Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Regional Innovation Paradox: the case of Colombia

Opinion article by: Carolina Herrera Cano* ( )
International Business student at Universidad EAFIT, Colombia

The identification of strong sectors in nowadays economy seems to be one of the most effective strategies for the actual creation of a competitive advantage in the international economy panorama. In this context, the innovation has become a goal by itself, and governments are investing in the acceleration of the time response to new demands. During this week it was inaugurated the biggest science and technology district in Colombia: Medellin Innovation, a place where national and international technology and research enterprises will be based. This place was created by Ruta N, the business and innovation center created by Alcaldía de Medellín, EPM, and UNE (Rojas T., 2013).
These kinds of public initiates are created to diminish the levels of inequality, and to guarantee the access to new technologies to a higher percentage of the society. In this sense, public administration is increasingly aware of social capital improvement and its insertion (as a production factor) to the international markets. But these efforts are probably not enough for the actual necessities the nation has, as Prof. Juan Carlos López (Director of the Study Group in Business History) argues, in Colombia the processes needed to actually take advantage from innovation were not well developed, as a example: the agriculture sector was not good enough to guarantee the later process of industrialization.
At this point it is useful to analyze the situation that Christine Oughton, Mikel Landabaso, and Kevin Morgan present in The Regional Innovation Paradox. These authors refer to inequality in terms of innovation policy and industrial policy, especially in developing countries, where they find a contradiction: “between the comparatively greater need to spend on innovation… …and their relative lower capacity to absorb public funds” (Oughton, Landabaso & Morgan, 2002: 98). The lack of coordination between industrial and technological investment, and an appropriate agricultural policy is a good example of this paradox in Colombia. The government must be aware about how society actually receives these incentives, and how they generate value in a sustainable and inclusive way.
The purpose of this analysis is not to only criticize how innovation policies are been undertaken, but to highlight the need to coordinate industrial policies with the real processes in which the Colombian society is. Of course, nowadays countries are looking for better positions in innovation and competitive rankings around the world, but the Colombian government cannot pretend to reach the same goals by the same means. Economic, historical, and social background need to be well understood when designing the national strategies. Public initiatives like the establishment of a science and technology district must promote both the access to new technologies, and its absorption by the civil society.


Rojas. T, J. F. (2013). “Medellín Innovation” se llamará distrito tecnológico. El Colombiano, Available in: (September 12, 2013).
 Oughton, C. , Landabaso, M. & Morgan, K. (2002). The Regional Innovation Paradox: Innovation Policy and Industrial Policy. The Journal of Technology Transfer. Vol. 27(1), pp. 97-110.

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