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International Journal of

International Journal of Technology Management & Sustainable Development | Volume Seven Number One

Volume Seven Number One

ISSN 1474-2748
Technology Management
& Sustainable Development 7.1
Volume 7 Number 1 – 2008

3–17 Assessing a rural innovation system: Low-input rice in Central China
J. David Reece International Journal of
19–38 Determinants of the adoption of technological innovations by logistics

service providers in China
Chieh-Yu Lin
Innovation and entrepreneurship in Brazilian universities
Mariza Almeida
59–70 Knowledge proximity and technological relatedness in offshore oil
and gas and offshore wind technology in the United Kingdom
Zahid A. Memon and Roshan S. Rashdi Management
& Sustainable
71–89 Partenariat public-privé en Tunisie: Les conditions de succès et d’échec
Amira Bouhamed and Jamil Chaabouni

Event Report
91–93 Global student innovators workshop: Opening the way for product

inspiration and sustainability
Caroline Cottrill and Tony Houghton

Book Reviews
Reviews by James Smith and Julius Mugwagwa

intellect Journals | Media & Culture


ISSN 1474-2748

The International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development

9 771474 274006 is published with the cooperation of the Association of Commonwealth Universities
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The International Journal of Technology

Management & Sustainable Development
Volume 7 Number 1
The International Journal of Technology Management & Sustainable Editors
Development (IJTM&SD) is a refereed academic journal dedicated Mohammed Saad
to publishing high quality, original and research-based papers University of the West of England,
addressing issues arising from the relationship between technology School of Operations Management,
and development. It seeks to provide expert and interdisciplinary Bristol Business School,
insight into the technology dimension of international development, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK
E-mail: Mohammed.Saad@uwe.ac.uk
and by doing so, aims to advance contemporary knowledge about
the empirical and theoretical aspects of technology management Girma Zawdie
and sustainable development from the vantage point of developing David Livingstone Centre for
countries. Sustainability (DLCS),
University of Strathclyde,
Glasgow G4 0NG, UK
E-mail: g.zawdie@strath.ac.uk
Editorial Advisory Board
P. B. Anand University of Bradford, UK Associate Editor
John Bessant University of London, Imperial College, UK Norman G Clark
African Centre of Technology Studies
Ajit S. Bhalla Genève, Switzerland
(ACTS) Nairobi Kenya E-mail:
Calestous Juma Harvard University, USA norman18542@yahoo.co.uk
Henry Etzkowitz Newcastle University, UK
Michael Gibbons University of Sussex, Science Policy Research Reviews Editor
Unit, UK James Smith
Andrew Hall UNU-INTECH, Maastricht, Netherlands Centre of African Studies and
Paul Hyland The University of Queensland School of ESRC Innogen Research Centre,
Natural and Rural Systems University of Edinburgh,
21 George Square, Edinburgh,
Management, Australia
Scotland. EH8 9LD, UK.
Eric Hyman African Development Foundation,
E-mail: james.smith@ed.ac.uk
Washington D.C., USA
John Kirkland Association of Commonwealth Universities, UK Editorial Assistant
Jean-Michel Larrasquet ESTIA – Technopole Izarbel, France Frances Jefferies
John Mugabe NEPAD Science & Technology Commission, Quality Assurance Administrator,
Pretoria, South Africa Bristol Business School, 2C13,
Lynn Mytelka UNU-INTECH, Maastricht, Netherlands University of the West of England,
Bristol BS16 1QY, UK
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Tel: + 44 (0)117 328 5204
John Rice University of Canberra, Australia
E-mail: Frances.Jefferies@uwe.ac.uk
Joyce Tait University of Edinburgh, UK
Italo Trevisan Universita Degli Studi Di Trento, Italy
Judi Wakhungu African Centre for Technology Studies, Kenya ISSN 1474-2748
David Wield Open University, UK
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Notes for Contributors

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Manuscripts and editorial communications:

