Asia-Pacific National Innovation Systems
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Asia-Pacific Forum - Promotion of NIS

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About The Forum

Organization of the forum

The Asia-Pacific Forum on National Innovation Systems for High Level Policy Makers was held on 28 and 29 April 2005 at New Delhi, India.

Attendance

The Forum was attended by representatives of the following countries: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. Six specialists in the area of National Innovation Systems participated as resource speakers. Representatives from ESCAP also participated in the workshop.

Opening Session

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Shigeru Mochida, Deputy Executive Secretary, ESCAP. He extended a warm welcome to the representatives of the 12 participating countries and to all the resource speakers and to the staff of ESCAP and APCTT. In his opening address, he pointed out that with globalization, small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) had opportunities to expand their market globally and collaborate with others for mutual benefits. At the same time, however, they faced challenges of intense competition. In this highly competitive environment, the success of enterprises, he said, depended largely on their ability to harness and utilize information and knowledge. Competition and knowledge were key drivers of innovation. National systems that facilitated, nurtured and promoted innovation, contributed to sustainable economic growth and entrepreneurship.

Although the socio-economic progress of society essentially lay in its ability to generate new ideas, enlarge and use its knowledge base, and innovate, he pointed out, that innovation occurred in an extremely complex environment where various elements and actors were involved. A sound policy framework that encouraged innovation at every level, he said, was therefore, critical for national prosperity. The roles played by various actors, whether institutional or individual, government or private, academic or non-academic, and their inter-dependence were at the core of a system that promoted innovation. It was this understanding, he said, that was increasingly attracting world wide attention towards the concept of innovation.

The major focus of ESCAP's programme, he explained, was to assist countries in the region in attaining the Millennium Development Goals and implementing the outcomes of major UN global and regional conferences. The activities of ESCAP, he said, fell under three broad thematic priorities, which included Poverty Reduction, Emerging Social Issues and Managing Globalization. The activities of APCTT directly or indirectly touched upon all the thematic priorities of ESCAP, but more particularly Managing Globalization, with a focus on SME oriented and science and technology based cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Realizing that different member countries were at different levels of socio-economic development, ESCAP had been promoting sharing of good practices and knowledge networking to enable countries to learn from each other. The main objective of this Forum was thus to bring together key players in the field to discuss recent developments and important issues associated with the promotion of National Innovation Systems in the region, to share good practices and to strengthen technical cooperation among the countries of this region. In closing, he thanked the Government of India for facilitating regional dialogue on NIS by providing funding support for this initiative. He also thanked the delegates from the member countries for making time to participate in the Forum. He hoped that the deliberations would be fruitful.

In a special statement on behalf of the donor country, India, Dr. Abhijit Lahiri welcomed the delegates participating in the Forum. This Forum, he said, was one of the initial activities under the project, "Promotion of National Innovation Systems in the Asia-Pacific Region" implemented by APCTT and funded by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), the organization to which he belonged. DSIR, he said was one of the three departments under the Ministry of Science and Technology. The other two were the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT). The main business of the Ministry, he said, was to promote and assist basic and applied research, to facilitate development of technologies in public funded institutions, universities, private commercial establishments and non-governmental organizations. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) with its network of 40 well-established national laboratories was a partner in this research effort. In all there were about 3000 institutions with various scales of operation undertaking R&D, including 1200 recognized R&D units in industries. He said that the Ministry had programmes in emerging and frontier areas like nanotechnology, drug development and delivery and bioinformatics and at the same time programmes on traditional knowledge. DSIR also facilitated the transfer of technologies. Thus, there was a complete line of facilities from the idea stage through lab scale development, prototyping or pilot scale development to commercialization. The decline in interest in science today, he said, was a matter of great concern. It was necessary to encourage young people to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He said that though science and technology had always played a great role in the country's economy, the number of college students interested in science had declined. He stressed that it was necessary to develop a new generation of young people with a range of skills, both technical and non-technical.

On the subject of innovation, Dr. Lahiri dwelt on the importance of innovation and emphasized that innovation had to take place at all levels if a country was to progress. He urged all countries of the Asia-Pacific region to take the lead and move forward. He said that the countries of this region could overcome all obstacles if they worked together in a constructive manner. Today, he said, there was nothing that could be taken for granted. There was a need to constantly look for new ways of doing business. Innovation, he explained, occurred at the intersection of invention and insight. It was about the application of invention - the fusion of new developments and new approaches to solve problems. Many countries around the world had put forward aggressive initiatives to foster innovation. The 21st century model of innovation, he said, was a dynamic one. In the past, he said, it was necessary to build to forecast demand. Today, we had to work to build on demand. We had to think in a collaborative way. across boundaries, finding intersections between them and thinking how a product could be made better. What did a customer value most? What features would spawn new value down the road. Innovation had to be approached in terms of customer value.

