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Vol. 29 No. 1
January-February 2007

Building Research Capacity to Promote Innovation
A Case Study in Mauritius*

by Dhanjay Jhurry

In this knowledge era, the capacity of a country to foster innovation is a measure of the performance of its economy. Innovation is recognized to be closely associated with scientific and technological development. As nations struggle to achieve economic prosperity and gain leadership positions in the technology-intensive and competitive world marketplace, they transit through phases of “not yet scientifically developed countries” to “scientifically capable developing countries” and finally to “scientifically advanced countries.” The status of a country is determined by its levels of literacy, education, knowledge production and dissemination, advancement, and effective utilization of science and technology.

It is an alarming fact that the 4.8 billion people who live in developing and transition economies receive only 20 percent of global gross domestic product. A World Bank report (2002) warns that developing countries will have little success boosting economic growth and alleviating poverty unless they can close a growing knowledge or education divide between themselves and richer countries.

The irony of the knowledge society is the unwritten rule that its growth can only be fuelled by “knowledge,” which besides the bits and bytes, depends heavily on human resources. This puts countries such as India and China at a great advantage. Mauritius, which has limited human capital, has to plan properly so as to create maximum impact with less people. Mauritius aims at making a quantum leap from the low/medium technology manufacturing sectors, such as food, beverages, textiles, and clothing, to high-technology sectors such as information communications technology and pharmaceuticals.


Sugarcane and algae and seaweed are renewable resources available in Mauritius for the development of a bio-based industry.

To foster innovation in these high-tech sectors, the support and active involvement of academia, educational institutions, public and private sectors, industry and of all Mauritians at large are essential. But innovation does not simply happen. It requires long-term and strategically directed investments in research, people, networks, equipment, and infrastructure. The transition time available to a country like Mauritius is relatively short and compressed as compared to those countries that took to the development trajectory much earlier. But scientists have the capacity to make a difference. Individual researchers and their institutions can do a lot to boost local R&D and industrial development and to create symbiotic relationships for global collaborative ventures.

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> full text (pdf-175KB)

 

* This article first appeared in Conscientia —the Eurekahub newsletter, July 2006 issue. Reproduced here with permission.
For more information see <www.eurekahub.com>.


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