Across Africa, we witness explosive economic growth. Aggregated real GDP increased by 4.9 percent a year since 2000, which is more than twice its pace in the 1980s and 1990s. Telecom, banking, and retail are flourishing. Construction and infra structure development is booming and private sector investment inflows are surging.
Developing from a level of extreme poverty, many of Africa’s 56 individual economies face serious challenges, including rural poverty, disease, and high mortality. Yet Africa’s collective GDP is now roughly equal to Brazil’s or Russia’s, and the continent is among the world’s most rapidly growing economic regions. This acceleration is a sign of hard-earned progress and is promising for the future. Seven out of ten of the fastest growing economies in the world 2011 to 2015 are African countries and this growth leadership is expected to continue.
As the African economies are growing, the continents governments must place credible industrial policies at the centre of their macroeconomic strategies, if countries are to achieve growth that is inclusive. There need to be economic strategy plans and innovation strategies developed in collaboration between the Quad Helix actors of society (government, academia, business and civil society) that ensure that the growth is steered into sustainable sectors where the growing industries can have competitive advantages in the global economy, and also making sure the economies specialize to avoid unnecessarily destructive regional competition.
Science and technology parks and areas of innovation can be tools to steer this development and show leadership for growth in the industry sectors that can maximize the African economies utilisation of growing but still scarce resources.
In Bearing, we have been working with projects related to innovation, strategy and finance across Africa since the 1990s and the change in optimism and development since then is astounding.
The Innovation Hub in Pretoria, South Africa, and Bearing have agreed to collaborate on development of science parks and areas of innovation in Africa. In this collaboration we will jointly work on projects with locations in Africa that wish to develop science parks, incubators and other innovation environments, and we will document and publish findings from our experiences on how innovation environments can be a catalyst to achieve innovation and economic growth in the African context. The partnership was launched at the IASP African Division conference last week. A conference that was hosted by the Botswana Innovation Hub in Gaborone, Botswana.
Science and Technology Parks and other Innovation Environments
For fifty years, science (and technology) parks have been developed as an institutional solution to the challenges of innovation, technology transfer and related knowledge sharing between R&D institutions and business enterprises. A Science Park is the generic term for “an organization managed by specialized professionals, whose main aim is to increase the wealth of its community by promoting the culture of innovation and the competitiveness of its associated businesses and knowledge-based institutions”. This is the broad, authorized definition from the International Association of Science Parks (IASP).
The most resourceful science parks will provide a comprehensive assortment of value-adding services together with high-quality labs, office spaces and other facilities, within the context of the regional economy. A science park should facilitate the creation and growth of innovation-based companies, for example through incubation or spin-off processes among existing firms, but also assist in the creation of entirely new firms.
To enable its goals to be met, the science park should also stimulate the flow of technology and related knowledge and knowhow amongst business firms, universities and other R&D institutions, as well as the wider markets. In many instances, strategic partnerships between academic institutions, local and regional governments and the private sector are seen as particularly instrumental. In Africa, this need to build on innovation and enterprise generation models that is adapted to the African context.
The Innovation Hub, established in 2003, was Africa’s first internationally accredited Science and technology park and full member of the International Association of Science Parks. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency. The Innovation Hub’s community has become a regional centre of innovation and knowledge creation, linked to the fast moving world of global interconnectivity.
The three focus areas for The Innovation Hub are smart industries, bio-economy and green technologies. Some of the programmes include the mLab, Maxum business incubator, CoachLab, Gauteng Accelerator Programmes in Biosciences, Green, ICT and Health Competitions, Climate Innovation Centre and Innov8 networking events.
We in Bearing are excited to work closely with The Innovation Hub and we look forward to keep you updated on the progress of our partnership. Questions related to the partnership can be asked to Tsietsi Maleho, General Manager of The Innovation Hub or Jorgen Eriksson, Managing Partner of Bearing.