In closing, he said, it was imperative for countries of the region to examine if they had the right policies to encourage and nurture innovation and for nations of the world to develop a cohesive strategy for innovation.

In his keynote address, Dr. Maharaj Krishan Bhan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology of the Government of India, expressed his pleasure at being able to address the Forum with representatives from several countries of the Asia-Pacific region. The AsiaPacific region, he said, had become a dynamic region and had an important role to play in the 21st century.

The concept of innovation, he said, was gathering greater attention throughout the world and in the Asia-Pacific region as well. However, the importance and awareness of innovation had not spread enough, even though the subject had been discussed for more than 20 years. He strongly endorsed and advocated the need for a National Innovation Policy. A policy framework that would help scale up awareness of the need to innovate and enable various creative forces to work in a coherent manner was critical for developing countries like India. He said that it was important to create a mood for the development of a National Innovation System. While developing this system, it was necessary to adopt a systematic approach with a balanced view of short-term and long-term requirements and to avoid knee-jerk responses. In India, the trends for the development of a National Innovation System were good, but the country had still a long way to go before such a system had the desired impact. Universities had always been the premier institutions generating human resources. In India, however, he opined, universities were not geared for innovation. It was imperative that more money was spent on the university system so that teaching and teaching systems could be upgraded and research facilities scaled up. It was also critical, he said, to create an environment in universities and research institutions where innovation could be sustained. He urged leading institutions in India such as the Indian Institute of Science and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences to enter the global arena and be trend setters. Schools and colleges, he said, needed to define curricula that would cater to education in the 21st century. In addition, he pointed out that women's role or contribution towards higher research needed to be strengthened. He remarked that it was unfortunate that universities in India were not centres of technology transfer as in developed countries. It was essential to boost the research and technology transfer capacity of prominent institutions so that they could be on par with the best in the world. Early stage funding was central to innovation, but any investment without reforms was a waste. It was also necessary to proactively help industry to be innovative. A National Innovation System policy was a step in that direction.

In conclusion, Mr. Bhan hoped that the deliberations during the Forum would be successful. He hoped that the recommendations that would be drawn up during the Forum would help the countries of the region to work together for mutual benefit.

In his statement introducing the Asia-Pacific Forum on National Innovation Systems (NIS), the Director of APCTT, Mr. Se-Jun Yoon said that a sound innovation policy framework that encouraged competitiveness in both the public and private sectors, and generation of national wealth was essential for prosperity in this increasingly globalized world. Countries needed to evolve a systematic approach to promote and benefit from innovation. Development and implementation of such a systematic approach was the responsibility of policy-makers in the government, who were the leading actors of any National Innovation System (NIS). Keeping this in mind, he said that APCTT had developed a project entitled, "Promotion of NIS in Countries of the Asia-Pacific Region" to assist policy-makers in the region. This project was supported by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of the Government of India. The project was initially planned for a duration of a year and a half and would cover fourteen countries in the region, namely Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. The Forum was the first activity under the project and would provide a platform for the exchange and sharing of good practices of NIS. The Forum would be followed by National Workshops in selected member countries to help promote NIS and to create a cooperative network.

The Director hoped that the discussions during the Forum would lead to some very clear and focused recommendations, particularly with regard to: ways of targetting the project goal; involvement of and support of member countries; and the catalytic role of APCTT and the services it could provide. He looked forward to working together with the member countries in the most effective manner to implement this project for the benefit of the region. Finally, he wished that this effort would lead to the development of the best policy frameworks in the countries of the region.

In closing, the Director thanked the Honourable Chief Guest, Dr. Bhan for honouring the Forum with his presence and for his thought provoking address. He also thanked the resource speakers and the delegates from the member countries, who in spite of very busy schedules, were participating in this Forum. He looked forward to their views and ideas and to benefiting from their knowledge and expertise, and hoped that the deliberations during the next two days would be both meaningful and productive. He wished all the delegates a very pleasant and memorable stay in New Delhi.