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The democratisation of innovation: Managing technological innovation as if people matter


  • PH Spies

    () (Institute for Futures Research, University of Stellenbosch)


Innovation is the transformation of a new idea or scientific discovery into technology through introducing, applying, and integrating it in common practice. The outcome is that people can progressively do more with the same effort, produce different outcomes with the same artefacts and produce outcomes in new and novel ways. Historically this process favoured the (largely Western-style) industrial world and today some 85 percent of global wealth is owned by just 10 percent of the global population. Empoverished people seem to find themselves in a low level human development trap. The focus of this working paper is on innovation management in less-developed poor communities. Its central hypothesis is that endemic (human-centred) technological innovation rather than ‘technology transfer’ (artefact-centred innovation) can help to alleviate this situation. Two concepts from the natural sciences serve as metaphors for the intrinsic systemic and embodied nature of sustainable technological innovation: • ‘Ecosystem’ to highlight the determining role of interactivity with the circumstances under which people exist; and • ‘Endemic’ to highlight the importance of intrinsic innovativeness as both an outcome and a cause of human development. The paper postulates that the innovation challenge is perhaps less procedural and more conceptual, namely to discover the recursive link between technological innovation and human development. It approaches technological innovation as a holistic, human-centred, systemic process. It argues that effective application of technological artefacts is only possible with the support of a complex system of socio-economic conditions. An outline for conceptualising, planning and managing innovation for human development is presented in the concluding sections of the paper.

Suggested Citation

  • PH Spies, 2013. "The democratisation of innovation: Managing technological innovation as if people matter," Working Papers 09/2013, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers185

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    More about this item


    Innovation; human development; ecosystem; endemic; competence; motivation;

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights

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