Dr Mohammed Saad, University of the West of England, School of Operations Management,
Bristol Business School, Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK. E-mail: Mohammed.Saad@uwe.ac.uk
Dr Girma Zawdie, David Livingstone Centre for Sustainability (DLCS),
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, G4 0NG, UK. E-mail: g.zawdie@strath.ac.uk.
Books for review:
Dr James Smith, Centre of African Studies and ESRC Innogen Research Centre,
University of Edinburgh, 21 George Square,Edinburgh, Scotland. EH8 9LD, UK.
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International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development

Volume 7 Number 1 © 2008 Intellect Ltd
Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/ijtm7.1.3/1

Assessing a rural innovation system:

Low-input rice in Central China
J. David Reece Devon Development Education Centre

Abstract Keywords
Following China’s ‘Green Revolution’, public policy now aims to maintain high Sustainable
yields while reducing the amounts of water and agro-chemicals used by agricul- agriculture
ture and so to lower costs and minimise environmental damage. This goal is research policy
pursued by supporting biotechnology-based research to develop new crops with biotechnology
the required characteristics, but the innovation systems framework suggests that hybrid rice
a range of non-research actors are also essential for these efforts to lead to practi- insect resistance
cal changes. This article therefore examines what the new policy direction means genetic modification
for university-based researchers, whether such research is set within an institu- public-private
tional context of the kind necessary for effective innovation, and whether the partnership
various actors involved shared the goals of the new policy. It reports that the university-industry
study area possesses all the elements needed for an effective innovation system; collaboration
but that the various actors in place lack the agreement on objectives that is
required for effective innovation.

In the wake of China’s ‘Green Revolution’, the goals of public policy towards
agricultural research have changed. Yields high enough to feed China’s
large population have been achieved (IRRI 2005) but only through the
use of very high levels of agro-chemical inputs (FAO 2005). Research
policy has responded to the high environmental and other costs resulting
from this style of agriculture, and rather than pursuing further yield
increases, it now aims to find ways to maintain these yields while reducing
the amounts of water and agro-chemicals used by agriculture. These goals
are mainly being pursued by means of agricultural biotechnology, with
substantial investments in applied genomics and genetic modification
(Wang, Xue, and Li 2005; Huang, Wang et al. 2001).
Will this new policy lead to practical change? There is a general con-
sensus amongst observers of technical change that effective innovation
requires contributions from a range of diverse actors and institutions, not
just researchers and their organisations (Hall et al. 2001; Sumberg 2005;
Spielman 2006). In this case, action is needed from researchers (develop-
ing new technologies); from farmers (making use of those new technolo-
gies) and also from organisations able to provide the new technologies to

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large numbers of farmers. A useful framework for analysing this kind of

situation is offered by the Innovation Systems (IS) approach (Hall and
Rasheed 2002), in which research becomes just one element of a wider
process of transforming new knowledge into goods and services. Authors
using this framework have stressed the importance of varied actors
involved in innovation and of the relationships that link these actors and
have highlighted the ways in which public policy may modify such rela-
tionships. It follows that the new direction in research policy will only
have practical results if actors with the appropriate capabilities are present
and are willing to take part in the process of innovation.
The research on which this article is based therefore began by enquiring
how the new direction of research policy was affecting the work of univer-
sity-based agricultural researchers. It then sought to establish whether the
institutional context included actors other than researchers, with the capa-
bilities required to complement research and to transform research results
into innovations. Finally, it sought to assess whether such actors shared the
goals of the new policy, at least to the extent necessary for them to take part
in the related process of innovation. Field research began in three universi-
ties (although only two are discussed in this article), all of which had
received significant research funding under the policy initiatives in question
and so were engaged in developing new crop varieties that could be used in
low-input agricultural systems. All three are located in the city of Wuhan,
which lies at the heart of an important rice-growing region and has a long
tradition of applied research. Semi-structured interviews were conducted
with scientists undertaking relevant research in these universities, and in
the course of these interviews, they were asked to identify any off-campus
organisations that played an important part in the practical application of
their work. Through these and other means, a number of key stakeholders
were identified, and wherever possible, interviews were also conducted with
one of their senior managers.
The next section of this article describes relevant work in two of the
universities studied, exploring the ways in which researchers in contrast-
ing environments have responded to objectives set by the government and
noting that the immediate users and beneficiaries of this work have few
opportunities to influence what is done by the researchers. The article
then explores the ways in which researchers in these universities are
linked to the (intended) users of their work. Universities are not well-
placed to disseminate new seeds and related technical information to large
numbers of farmers. This task has traditionally been given to publicly-
funded extension services, but policy-makers in China (and in many other
developing countries) have seen the extension service as being ineffective
and in need of reform. Privatisation and the discipline of market forces
have been widely advocated as a means of improving the performance of
extension services. Within China, agricultural extension is the responsibility
of the government of each province, and so arrangements vary between
different regions. In the province studied, the extension service had in

