Knowledge is the key resource that forms the institutional basis of the post-industrial economy and society. It should be empasized that it is institutions of higher education that give tangible expression to this argument by acting as catalysts for knowledge and research-driven economic growth as well as well-being enhancement. All this finds embodiment within a new techno-academic paradigm in which the academic knowledge base is center stage as a determinant of industrial change, economic growth and general well-being. Therefore, higher education institutions should not be viewed as a regional or national resource, but rather as a node in an increasingly seamless knowledge base, which has a progressively larger interface with the knowledge-driven global economy.
The aim of this paper is to propose a research framework for entrepreneurship and innovation suitable for a developing country enabling it to become both a producer and a consumer of innovative entrepreneurial information packages. The information products are designed to facilitate business development, and sustainable business practices, packaged to support entrepreneurial ventures in distinct epistemic cultural settings for use by multiple participants in the entrepreneurial system. The proposal is based upon a model applied at Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa.
A proposed R&D Framework
A centralised R&D focus and strategic aim is essential if Institutions of Higher Education want to act as a node in an increasingly seamless knowledge base economy. A typical vision could be to research and develop innovation business venture protocols and prototypes in the fields of business clustering, business development and management of innovation appropriate for specific regional environments in Southern Africa to be used by entrepreneurs, policy makers, and institutions of learning. The research domain could then be divided into mainstreams, culminating in specific value added outputs. The entrepreneurship and innovation outputs should typically been information products that are considered to be prerequisites for successful and sustainable entrepreneurial ventures and processes as well as for the effective management of innovation.
The second requirement is the formulation and establishment of the R&D parameters, which defines the boundaries or scope of permissible R&D conduct. The parameters can for example easily be defined in terms of three strategic parameters, namely:
1. To firstly conduct research on business clustering commonalities (networks) in order to enhance the competitive basis of firms in the Southern African market place through a process of sharing information, grouping of resources and outputs, as well as sharing of factors of production; secondly, on business clustering formation and causes for these formations in order to understand opportunities and constraints in specific clusters and lastly, the development business clustering algorithms in order to simulate specific business models and business environments.
2. Researchers will contribute to the International Business Case Study Centre and to the Centre for New Venture Creation, which will serve as business development learning environments for entrepreneurs, other researchers, students and policy makers. Research will focus on business best practices, successful new venture creation, technological entrepreneurship, growth indicators, research and innovation of key business development benchmarks and entrepreneurial training methodologies. Having these research outputs available, business capabilities will be enhanced with regards to scalable business venture creation, business incubation, commercialisation of technologies, appropriate business competition and sustainable growth strategies, development of practical business solutions and the effective utilisation of venture support mechanisms within the Southern African context to those that desire to start-up and sustain their own businesses.
The International Business Case Study Centre and the Centre for New Venture Creation will initially focus on two extremes of business creation ventures, namely:
· Those business ventures that can be classified as high growth ventures, characterised by radical innovations and disruptive technologies.
· Those business ventures than can be classified as low growth ventures in the survivalist economy.
3. Research on the management of innovation. Innovation is considered to be one of the main drivers of economic growth and prosperity in the knowledge economy. Understanding and managing innovation processes and structures in general and particularly in Southern Africa have the potential for huge benefits for actors, local clusters, and the national system of innovation. Research in this area should promote knowledge in the fields of technopreneurship and technology management and transfer as well as intellectual property.
The last requirement is to investigate the interrelationships between the set research parameters on Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Although the two concepts are highly related to one another the interplay between the concepts are seldom investigated.
It is envisaged that the outputs of the research and development will extend the boundaries of business and technology innovations by making information and knowledge useful. The created business ventures protocols and information packages as well as the management of innovation, aim at designing and modelling entrepreneurial support tools for the transfer and distribution of business venture information. The developed packages will create an enabling environment and an efficient information support services to entrepreneurs, policy makers and learning institutions in Southern Africa. Furthermore, they will provide valuable information to promote, develop and participate in intensive knowledge and technology based business incubators. Establishing business links between business clustering, business development and the management of innovation offers a great opportunity for high quality research as business information, product transfer and distribution, business development, and management of innovation – although closely related – are traditionally kept apart. The outcomes of the research will contribute to discover underlying patterns within related business ventures and innovations, as well as within similar business environments. Data provided will not only support better management of innovation and business development ventures, but it will also enable new and established entrepreneurs to speed up and improve business decision-making.