Published On: Thu, Nov 8th, 2012


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By Pharm. Nelson Okwonna

 Developing nations with unique features like large market size and growth rate, access to regional markets and skilled/cheap labour, have a lot to offer. Asides serving as consumer nations and probably manufacturing centres due to the relatively cheaperlabour, the earnings of these nations would be greatly increased when they begin to add a relatively cheaper  not only mass-produce but to also add a certain level of originality to their products.


For such nations, their global competitiveness can be greatly increased when it is difficult to find alternatives for their products without violating proprietary rights. In the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry, finding originality would be the next step after achieving an effective manufacturing capacity and the firms that would solve this riddle would be the kings of the future. This has been amply demonstrated in the Indian pharmaceutical industry.


Innovation, however, do not just come about. According to the founder of modern management, Peter F. Drucker, it is a product of a cold-eyed commitment to the source of innovation; it demands deliberate inquiry and organisation.


The term “National Innovation Systems” is used to describe the set of complex processes of interactions between private and public actor-institutions that are involved in the development, transmission, modification and commercialisation of new knowledge and technology within a nation. It is a process-based concept that seeks to evaluate the innovative capacity of a nation from the standpoint of the processes that lead to innovation.


The Innovation system approach is a deviation from the linear approach that evaluates inputs rather than processes. Before the concept of National Innovation Systems became common, a Nation like Nigeria could assess her commitment to developing new technologies and enterprise by measuring the amount of funds committed to research and development, the number of publications from her academic institution, and also by the amount and ease of access to R and D funding by the Industry.


The linear approach assumes that as long as researchers engage in research activities and government provide the right incentivesthat someday, the spark would happen.

This has not been found to be true; experience has shown that the level of interaction between the actors plays a more important part.


It is observed that certain localities happen to have a relatively higher level of innovative capacity. In these regions, nations or parts of a nation, the amount of inputs and the degree of interaction required for innovation to happen has been achieved and sustained. This is seen in the notable trend towards the creation ofspecialised knowledge centresnear leading universities that are oriented towardsresearch and development on particular technologies.


The Silicon Valley in California (near Stanford University and theUniversity of California), a biotechnology cluster in the Boston area (near theMassachusetts Institute of Technology) and a communications cluster in NewJersey (near Princeton University and the former Bell Laboratories) are examples of such innovation-clusters in the United States.


Thequantity and quality of interaction between Actor-institutions could be evaluated along these lines:


  1. Interactions among enterprises, primarily joint research activities and other technical collaborations.


  1. Interactions among enterprises, universities and public research institutes, including joint research, co-patenting, co-publications and more informal linkages.


  1. Diffusion of knowledge and technology to enterprises, including industry adoption rates for new technologies and diffusion through machinery and equipment; and


  1. Personnel mobility, focusing on the movement of technical personnel within and between the public and private sectors.


It has been shown that high levels of technical collaboration, technology diffusion and personnel mobility contribute to the improved innovative capacity of enterprises in terms of products, patents and productivity.


Within the Nigerian Pharmaceutical Industry, the actor-institutions include the pharmaceutical companies, academia, public pharmaceutical research institutions, clinical research centres, technology transfer offices, government, financial institutions, media, and knowledge management consultancy firms.


From my experience in the knowledge management Industry, these actor-institutions have achieved a certain level of development sufficient to be active participants in sustainable innovative frameworks. The missing link is the deliberate commitment to processes that ensure sufficient and effective interactions. This will demand conscious steps to remove the traditional barriers that impede this interactions.


These interactions could be in the form of industry-sponsored research collaborations, contracts, research industry forums and technology prizes initiated by Industry. They could be initiated by either the private or public sector provided that there is sufficient ownership across board.


Given the relatively divergent thought frames that prevail within Industry and pharmaceutical research institutions and the myriad of other concerns that relate to intellectual property management, actor-institutions that promote thisinteraction would have a great role to play in achieving a sustainable innovation system within the Nigerian pharmaceutical sector.


Fig. 1 Schematic Representation of National Innovation Systems


As shown above, at the heart of the National Innovation system is the innovative firm which must find within the myriad of actors, processes and strategies that would result in the profitable development of new products and services. The role of the government would be to stimulate greater inputs across the participating actor-institutions and reduce barriers to interaction.


The Nigerian Science, Technology and Innovation Policy document that was released of late has these words as the statement of commitment from the president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.


”We are going to run our economy based on Science and Technology….because there is nowhere in this World now that you can move your economy without science and technology. For the next 4 years we will emphasize so much on S&T because we have no choice, without that we are just dreaming….”


The President was right; towing the path of innovation is no longer the characteristic high sounding ideals of beady eyed researchers or is it restricted to corporate vision statements hung on the wall to massage the ego of executives and perhaps impress shareholders. Driving innovation in today’s global knowledge economy is basically a question of survival.


For the Nigerian pharmaceutical Industry, it could decide who would be here ten years from now.



  1. Drucker, P.F. (2003). The Discipline of Innovation. In Best of HBR, The Innovative Enterprise, Harvard Business Review, EBSCO Publishing.
  2. Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2011. Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy, September, 2011.
  3. Okwonna, N. 2012. The Heart and Art of Innovation, Onel Media Services, Lagos, Nigeria
  4. Organisation for Economic Co-Operation And Development. 1996.National Innovation Systems, 1996.

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