4 J. David Reece
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1977 been divided into a seed company and a regulator. About 160 com-
panies compete with each other to sell rice seed in this province, with the
regulator ensuring that competition is fair as well as disseminating techni-
cal information to farmers.
The transition to a more sustainable form of agriculture is likely to
require complementary actions from these different kinds of actor.
However, the evidence presented in this article suggests that the percep-
tions and priorities of these stakeholders are markedly different from those
underlying research policy, and therefore raises serious doubts as to
whether the researcher and other stakeholders jointly possess the coher-
ence of objectives required for an innovation system to function.

Applied research in the universities

Wuhan University
Wuhan University houses the Key Laboratory of the Ministry of Education
for Plant Developmental Biology and Institute of Genetics, College of Life
Sciences. Its mission is to undertake fundamental research rather than to
apply the results of such research, and this was stressed by interviewees:
Professor Yang stated ‘the government also told us to pursue, so many
funding to support this fundamental research’, while Professor He stressed
that it was ‘really difficult’ for him to do plant breeding because ‘Wuhan
University is not an agricultural university . . . what’s important is doing
the basic research’.
Despite this institutional orientation to basic research, the Key
Laboratory has responded to the practical needs of China. We shall con-
sider two research initiatives: the development of a new form of hybrid
rice; and the discovery of new genes that enable the rice plant to resist
attack by its most serious insect pest. Both of these projects were made
possible by the University’s long-standing interest in wild rice and its
extensive collection of this kind of germplasm.

Hybrid rice
The development of hybrid rice enabled China’s farmers to increase yields
by up to 20 per cent and so helped to avert the risk of famine. Now,
hybrid seed is produced when a female parent is fertilised by pollen from a
plant of another line or variety, and so it is vital that the female parent
does not produce viable pollen (otherwise it will simply fertilise itself).
Such lines are rare, and because their male sterility is produced by abnor-
malities in the DNA of their cytoplasm they are known as cytoplasmic
male-sterile (CMS) lines. The hybrid rice that was first introduced to
Chinese agriculture relied on Wild Abortive (WA) CMS lines, but these pro-
duced grain of lower quality than conventional high-yielding varieties.
A team led by Professor Zhu Yingguo began research on hybrid rice in the
1970s (at the time when it was first cultivated on a large scale) and
discovered a new form of CMS in a wild rice line from the University’s
collection. This discovery made possible the production of a different kind

