"Change of paradigm in Science and Technology Policy"

2000. Change of paradigm in Science and Technology Policy" in Cooperation South, TCDC-UNDP, No.1-2000, pp. 43-48. ISSN 0259-3882    

Presentation at the Forum for South South Cooperation in Science and Technology, UNDP/Government of the Republic of Korea, Seoul 14-17 February.

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We all know we are in the midst of a change of paradigm, in the midst of a change in the rules and principles for effective techno-economic behaviour. What is changing is simply the "common sense" for achieving best practice, be it in business or in the conduct of government, at all levels, from international organizations to the smallest local NGO.

We know this has been brought about by the information technology revolution. Yet the transformation goes far beyond the power of computers and Internet; it entails the adoption of organizational models that are adequate for taking advantage of that potential; it involves the modernization of both the structures and the forms of operation of every organization in any field of activity.

  1. From rigid mass production to flexible networks
  2. From centralized pyramids to decentralized adaptable structures
  3. From people as human resources to people as human capital

And, in the developing world:

  1. From protected subsidized industrialization to competitive production in a globalized world

We all know that and we also understand both the difficulties of such a transformation and the opportunities it opens, both the uncertainty involved and the inexorable nature of those trends. They are precisely the direct consequence of the technological revolution that emerged in the 1970s and is fully taking root as the main productive potential into the 21st Century.

The question is:

What does this transformation mean when we look at science and technology in the developing world?

What does it mean when we examine South-South cooperation in S&T and want to achieve concrete and meaningful results?

It simply means that, just as managers of firms have had to do, painful as it may have been, the science and technology community needs to revise, redefine, reassess and rethink every single thing we thought about S&T in the 1960s and 1970s.

We must recognize that the body of knowledge and experience about S&T, that we now have, was shaped by the conditions of mass production technologies and the import substitution model of industrialization.

In my view we are far behind in the necessary reassessment. This is part of the explanation for the meager results. Without that rethinking, our actions can miss the target. Without that, our chances for success are minimal.

One of our basic tasks is to redefine the field of activity by widening the scope of what we call technology. The changes are quite dramatic and fundamental:

Further still, there is a difference between the old and the new paradigm that has far reaching consequences for developing countries:

Because mass production required very high volumes of identical products for maximum profitability, the whole world was pushed into homogenous patterns of production and consumption. Cultural differences and identities were ironed out in the melting pot of the "American way of life." So transfer of technology was often seen as imposed from abroad and, even when welcome, was in practice judged inadequate.

This situation could change dramatically. The flexible technologies of the new paradigm are essentially adaptable and can cater to diversity. The world is far from reaping the full fruits of this characteristic because the habits of mass production are still too deeply ingrained. This has happened with each paradigm change. The first automobiles looked likes carriages without horses and we are still measuring engines in "horse-power." But, as we learn to use the new potential, we will discover that appropriate technology is possible, profitable and natural in this paradigm.

Those are only a few of the many fundamental changes in outlook that we need to make in order to guarantee that we can take proper advantage of the opportunities offered by this paradigm.

But the essential thing we must be clear about is the need to re-examine our ideas and our experience:

  • What worked yesterday will probably not work today.
  • What failed yesterday could work tomorrow.

Now I would like to advance some ideas about what, in my own view, are the ways forward, the concepts and attitudes we need to change in order to take full advantage of the new conditions:

