Bridging knowledge and innovation
Said Irandoust, Niclas Adler and Yennah Mulia ; Said Irandoust is a professor at i3L, Indonesia International Institute for Life Sciences, Jakarta; Niclas Adler is a professor and the president of i3L and IPMI International Business School, Jakarta; Yennah Mulia is the CEO of i3L and IPMI International Business School, Jakarta
JAKARTA POST, 03 April 2014
A nation’s economic survival and competitiveness is determined by its knowledge content, for which research and innovation are the key aspects.
Of a university’s many objectives, the ultimate aim is to contribute actively to the sustainable development of society through education, research and innovation.
The universities provide society with the competencies needed to solve present and future tasks and challenges, hence playing a vital role in the development of their immediate regions as well as preparing their respective societies for global competitiveness and challenges.
The most promising orientation of a modern university should be based on education, research and innovation towards strengthening the knowledge development, supporting sustainability and community economic development as well as integrating its community into the global economy. Companies’ survival and competitive position in the global market place today are also determined by their knowledge content. As such close cooperation with companies is essential in ensuring the success of a modern university.
Today, however, questions are raised about the overall effect of universities on their communities. Although universities may be successful in meeting their objectives, some critics believe that universities are failing in certain respects. Their efficiency is questioned and the connection to the real world is believed to be poor.
There are proofs that high quality research-driven universities play a major role in catalyzing the technological innovations that fuels economic growth. These universities are among the most important engines of the knowledge economy. Robert Solow, one of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Nobel Prize winners in economics, estimated that more than 50 percent of America’s economic growth since World War II has derived directly from technological innovation. This also evident by the fact that universities lie at the heart of successfully leading economies around the world.
According to IESE’s Global Venture Capital and Private Equity Attractiveness Index 2013, Indonesia is 47th ranked country, while our neighboring Singapore is 5th, Malaysia 17th and Thailand 32nd.
With a promising growth expected in the coming years, and with a successful private equity market, Indonesia is seen as a place where venture capital firms are increasingly looking for opportunities to become involved.
The number of venture capital firms is increasing in Indonesia and recently 8 of them have formalized an alliance, called Alliance of Venture capitals in Indonesia. Also more and more Indonesian universities are setting up business incubators and nowadays several Indonesian universities such as Gadjah Mada University (UGM), University of Indonesia (UI), Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) are having specialized incubator centers to address some of the challenges faced by startup companies including issues related to technology and innovation capability, skilled human resources and financial support, among others.
However, these university-based incubator centers need to be treated as a more strategic resource by the university management and significantly increase their ambition level with a much stronger integration with the rest of university activities.
These centers also need to be more globally connected with aspiration to have a global impact. To do so, they should act more as accelerators rather than incubators, exposing their ventures for full global competition and market dynamics as early as possible.
With continuing globalization, the competitiveness of nations and companies will increasingly depend on their abilities to innovate. Innovation is not just about developing new technologies and processes that can solve problems — it is also about implementing these new technologies, new process and new solutions. Hence, it is necessary to reduce the gap between knowledge development and implementation.
To promote a focus on implementation of innovations, there is a need for increase support of activities that can bridge the gap between knowledge development and innovation.
Some of them are listed as follows: making critical-mass funding available for implementing innovation; supporting a closer collaboration between universities, government and companies in initiating and pursuing research and innovation projects; supporting the formation of consortia between companies, universities, government and other research centers addressing contemporary and future challenges; supporting university entrepreneurship; supporting international collaboration in research and innovation; and supporting projects that stimulate demand for knowledge and innovation within SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises).
Successfully competing in the global economy requires the ability to innovate and take on technology risks. To sustain economic development and to provide sufficient quality jobs for the next generation, innovation system must provide better conditions for new technology business creation. To enable this, universities must be able to motivate their researchers and students by giving incentives and providing support to entrepreneurs who can capitalize and convert opportunities of new innovation into commercialization.
Furthermore bright young Indonesian engineers and scientists do not have the financial infrastructure they would need to start up their innovation-based businesses. In order to mitigate this lack of funding, there is a need to support and create incentives for more business incubators and venture capital firms to allow funding access for talented young Indonesians as well as entrepreneurship spirit and skill sets necessary to start a successful venture.
There is also a need to actively increase the support to universities in developing their capacity for research and innovation. Successful research capacity would require strong networking with other key players, including private and public sectors, other scientific communities, policymakers, community and other stakeholders.
Today, Indonesia lacks innovation spirit in many of its institutions including universities. This is typically due to factors such as insufficient financial resources, lack of role models and inspiration, lack of experience that don’t inspire or value creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.
From the Indonesian Masterplan for Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia Economic Development (MP3EI), 2011-2025, it is obvious that Indonesia wishes to move towards a more innovative economy which will no doubt require that the gap between knowledge development and innovations to be bridged. Here the universities have a big responsibility to shoulder. Either they need to be more effective in addressing these challenges or Indonesia needs new creative and entrepreneurial universities. ●