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of rice hybrid, which was named Hong Lian (HL), the Chinese words for
Red Lotus.
While the HL rice hybrid was initially of purely academic interest (and
so an appropriate object of study for a university whose primary mission
was the conduct of basic research), in the 1980s the goals of research
policy changed, giving more emphasis to rice quality as well as the quan-
tity produced. And HL offered higher grain quality than the more widely-
used WA hybrid rice, meaning that farmers could charge higher prices for
their harvests. It also offered yields that were 5 per cent higher than those
possible using WA hybrid rice (interview with Professors Zhu and Yang).
The development of an HL hybrid that could be cultivated on a large scale
was therefore financed by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST),
and this was achieved in 1997 when Honglianyou 6 (Red Lotus number
6) was first produced. This line, which MoST described as resulting from a
cross between ‘Hainan Hongmang wild rice and regular hybrid rice’, then
underwent extensive testing before the certificate permitting its commer-
cial cultivation was awarded by the Hubei Provincial Agricultural Crop
Species Assessment Committee (MoST 2002).
Commercial cultivation began in 2001. Initially, the university directly
provided seeds to farmers, but did not have the capital and other resources
required to produce seeds on a large scale, and was not assisted by the gov-
ernment. Large-scale production only became possible after the university
formed a partnership with the private sector to market Red Lotus number 6.
This partnership began when the university’s College of Life Sciences
formed a college-business committee and held an open day to show off its
technologies to prospective business partners. An entrepreneur met
Professor Zhu at this open day, and they agreed to form a new company.
Ownership of the new company was divided between the university
and a group of anonymous investors: even Professor He (interview), who
at the time was the Dean of the College of Life Sciences, did not know the
source of this capital. The university received a 30 per cent stake in the
company in return for the Honglianyou 6 technology, since Chinese law
specifies that in such cases the value of the ‘technical investment’ is
limited to 30 per cent. The company is run by a professional management
team, and the university does not interfere in its development, although some
academics serve on its board and provide it with technical consultancy
services. With adequate capital and an excellent product, the company
developed rapidly, particularly because it was able to use the university’s
reputation to promote its product. In return, it provides additional funds
for the university (used to support further research, including the develop-
ment of new products for the company) as well as professional fees for the
individual academics who provide it with services.
Even as HL CMS rice was being used to develop and commercialise the
Red Lotus number 6 hybrid, fundamental research on it continued, now
aided by the molecular tools that have become available since the early
1990s. Professor Zhu and his colleagues established that HL male sterility

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resulted from the presence of a specific sequence in the mitochondrial DNA, 1 No record was kept
a sequence unique to HL-sterile cytoplasm that they described as a ‘new of the precise identity
of the o. officinalis
chimeric gene’ (p744) and named orfH79 (Yi et al. 2002). Knowledge of this accession used, nor
sequence enabled them to develop a range of molecular marker systems (first of where it had been
RAPD, then SSR, now SNP) to predict the presence of HL male sterility. They
then used these markers to screen germplasm collections to identify new
materials, with other desirable traits, that also possessed HL male sterility
and so could be used to breed a new generation of hybrids. The traits that
were of greatest interest included stable disease resistance, particularly to
Blast. At the same time, increased yield continued to be a priority and so
efforts were made to find suitable germplasm exhibiting traits that would
make this possible: these included strong stems and root systems (to reduce
lodging) as well as enhanced capacity for photosynthesis.
New breeding materials identified in this way, together with new mole-
cular tools for breeding (molecular markers), were used to develop the
next generation of their product, Red Lotus number 8. The traits that were
chosen for this new product reflect the priorities of Professor Zhu and his
colleagues, priorities chosen in response to signals from MoST and MoA
about the changing needs of Chinese agriculture. This hybrid thus com-
bines high yield with improved quality for the consumer. It reaches matu-
rity about seven days earlier than other rice hybrids, a trait resulting from
gamma-ray induced mutation, and it displays some resistance to Blast,
although no efforts were made to give it resistance to the Brown Plant-
Hopper, an omission that is surprising in view of the university’s expertise
in managing resistance to this pest (see below).