  • 1. -Let us break the "marriage of convenience" between science and technology.
  • We need to bring technology in full contact with production. We need it to become technological development and engineering so we can really change the quality and productivity of our productive activities.
  • But we also need scientific and technological research.
  • What we don't need is to have technology working in isolation, with the methods, criteria and pace that characterize, rightfully, the production of scientific knowledge.
  • In Import Substitution times, technological activities had to take refuge inside the scientific laboratories. Mature technologies from the North were in no need of local innovation. So there was no real demand for technology and it had to "marry" science and adopt its behavior. Now, technology is needed side by side with every production activity and with every social service. Now it must come out from the temples of science and fully join the action.
  • 2. - Let us widen the scope of what we call "technology" to include organizational, managerial and social apabilities and know-how.
  • Scientific, technical and social disciplines need to be put to the task in problem-solving both in directly wealth creating activities and in those that are geared to enhancing the quality of life of the population. If firms need to be world competitive, governments and social services need to modernize even more urgently, to deliver management and social well being with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Unless we believe in the "trickle down effect" (and are also willing to wait for it to work its way through) there is no reason why technological development efforts should concentrate on competitive activities only. The whole range needs to be covered, though probably by different people.
  • 3. - Let us extend the range of actors in producing innovation
  • In accordance with the new paradigm, continuous improvement needs to become the way of working for all, from the top managers and specialists to every single worker, and it needs to become a way of approaching activities, from the production world right into the community and the home.
  • Learning to analyze processes, to identify ways of improving them, reducing efforts and costs, adapting them to specific conditions and even changing them radically is necessary for all citizens. Educational reform should include the introduction of such habits as a key component and so should job training programs. But the almost "cultural" change that this implies for all those that are now in industry or government is very deep and very necessary.
  • A huge social contribution could be made by the S&T community by becoming the champions of generalized innovativeness in society.
  • 4. - Let us stop trying to build a "bridge" between university and industry. Let us instead take the dividing river away.
  • We need to learn to live in constant interaction between technology users and producers. We need to open universities to all social actors and move researchers and engineers out into the field, out into where their work is used.
  • We are coming from long decades of mutual distrust. Researchers looked down on "business people who are only interested in money, "and business people considered researchers "impractical dreamers who don't know the real world." These attitudes resulted in a lack of common language between the two worlds.
  • We now need to build a platform of mutual trust and respect, which can only result from frequent cooperation, probably beginning with small simple things and growing from there.
  • 5. - Finally, let us clearly distinguish four areas of action which are all equally crucial:
    1. Scientific and technological research understood as the creation of knowledge capital for today and tomorrow
    2. Technological development for world competitiveness geared to modernizing the export sectors and their support network, involving incremental and radical innovations (with full consciousness of the international knowledge frontier)
    3. Technological development for improving the general wealth creating capacity of the country, the regions, industries and firms (including SMEs). This includes educational reform, technical infrastructure, development of consultancy, financial and technical services (from information to maintenance) and so on.
    4. Technology for the people geared to enhancing the quality of life of each portion of the population on each portion of the territory. It would involve the development and implementation of appropriate technology, the enhancement of human capital with the specific needs of each particular locality and stimulating general innovativeness to solve local problems.
  • We need to move strongly on all four fronts!
  • Yet, each of those four distinct areas of action must be approached differently
  • Each requires:
    1. Different criteria of priority
    2. Different ways of funding and different sources
    3. Different actors and ways of organizing
    4. Different mechanisms for promotion and conditions for diffusion (for instance, scientific research and technology for the people should be vastly disseminated, while technology for competitiveness should be patented and closely guarded)
    5. Different ways of measuring results
  • What works of fails in one front, does not necessarily work or fail in another.
  • As with everything else in this paradigm, segmentation, diversity and adaptability are essential for effectiveness and for successful efforts.
  • So, let us segment and diversify our efforts in South-South cooperation for Science and Technology. Let us differentiate the goals in research, development, engineering and organizational modernization and let us gear them carefully to the various objectives to pursue.
  • Let us also adapt them to the various realities of the developing world, between and within our countries. This was not easy to do in the mass production world. It is not easy either in the flexible networks world we are now building, but it is certainly feasible. Let us make sure we don't miss the opportunity.


Published 2002

'...the book fills an important gap in the literature on business cycles and innovations. I most strongly commend it to all those attempting to understand the past and future evolution of technology and the economy.'

Christopher Freeman, Emeritus Professor, SPRU,
University of Sussex, UK

'...Carlota Perez shows us that historically technological revolutions arrive with remarkable regularity, and that economies react to them in predictable phases. Her argument provides much needed perspective not just on history, but on our own times. And especially on our own information revolution.'

W. Brian Arthur, Santa Fe Institute, New Mexico

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Technological Revolutions Financial bubbles Installation Period Frenzy Deployment Period Golden Ages Dual strategy Techno‑economic paradigms Neo‑Schumpeterian Respecialization Synergy Turning Point Future markets Knowledge society Green growth Maturity Full global development Globalization Sustainability Socio‑economic development Paradigm shifts Irruption Market hyper‑segmentation