boshwaen, CEO Botswana Innovation Hub, McLean Sibanda, President IASP African division and CEO Innovation Hub in South Africa, Sybert Liebenberg, CEO East London South Africa and Juha Miettinen, Chief Technical Advisor & Team Leader, Southern Africa Innovation Support.

In his panel speech, Jörgen summarize some general experiences from development of Areas of Innovation in Europe, Asia and Africa. His main points were:

    • We live in a time of great change.
    • Key drivers in the world now are globalisation and hyper competition.
    • This means all places as well as business companies must specialize and develop competitive advantages to succeed in the global marketplace.
    • In the world before globalization and global value chains, the focus was comparative advantage. Now it is competitive advantage. Competitive advantages can be fostered and developed.
    • Seven out of ten countries on the top ten growth list are African economies and it is crucial to get the specialisation of the economies right now, in early stages of growth.
    • In order to specialize, carefully think through target markets for the economy (sectors, geography) and sweet spot positioning toward competitors. STPs and Areas of Innovation can be tools for this.
    • Always work with an inclusive approach. Involve people from all sectors in workshops and in development of development vision.
    • Align vision and strategy with the strengths of the economy in the global context.
    • Then, implementation is key. In implementation, work with structured project methodology and involve all four sectors in PPP projects.
    • There is a tendency to focus on tangibles, like real estate. What matters today in the global marketplace are the intangibles, the brand, the focus areas and international linkages and recruitment of inward investments and talent attraction.

Three other blog posts related to the conference:

  1. At the following link you can listen to the IASP African Division President McLean Sibanda´s opening speech.
  2. Here is Dr. Neville Comins speech about innovation environments in Africa.
  3. At this link you can read about the new partnership between Bearing and the Innovation Hub in Pretoria, South Africa.

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