Resistance to brown plant-hopper

The Brown Plant-Hopper (BPH) is generally regarded as being the most
serious insect pest of rice: in China, it affects 13 million hectares of rice-
lands. It is natural that China’s new research policy, whose objectives
include reducing insecticide use, includes support for work that could lead
to the development of rice lines resistant to BPH. Professor He’s work on
the genetics of BPH resistance has therefore received official support. With
this support he succeeded in introgressing two genes for BPH resistance
into domesticated rice, mapping their loci within the rice genome, and
developing markers for these genes.
Professor He was already interested in the introgression of desirable
traits from wild relatives of rice when in 1994 he joined Wuhan University,
which already held an extensive collection of the germplasm of wild rela-
tives of rice. This collection included accessions of Oryza officinalis, a wild
rice species that was known to be highly resistant to BPH. A wide cross
had already been made between an accession of O. officinalis collected in
China and the cultivar Zhenshan 97B, as the first step in transferring the
BPH resistance into cultivated rice.1 A number of BPH-resistant lines were
selected from the progeny of this cross, one of which, termed ‘B5’, showed
strong resistance to both biotypes 1 and 2 of BPH.

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In a joint project between Wuhan University and Huazhong Agricultural

University (see below), B5 was crossed with the indica cultivar ‘Minghui
63’ to produce a mapping population of 250 hybrid plants (Huang, He
et al. 2001). These plants were exposed to insect attack and the damage
sustained by each plant was observed. DNA from highly resistant and from
highly susceptible plants was compared, and these results indicated the
existence of two BPH resistance genes located on chromosomes 3 and 4,
respectively. DNA from each of the 250 hybrid plants was then tested with
additional markers from chromosomes 3 and 4. The results of these tests
indicated the positions of two loci at which alleles from B5, the resistant
parent, significantly reduced the damage caused by insect attack. These
two loci acted essentially independently of each other in determining BPH
resistance and therefore constitute genes. Moreover, they are distinct from
at least nine of the ten BPH resistance genes previously characterised, and
so represent a new means of protecting rice from insect damage.
Germplasm including these genes, together with the molecular linkage
map and markers developed in the course of the project, make it possible for
breeders to incorporate them into new rice cultivars by means of marker-
assisted selection (MAS). Professor He provided this germplasm and associ-
ated markers without charge to prospective users throughout China and
listed seven institutes that were using it in their breeding. However, none of
these institutes had yet developed a cultivable variety incorporating his
material, since a number of obstacles remained to be overcome.
Perhaps the most serious such obstacle was the need, after crossing resis-
tant material with an elite rice cultivar, to test each generation of seedlings for
BPH resistance so that susceptible material can be removed from the breeding
programme. In order to do so, it was necessary to maintain a population of
virulent insects, and special skills are required to keep an insect population
alive through the winter. Again, the BPH only attacks rice under particular
weather conditions, and only during one of the four phases of its life-cycle, so
skills are required to replicate the relevant weather conditions and ensure
that the insects are virulent prior to conducting tests of resistance. Such skills
were generally not available at the plant-breeding institutes in question.
While Professor He and his colleagues did possess the relevant skills, this insti-
tute emphasises basic research and is not an Agricultural University, so that
this team was discouraged from engaging in plant-breeding.
While the task of plant-breeding using the newly-discovered resistance
genes was delegated to institutes for applied research, the team at Wuhan
University proceeded with fundamental research on the mechanism
underlying BPH resistance in rice. Map-based cloning, they argued, ‘repre-
sents the most promising approach to isolating BPH resistance genes and
elucidating the molecular mechanism of BPH resistance in rice’ (Yang et al.
2004). To this end, they produced a high-resolution genetic map of the
region of chromosome 4 around one of the newly-discovered resistance
genes. This large-scale project involved screening 9,472 plants in order to
position 21 DNA markers in the target chromosomal region. The authors

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note in passing that the ‘closely-linked molecular markers developed in

this study should be very useful in marker-aided breeding programs
against BPH’ (p189), although they make it clear that fundamental
research is their main objective.

