Ideas for the Developing World

Joshua Mandel of the World Bank said he had attended the symposium to listen for innovation ideas that could be relevant for the developing world. He asked the panelists whether they would suggest any strategies for sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, or Latin America, all of which have little human resource capacity but a yearning for innovation and R&D as drivers of economic growth. Dr. Kittredge replied that “innovation is one of those slippery terms.” He said that Americans tend to measure it in terms of patents and other advanced markers. “But Fed Ex doesn’t have any patents,” he said. “I think that for developing countries, you want to be looking at the local competitive advantage. What does a region have intrinsically that can be developed, and how can it be extrapolated to create wealth? We have found a broad range of techniques that don’t require fancy stuff to drive this forward.” Dr. Proenza agreed that there are “a lot of things happening in developing countries that are better integrated at the national, state, and local levels into comprehensive strategies. We have done very poor job in this country at integrating federal and state agendas.”

Dr. Gabriel of the Heinz Endowments followed up on the World Bank question. She noted that the strategy in Pittsburgh was to “create deliberate bridges between the communities and the innovation centers. It’s the same for the World Bank: If you have the right people on the ground who are trusted by the community, programs can work.”

The World Bank Development Model

Dr. Wessner commented that the basic World Bank development model had not been as successful as anticipated in some countries, notably in Asia, where some countries had ignored most Bank advice while achieving rapid economic success. He said that in some countries of Eastern Europe, the Bank is playing a more catalytic role, bringing best practices to bear, as the Inter-American Development Bank is doing in Latin America. He suggested that the Bank might profitably follow the innovation concept used in the SBIR and TIP approaches, where the innovation comes bottom-up from small companies rather than specified through programs organized in Washington. He added that bottom-up partnership policies had had a direct impact on Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Korea, and India.

Mr. McNamara agreed, but suggested another angle. “The question is how third-world countries can benefit from the knowledge economy sector. I suggest that the entrepreneurs there could take advantage of the entrepreneurs there, and vice-versa, whether they are working in alternative energy, biofuels, or pharmaceuticals,” he said. “Bring them along with us. I would say that connecting entrepreneurs can do more good than any policy.”

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