The inaugural Global Innovation Forum kicked off at NUS on 4 October with academics and practitioners in both the public and private sectors from over 35 countries in attendance. The Forum, organised by World Bank Group’s (WBG) Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice and co-hosted by NUS, provided a platform for robust dialogue on the potential of exponential technologies to promote competitiveness and development.
Opening the event was the global launch of WBG’s flagship report The Innovation Paradox: Developing-Country Capabilities and the Unrealized Promise of Technological Catch-Up, which looked at the reasons why most governments in developing nations fail to invest in innovation and technology despite the predicted high rate of returns. Beyond identifying some of the main obstacles faced by developing countries in innovation and technology adoption — attributed largely to missing complementary factors such as firms with the right capabilities to fully realise its potential — the report argued the need to address this through well-designed, consistent and effective innovation policies that work for each country.
Authors of the report, Chief Economist Dr William Maloney and Senior Economist Dr Xavier Cirera, both from WBG, joined Director of NUS Entrepreneurship Centre Professor Wong Poh Kam, former Peru Minister of Production Dr Piero Ghezzi and WBG Senior Director Ms Anabel Gonzalez in a panel discussion on the topic.
Prof Wong highlighted the need to integrate the role of entrepreneurship into the conversation on growth in developing countries. “There is increasing evidence that we’ve seen over the last 30 to 40 years that a lot of innovation now no longer comes from existing firms, especially large firms, but from new firms…then the policy will not be so much on how to help the existing firms, although that is important, but how we can ensure the healthy, vibrant growth of new firms that can produce innovation.”
He also shared that new firms tend to introduce disruptive innovation, in contrast to the incremental innovation of larger existing firms. “So if you’re talking about promoting new innovations, then you have to think about policies to encourage this…I don’t believe that we need to reach such an advanced stage of catching up to the leaders before we try to innovate,” added Prof Wong.
The Forum, which will run until 6 October, will also include several talks and plenary sessions on topics ranging from emerging economies and global value chains to workforce development and the role of governments. CEO of NUS Enterprise Dr Lily Chan will share her insights on the successes and challenges of incubators and accelerators during one such session on deep tech start-ups, together with speakers from WBG, entrepreneurial initiative SiMODiSA South Africa and Singapore-based venture firm SeedPlus. Participants will also have the chance to see pioneering technologies in action with immersive site visits to leading innovators such as NUS Enterprise, the National Library Board and Development Bank of Singapore.