Regional Connect Case Study

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CREATING AN OPPORTUNITY FOR INTERACTION WITHIN THE SOUTHERN AFRICAN REGION

 

The Southern Africa Innovation Support (SAIS) programme was initiated and funded by the Finnish Foreign Affairs Ministry to help guide innovation in southern African countries in an endeavour to encourage economic and social development. A Regional Connect (RC) project covering Namibia and Zambia was piloted to build and test an open innovation mediation model across the region.

Open innovation (OI), a term coined by Chesbrough in the early 2000s, takes place when organisations (‘seekers’) search externally for innovative solutions to mostly technological problems. The OI Regional Connect mediation model undertakes to link seekers of innovative solutions to providers thereof through a networked model. Within the context of emerging national innovation systems in both countries, this case study highlights the challenges, opportunities and recommendations around implementing an OI RC model within the region.

      

An effective RC model could potentially enhance knowledge, resource and productive exchanges across the region, which should have a positive effect on its economic development over time. The RC model should also help stimulate innovation and an understanding of OI as such in its quest to build linkages across the triple helix (government-industryacademia) within the region. The aim is not only to inspire innovation but also to aid the uptake and commercialisation of ideas through partnerships and capacity building. As such, Regional Connect aims to fast-track the innovation process by stimulating networks and enabling partnerships with previously unknown innovators. Many factors can contribute to the sustainability of such a model, including the status of national innovation systems in partner countries, stakeholder strategy and engagement, and resource availability and capacity.

This paper covers a case study of the Regional Connect project, with the aim to highlight challenges, successes, lessons learnt and recommendations to support the replication and sustainability of the programme in other southern African countries. The economic and innovation landscapes of the two participating countries will be highlighted as background to the case study.

The Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability (RIIS) was the lead technical implimenter of the RC model, while the University of Namibia (UNAM) hosted the regional office for the duration of the project and the National Technology Business Centre (NTBC) in Zambia,supported implementation as knowledge partner.

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