Innovation is central to the development of successful economies. Less-favoured countries and regions are often those that lack the capacity to innovate and, consequently, that lack the ability to improve their positions in today’s competitive global market. Capacity to innovate helps countries and regional groupings achieve advantageous positions in key industrial and service sectors.
Research, development and innovation (RDI) networks designed to promote innovative inputs can secure competencies in areas of expertise unattainable by individual countries and institutions. Furthermore, RDI networks play a significant role in securing a critical mass of both human and financial resources, particularly given the increased importance of multidisciplinary approaches and demand for higher resource levels linked to tangible impacts. Indeed, increasing sophistication of the research and development (R and D) enterprise is reflected in the cost of equipment and consumables, which renders R and D activities an expensive business whose costs are better shared among as many concerned partners as possible.
In addition, ready access to information and the ability to engage in effective cooperation with relevant organizations and individual experts are two crucial prerequisites for success in RDI endeavours as well as human resource development. Research institutes, universities and other organizations involved in innovative and educational activities cannot survive and contribute to socio-economic development without the ability to exchange information with their counterparts on timely bases.
This study is ultimately intended to encourage research, development and innovation (RDI) networking in Arab countries. To that end, chapter I discusses the theoretical background, including recent institutional theories, which advocate the comparative advantage of networks over other institutional arrangements. This is followed, in chapter II, by an overview of major RDI network types and characteristics.
Chapter III discusses selected RDI networking experiences in Europe and East Asia, summarizing lessons learnt with respect to network successes. Attention is drawn in chapter IV to the situation in Arab countries, briefly characterizing research and development (R and D) activity and describing selected networking initiatives in the region, with focus on their characteristics and modes of operation. In the light of this overview, an attempt is made to identify research areas seen as offering great potential for growth in the region; and to propose general guidelines for establishing viable regional R and D networking projects. Additionally, chapter IV discusses future prospects in RDI networking of major importance for Arab countries, namely, open source R and D and the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs).
Chapter V highlights institutional, technical and legal issues that must be taken into account to ensure the success of RDI networks. The intention is to offer guidance through a number of basic and practical steps for the establishment of RDI networks with a view to carrying out collaborative R and D activities in selected research areas. This information is complemented, in the annexes to the study, with information on the physical infrastructure requirements for RDI networks, in addition to models of major documents that need to be prepared during the process of establishing networks.
The final chapter of the study provides a number of concluding remarks that highlight important aspects of RDI networking and implications for Arab countries from a policy perspective.