Huazhong Agricultural University (HAU)

Established in 1952 by the merger of a number of agricultural colleges in
Central China, this agricultural university is directly administered by the
(national) ministry of education. It has well-established expertise in crop-
breeding and genetics, together with strengths in plant molecular biology.
It therefore provided a suitable setting for the National Key Laboratory of
Crop Genetic Improvement, which was founded in 1994 by the State
Planning Commission and partly financed by the Ministry of Agriculture.
To this was added the National Centre of Plant Gene Research, which was
founded in 2005. The work of these two institutes is closely linked, with
both being directed by the same person, Professor Zhang Qifa.
Professor Zhang (interviewed December 2005) explained that the
research agenda of these institutes reflects national policy objectives and
so involves finding ways to reduce the environmental impact of agricul-
ture while maintaining output. Ultimately, their work is intended to make
possible ‘a revolution which is to reduce the negative impact of the green
revolution, so we call it a second green revolution’. This will involve devel-
oping technologies that are ‘low input, high output, environmentally
friendly’, and so research targets those traits that make such technologies
possible: disease and insect resistance, drought tolerance, efficient use of
nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) to reduce the need for fertiliser as
well as quality and yield.
To implement this research agenda, HAU has the world’s ‘biggest team
in rice research’ apart from the International Rice Research Institute
(IRRI), with ‘a structure where people can research, where people can sort
of transform, making transitions of technology to breeding, and people to
do breeding. So that is why we have such a structure. Actually it is basically
the structure of a company, a biotechnology company’. However, HAU
lacks the skills in production and business management and the access to
capital that a comparable biotechnology company would have.
Research, then, is on three levels: basic research, developing technology
for improved crops and crop-breeding. ‘One approach is basic research, so
that research addresses the issues behind these [needed] traits’. This
approach embraces work on the functional genomics of the desired traits,
conducted to identify the relevant genes. ‘So with those traits, so that is one
part of the research. So that is upper-edge. And the middle-edge is the ways
for developing technology for improved crops’. This includes germplasm
discovery and involves evaluating rice germplasm from a range of sources
to find breeding lines that exhibit the traits that are needed. This work
makes possible the discovery of genes for the traits in question, and hence
the development of linked molecular markers. Indeed, ‘we have markers

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and mappings to identify the genes that might be interesting and we also
have transformation technology and genes for transformation. So that is a
middle range, we have three people, one person working on germplasm,
another on molecular markers, a third on transformation technology’.
HAU thus searches seed collections for desirable genes and does so
mainly by examining their DNA rather than by studying complete plants.
This approach has become feasible over the last decade and makes possible
the discovery of ‘recessive’ genes. It is forcefully advocated by (Tanksley and
McCouch 1997) Tanksley and McCouch (1997: 1063), who assert that
‘there is tremendous genetic potential locked up in seed banks that can be
released only by shifting the paradigm from searching for phenotypes to
searching for superior genes with the aid of molecular linkage maps’.
‘So there we have breeders. We have a breeder who is breeding, actu-
ally field breeding. He has a background in conventional breeding, comes
to grasp the technology together with the whole team’. The breeder had
already developed high-yielding hybrids that had been commercialised by
private-sector seed companies. He described projects that aimed to improve
rice quality and to introgress genes for resistance to the diseases blast, rust
and bacterial leaf blight (BLB) from wild relatives of rice.
A series of such projects involved work with the parents of Shanyou 63,
an elite hybrid prized for its high yield and broad adaptability. The team
used MAS to introduce a pair of genes for BLB resistance into Minghui 63,
its restorer line (Chen et al. 2000). Working jointly with IRRI over the same
period, they used genetic modification to introduce a Chinese-created BT
gene into Minghui 63 to improve its resistance to insect pests. They then
verified that both the transformed Minghui 63 and Shanyou 63 derived
from it, showed high resistance to yellow stem borer and to leaf-folder
without reduced yield (Tu et al. 2000). These two new forms of Minghui 63
were then crossed, and the progeny examined at both a whole-plant and at
a molecular level to select derived lines that combined resistance to insects
and to BLB (Jiang et al. 2004). Meanwhile, work proceeded on Zhenshan 97,
the other parent of Shanyou 63. An allele from Minghui 63 changed its
amylose content and so improved its cooking and eating quality. MAS was
then used to introgress two genes for blast resistance.
Resistance to the brown plant-hopper (the most serious insect pest of
rice) was then incorporated into both parents, starting with germplasm that
had previously been discovered at Wuhan University (see above). Wuhan
University supplied introgression lines, together with a fine genetic map
showing the relevant loci, and so HAU was able to make use of MAS. HAU is
now conducting a series of back-crosses to develop stable parental lines and
so produce hybrid rice that incorporates this trait. This work is time con-
suming and also requires considerable skills in breeding and selection, since
durable resistance must be combined with desirable agronomic characteris-
tics, and even when the work has been completed, it will be necessary to test
the new hybrid’s field performance and obtain a certificate of good quality
from the provincial seed bureau before commercial production can begin.

