BOOK REVIEW

INNOVATION POLICY: A PRACTICAL INTRODUCTION

BY NICHOLAS S VONORTAS, PHOEBE C ROUGE AND ANWAR ARIDI (EDITORS)

Springer, NY, 2015, 122 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4939-2232-8
ISBN: 978-1-4939-2233-8 (eBook)

Innovation is becoming an important concern in various nations, firms and economic contexts. All over the world, governments are looking for new ways to develop public policies and instruments in order to stimulate economic growth and development. In Innovation Policy: A Practical Introduction, the editors, Vonortas, N S, Rouge, P C and Aridi, A, and the authors of each chapter, provide an insight into “important aspects of contemporary innovation policy” (p 1). The book is based on a more extensive report, prepared by the World Bank with the objective of supplying information “to middle and upper level policy decision-makers and … stakeholders” before they start to define and implement policies (p 1). Their intention is to introduce this issue to a non-specialist audience. This is fundamental to defining the book outline by selecting a broad spectrum of issues. Initially, it presents some theoretical aspects related to innovation policy, followed by instruments utilized in contemporary government policies: entrepreneurial university; strategic alliances/knowledge partnerships; clusters/science parks/incubators; high-risk finance and intellectual property and standards. The editors’ decision to incorporate all these themes in a literature review can inspire and assist the reader in continuing to seek deeper knowledge of the matters addressed superficially within this work.

The author of the second chapter, Feige, D, emphasizes the importance of public policy to innovation, based on the presupposition that the “policymakers can intervene (productively) to encourage the production and use of new technologies” (p 6). He introduces some economic concepts that underpin innovation policy, particularly in relation to the macro-economic perspective, that is, the role that technologies and innovation play in the economic growth process and international economic competitiveness, as well as to the micro-economic level (creation of new technologies), commercialization and diffusion.

The entrepreneurial university is the topic of chapter three, co- authored by Pascoe and Vonortas. It is interesting to note the entrepreneurial university as an innovation policy instrument. Their approach is based on a literature review permeated by the academic controversy over this matter. Both sides are represented, showing the perspectives of the pros and cons since the Bayh-Dole Act was passed, with the objective of making technological innovation easier by granting intellectual property ownership of the results of research conducted with federal funds. In their entrepreneurial university analysis, three aspects are examined: structure of internal incentives, concern about publication delays, and increased secrecy and changing the research direction. The positive effects of the entrepreneurial university cited by the authors are: 1) networks increase with formal technology transfers; 2) raising the income from new technologies; 3) commercially oriented institutions increase their publication output, maintain their basic research, and do not delay the publication of research results; and 4) increased adoption of technology transfer offices and their role in achieving commercialization of technological innovation in the USA. The authors also include the points of view of researchers such as Etzkowitz (2003) and Siegel et al (2014), seeking to reconcile conflicting views and stating that the university needs to develop teaching, research, and the entrepreneurial role, because one activity reinforces the others.

The fourth chapter, Strategic Alliances/Knowledge-Intensive Partnerships (Williams, T and Vonortas, N S) is a comment on the importance of inter-firm cooperative agreements in innovation policy for companies interested in accessing markets and technologies, and for governments concerned about fostering domestic capacity building and economic growth through strategic technological alliances. Study in this field has been intensified since the early 1980s, as a consequence of the enhancement of business partnerships in response to five changes in the features of the international economic environment, namely globalization, technological change, notion of core competency, economic liberalization and privatization. These factors have influenced, in different ways, the nature of international business interactions within specific industries or economic sectors. Using a didactical approach, the authors summarize the more common types of alliances, strategic challenges, benefits, negotiations, dangers, and their strategic context, with examples from real cases based on the literature from various parts of the world, particularly developing countries.

Chapter five by Boroughs, B B examines clusters, science parks and knowledge business incubators, as effective support mechanisms for the development of new high-tech firms. The chapter first details local or regional agglomerations focused on high-tech clusters that in some way are supported by policy makers aimed at leading to the emergence of important economic drivers. He then addresses science parks and incubators, viewed as instruments that could be included in innovation policy to enhance high-tech growth. Both analyses include several examples from different parts of the world.

In chapter six, Waggoner, D looks into a fundamental aspect of spurring the growth of new technology-based firms, the finance mechanisms, that connect individuals with great ideas and companies that can launch new products in the market. The chapter embraces various aspects related to the topic, such as types of financing, stages of investment, exiting mechanisms, acquisition and initial public offerings. In the discussion about risks and uncertainty, the author indicates certain challenges that are related to finance and influence investors’ decisions: intellectual property rights, taxation on capital gains, and level of stable and predictable laws. As in previous chapters, some experiences are provided in financial mechanisms from Israel, the USA and Finland.

Chapter seven, authored by Williams, J and Aridi, A, is divided into two topics. The first is on the critical relationship between intellectual property (IP) and innovation, the influence of knowledge accumulation on the capacity to innovate, the design and implementation of IP policies, whether they should be more flexible or rigid, and the need to take into account the technological and development level. In the second part the author explains that standards have an affect on innovation and the diffusion of technology in the international market

The book’s major weakness is related to one of the biggest challenges in defining and implementing an innovation policy: the importance of the local socio-economic context. Part of the problem or failure in implementing a successful innovation policy is due to the absence of analysis about how to adapt or to evaluate the most suitable instruments, considering a particular context, historical aspects, social values and the role of the players in the innovation process. This fundamental aspect of developing regions or countries is not covered. Although it is interesting to introduce innovation policy to a reader without previous knowledge on this matter, one should also warn them about the importance of considering the country’s particular context, the need for systematic comparison and evaluation alternatives, so as to avoid trying to imitate instruments, tools, and recommendations that are appropriate to a different socio-economic context.

Mariza Almeida
School of Industrial Engineering
Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro
Avenida Pasteur 458, CCET, room 403,
Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
*email address protected*