Event Announcement: Diagnosing and strengthening local and regional innovation systems

On the 28th of August I will present a practical workshop in South Africa as part of the 5th Innovation Summit. Last year’s summit was one of the highlights of my year and I look forward to contributing to this event.

The workshop I will be presenting will concentrate on how to diagnose an innovation system, and then what to do about improving the innovation system. We will ONLY accept 20 participants, so early bookings are essential. The cost per participant is R3420 all costs included. For more information visit the workshop page here or click on the logo.

During the workshop we will cover the following content:

  • Main theoretical principles of innovation systems
  • distinguishing between national, local and regional and sector innovation systems
  • understanding the difference between innovation within firms, and innovation systems
  • The relationship between the region and innovative performance of industries
  • 4 lines of inquiry to diagnose the factors that affects the performance of a specific innovation system
  • Different analytical instruments that can be applied to understand elements of the innovation system
  • aligning public and private supporting institutions to the innovation needs of an industry
  • facilitating a process of incremental change within an innovation system

If you have already attended my workshop before, then take a look at some of the other great speakers that will be presenting pre-summit workshops before the Innovation Summit:

  • * Claire Janisch will take delegates through Biomimicry which is a totally new and different way to look for innovative solutions based on nature’s problem solving capabilities. Claire is back after feedback on her workshop was outstanding and “we want more”.
    * Dan Buchner from the Centre for Creative Leadership is coming from the US to share his knowledge and insight on innovative leadership skills – leading innovation teams and how to create a culture for innovation to thrive.
    * Prof Deon de Beer will have his very innovative Idea to Product Lab set up and fully functional. You will learn about the basics of design right through to producing your physical prototype during the workshop. If you have an invention waiting to be made into a physical product, this is the workshop for you.
    * Klaus Schnurr from the UK will take delegates through a process where he will teach you how to synthesis transferable best practice methods, tools and techniques and will explain the key steps that companies in Africa can use to explore trends and generate scenarios to identify innovation platforms for future growth.
    * Vasintha Pather’s workshop is ideal for anyone who facilitates thinking, workshops and sessions as a full time job or within an organisation. Using graphic facilitation methods enhances the learning and take aways for everyone

During the main event of the Innovation Summit I will present a paper about the importance of moving from business model to business model innovation.

I will also launch my book titled “The fundamentals of innovation system promotion for development practitioners” during the Innovation Summit.

Starting the innovation system series

The next few posts will be focused on my work in the last 18 months. I have dedicated a large part of my work into diagnosing and improving innovation systems in South Africa.

My perspective is quite unique, as I did not conduct these studies to develop national policy, but rather to assist intermediary organizations to take steps to improve the innovation systems that we diagnosed. What further differentiates my view is that we start our diagnosis with the private sector, and then work our way back to universities, technology intermediaries and other public sector organizations.

When I went down this road I thought that I had parted with my previous work on local economic development (which has been ruined in South Africa due to petty politics and misguided local government interventions). Little did I know that my previous experience in mobilising local stakeholders, trying to access national public sector programmes, and begging for a more responsive national stakeholders would remain so relevant in this exercise.

Many people ask me why I switched into a topic like Innovation Systems. It sounds so IT’ish. Well, it is far from that. My concern is with finding ways to build manufacturing industries and their supporting sectors from the bottom up (can we panic about the de-industrialisation in Africa, please?). My obsession is to figure out what can be done to get whole parts of an economy to upgrade technologically, without industry expecting governments to pay for everything. So basically, I am trying stimulate reflection and adjustment in  the manufacturing sector which includes their public and private supporters in the system around them. Also important is to equip the stakeholders in the system to reflect on the patterns around them, and to understand how they can change their own behaviour and how to actively shape the supporting environment around them.

I will close by saying that diagnosing a system around an industry is never a once off exercise. This is perhaps why so many development interventions don’t set change processes in motion that is re-inforcing and ongoing. Our biggest challenge is not to convince industries that they have to change, but to assist them to frequently reflect on their patterns of behaviour (even after we have left). We have to help industries to develop new habits of interaction (that adds value and this makes business sense), we have to strengthen local institutions to assist with strengthening signals of change and improvement (so that firms know that if they stop trying to improve they will fall behind). In the end it does not help that we understand their system, but that they understand their own systems.

The best part is that I get to work with real entrepreneurs, real scientists, real social change agents, and often really committed public officials. Real change without logframes and impact chains. Unfortunately we often also have to achieve this change with small budgets.

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