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The development of new varieties and hybrids is constrained by the fact

that HAU only has one rice-breeder. Yet, as Professor Zhang explained, ‘in
a university you cannot have too many breeders in a single team’. The
university is therefore collaborating with the private sector to expand its
breeding function and so has set up a seed company using capital provided
by its commercial partner.

Links with stakeholders

This section examines the relationships between the research institutes
discussed above and their main stakeholders. As we shall see, research
objectives reflect the priorities of the government (which pays for the
research). Other stakeholders had different objectives but were not in a
position to influence the research agenda. We shall consider information
about seed companies, farmers, the provincial seed bureau (regulator) and
even the investors who capitalised HAU’s seed company, none of whom
apparently shared the stated objectives of national policy.
Research, both at Wuhan University and at HAU, is almost entirely
financed by organs of China’s central government, with some additional
support from the Rockefeller Foundation. Provincial government, farmers
and the seed industry, the immediate beneficiaries of this work, have
provided minimal support. Local seed companies do pay royalties in return
for exclusive licenses to market high-yielding hybrids that the university
has developed, but the breeder made it clear that the sums involved were
too small to cover the costs of development: ‘Very little: maybe five to ten
percent of the value to give to the university. How can we get this money
to do the research’?
Decisions about research objectives reflect the characteristics of the
institute where it is performed and the way in which the work is funded.
Research at Wuhan University was thus presented as being primarily of
academic interest, while its practical value was downplayed. At HAU,
however, the research agenda was driven by public policy. The rice
breeder there explained that information about what new crop varieties
are needed is provided both by seed company managers and by govern-
ment officials but that he and his colleagues concentrated on achieving
the goals stated by the government ‘because every year the government
gives some money to us’. A germplasm specialist confirmed that although
‘the information of the demands of the farmer is given by the seed
company’, when it came to choosing research objectives ‘we are . . . fol-
lowing the Ministry of Agriculture, maybe they have some announce-
ment for us in some targets that must be focused on’. Seed companies,
however, had less opportunity to influence the choice of breeding targets.
The breeder described the relationship with seed companies as being
distant and beginning only once the research is completed: ‘we will invite
several company managers to come to see our variety experiment (yield
trials)’. If the company is interested, a mutually acceptable royalty is

