2015 GIS: Panel discussion on Competitiveness Pillars for Sustainable & Innovative Infrastructures

2015 GIS: Panel discussion on Competitiveness Pillars for Sustainable & Innovative Infrastructures


His Highness, Dr. Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al Saud, President of the King Abdullah Aziz City for Science and Technology

Dr. Michiharu Nakamura, Counselor to the President of the Japan Science and Technology Agency

Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, Distinguished Fellow at the Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils

His Excellency Zakri Abdul Hamid, Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia

Mr. Chad Evans, Executive Vice President at Council of Competitiveness

 Moderated by Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau, President of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al Saud

“Initially it is fundamental to create global companies like what Japan and Korea did, but simultaneously work on the innovation system creating small and medium companies that sustain research and competitiveness.”

Zakri Abdul Hamid

“I think leadership or the political will, commitment to innovation & excellence has to start from the top and is very important in any country.”

Jean-Lou Chameau:  One should look at innovation in a reverse way on how innovative development should affect the way we develop infrastructure in a world. The measure of success can be by developing the best of infrastructure in the cities. Another measure of success is how you help bring millions of people out of poverty and how you provide them with opportunities.

Michiharu Nakamura: Education, research and innovation are all interconnected, and have to be promoted in an integrated manner. Basic science is an infrastructure for the future prosperity. However, under very critical financial situation, it’s more difficult than ever to continue or increase investment in R&D.  We should accelerate innovation, develop new industries and create profit for future R&D investment. The investors play an important role to realize very active innovation ecosystem. The Japanese universities are trying to transform this transition, tolerance and transformation to meet societal expectations. Their effort is in multidimensional – education being number one; talent, basic science, operative science, number two; and innovation ecosystem, inviting industrial sectors and other stakeholders in their campus being number three. Internationalization is also one of the recent challenges.  The Japanese university will transform and meet societal innovation in the 21st century although they are facing many obstacles.  The role of government in innovation integration is very important. The Japanese government is pursuing the regulation in many dimensions, in medicine, traffic system, taxation and others.  People are trying to use technology in real society, but existing regulations are always very big obstacles. The administration will help us to make a very concrete platform of innovation ecosystems.

Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al Saud:  As far as the Kingdom is concerned, we have a plan for science, technology and innovation overseen by KACST, but various organizations participate in the Kingdom, university being the major participant. It is essential to build the foundation for competitiveness that is based on innovation ecosystem, that is well connected, developed and very competitive.  So the plan looks at the whole ecosystem supporting education, supporting research, development and also looking at legal and financial aspects, like venture capital development in the Kingdom. The Kingdom has a vision by 2030 to move to a knowledge-based economy and society with less dependence on oil for its economy.  That is the measure of success that we hope to achieve. In this transformation, we have five-year plans, the first plan was extended to seven years laying down the foundation, the infrastructure for science, technology and innovation.  The second plan starting this year is, we hope the Kingdom to be the leader in the region, in science, technology and innovation.  The third plan ultimately is to join advanced countries in Asia in this field and by the end of the fourth plan is to be one of the advanced industrialized countries with budgets behind it and huge activities by all organizations. The major component of creating global companies is connected to innovation. Initially it is fundamental to create global companies like what Japan and Korea did, but simultaneously work on the innovation system creating small and medium companies that sustain research and competitiveness.  This is what we would like to drive in the Kingdom and we hope it will create that transformation.

Kandeh Yumkella:  I would just emphasize three points. Firstly, we need strong government leadership if you want to innovate; within that context stable transparent public policy. Secondly, is regulation. We need to encourage interdepartmental cooperation to get innovation. i.e. how does the Ministry Of Science and Technology collaborates with the Ministry of Energy, with the Ministry of Finance et al. Therefore, a strong leadership should be there to ensure coordination and information sharing of the projects. Thirdly, we have to buy in the people i.e. how to make people believe in the long-term vision as some of the innovations take time to take off. Fourth, are the public private partnerships so that the domestic and foreign capital can be leveraged.

Zakri Abdul Hamid:  All nations aspire to have peace and prosperity and well being for its citizens.  I think leadership or the political will, commitment to innovation & excellence has to start from the top and is very important in any country. We also need to examine the governance structure of science, technology or innovation.  There is a need to facilitate and harmonize all the different departments/ministries. The countries must recognize the need for investing in R&D.  Being rich in resources is not a prerequisite to economic development. Investment in human capability i.e. increasing the numbers of researchers, scientists or engineers is important. There must be an increased mastery of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  So the governance must be clear, transparent and sustainable.

Public private partnership is very important in the modern world.  We need to identify and empower the small and medium enterprises, but it is time that big corporations particularly in developing countries get to be more involved in innovation. Finally, there is also a need to link with the citizens.

Chad Evans:  Innovation is the core driver of productivity, prosperity & competitiveness. The four critical pillars of innovation are -talent, technology, investment, and infrastructure. Firstly, innovation and infrastructure are critically linked.  Any sort of realization of value creation in any of our economies will happen because of this linking. Secondly, manufacturing spillovers from investment and infrastructure should be essential part of any infrastructure plan that we should be thinking about the creation, as the jobs that will come from that. The essential part of any rationale for infrastructure investment projects should be that they need to be designed and based on the awareness of emerging and disrupting technologies and innovations, that is where we would see differentiation and competitive advantage. Thirdly, competitiveness is also increasingly linked to resilience and sustainability.  No nation, region or city will be truly competitive in the 21st century if they do not address the nexus of innovation, sustainability and resilience.  It would ultimately lead to truly productive happy lives. We can actually measure our capacity to understand the impact of innovation infrastructure.

Jean-Lou Chameau:  Any thoughts on the idea of planning versus chaos?

Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al Saud:  You need proper planning to move things forward. The availability of the venture capital is essential to continue the cycle and move from one stage to another. Without that, you will not have the ability to really bring startups. So, if we have the 2 T’s (Technology & Talent) and 2 I’s (Infrastructure & Innovation) then we can move forward. We really need the venture capital to move things quickly.

Michiharu Nakamura:  Tsukuba Science City was planned and inaugurated about 50 years ago.  Today we have universities, excellent national research laboratories, but not so many innovative activities. We are now asking them to transform themselves to innovation city, not to science city and for that we need public investment, private investment, ventured capital.  The government assigned Tsukuba Science City as a special zone, that means tax is reduced and deregulated.  So Tsukuba has a very excellent technology of robotics and their robots can walk or run on the public road. So I think regulatory reform is one of the key elements.

Zakri Abdul Hamid:  You need planning, in particular, for countries with a limited budget. I think you don’t need planning if you have a bottomless pit in terms of funding. One could draw the talent pool worldwide and there is one reason why Singapore is so successful.  So I would argue planning is very important especially when your budget is limited.

Kandeh Yumkella:  Some of the emerging economies and nations got independence for their own systems just 50 – 70 years ago.  So the advantage of planning is you can learn from everybody else’s mistake or successes and you transplant it home.  So you have to plan, but within that planning you should leave the room for creativity, some flexibility where people can take a risk to learn, fail and move on. So planning is necessary if the nation has to catch up.

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