2006/01 LEM Working Paper Series

The Roles of Research at Universities and Public Labs in Economic Catch-up

Roberto Mazzoleni, Richard R. Nelson
Catch-up, Public Research, Indigenous Technological Capabilities

We draw upon historical evidence from several countries and contemporary studies of national innovation systems to argue that indigenous systems of academic training and public research have been in the past important elements of the institutional structures supporting a country’s economic catch up. Recent changes in the international economic environment, and the growing scientific basis for contemporary technologies, will make those systems even more important in the future. The contributions of universities and public labs to the development of indigenous technological capabilities have taken different forms in different countries and economic sectors. However, we note that, in contrast with current emphasis on university-based embryonic inventions and fundamental research, effective research programs have predominantly occurred in the application-oriented sciences and engineering, and have been oriented towards problem-solving, and the advancement of technologies of interest to a well-defined user-community.

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