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2 For wheat in The research agenda at HAU, with its ecological focus, thus reflects the
northern China, for concerns of the government rather than those of other stakeholders. There
example, it would be
optimal to apply is little or no evidence that these concerns are shared by farmers or the
20 kg/ha of seed industry. The widespread over-use of agro-chemicals suggests that
nitrogenous fertiliser
at 160 days, but there is very little farmers demand for new crop varieties that would
actual application require lower levels of inputs than at present.2 The university’s germplasm
rates are 150 kg/ha
(Chen et al. 2006). specialist also doubted whether there would be much farmer interest in
And for rice, Peng the new varieties that he was working to develop: ‘but for the farmer,
et al (2006)
maybe they have a low thinking, so they just want to have a high yield,
experiments in and maybe have a good resistance to the disease . . . is OK’.
farmers’ fields in four Similarly, the main interest of the seed industry seemed to be in traits
major rice-growing
provinces in China such as high yield, high rates of photosynthesis and rapid growth to matu-
and found that while rity. A leading seed company (formerly part of the provincial extension
farmers were applying
180-240 kg/ha of service) was paying substantial sums of money for the development of new
nitrogenous fertiliser, rice hybrids with characteristics such as these.3 The company’s general
maximum yield was
achieved mostly at the manager, who is also a director of the China Seed Trade Association and
significantly lower so expresses views that are likely to be widely held within the industry,
level of 60-120 kg/ha.
And fertiliser (over)
thus stated in interview that all farmers needed high-yielding hybrid rice,
use varies between even those with poor land. ‘You’re a farmer, . . . you have to make your soil
regions, with more nutritious for plants, right, so the farmer has to improve the quality
inadequate amounts
applied to 40 per cent of the soil to be valuable . . . to be farmed. If you just depend on the natural
of agricultural land soil without any improvements, of course, the yield will be very, very low’.
and excessive
amounts applied to He is critical of the advocates of low-input agriculture: ‘ecosystem preser-
the remaining 60 per vation is a kind of fashionable term [but] that can only work in America or
cent (Zhang 2004).
European countries. They have less population [pressure]’.
3 Interestingly, these
payments were being
Although their priorities differ from those of HAU, both farmers and the
made to individual seed industry appear to be very interested in the BT rice (genetically modified)
breeders working for that the former has developed. This rice has passed a range of laboratory and
a number of
universities (including field trials, but permission to commercialise it has not yet been granted.4 Late
University B), and in 2004, however, Newsweek magazine claimed that a ‘local’ company had
amounted to annual
amounts of got hold of some of this seed and begun selling it, so that at that time it
US$20,000 to each was being grown on more than 100 ha (Simons 2004).5 This disclosure
breeder during the
development phase, in prompted an investigation by the campaigning group Greenpeace, which
addition to royalties later claimed that 950–1,200 tons of genetically modified rice entered the
on sales of successful
food chain in 2004 and that ‘up to’ 29 tons of genetically modified rice seed
would be sold in Hubei in 2005 (Greenpeace 2006). While these estimates
4 Field trials of
genetically modified may well have been inflated for political effect, they do serve to indicate that a
organisms must be substantial market would exist for this seed if its commercialisation were per-
licensed by the
Biosafety Office in the mitted. And it did seem that commercialisation was about to be permitted.
Ministry of Persistent reports indicated that the December 2004 meeting of the Biosafety
Decisions to permit
Committee would recommend or had already recommended granting permis-
commercialisation sion (Lei 2004; Robertson 2005), although the proceedings of that meeting
should be taken by an have not officially been disclosed (Keeley 2006). These developments created
Committee with a climate captured by Chen Zhang Liang, president of China Agricultural
representatives from University, who reportedly promised the private sector high returns on invest-
the Ministry of
Agriculture, the State ment in GM rice (China Business Weekly 2005).

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The decision to permit the commercial cultivation of genetically engi- Development and
neered rice can only be taken at the very highest political level (Keeley Reform Commission,
the Ministry of
2006). However, demand for the other environmentally-friendly products Science and
of HAU’s research could be created by policy action at a local level, since Technology, the
Ministry of
the Provincial Seed Bureau is well placed to change the priorities of farmers Commerce, the
and of seed companies. This agency is responsible for regulating the seed Ministry of Health,
the General
market and disseminating practical information to farmers. Rice seed may Administration of
only be offered for sale once the Bureau has tested it and issued a certifi- Quality Supervision,
Inspection and
cate that it is of satisfactory quality. Furthermore, the Bureau advises Quarantine, and the
farmers which (certified) seeds are ‘best’, and how they should be grown. State Environmental
However, the criteria that it uses when deciding whether to grant a certifi- Protection
cate do not relate to the ecological impact of cultivating the variety in (Keeley 2006).
question but rather concern the quality of the seed (moisture content; rate 5 The article named
of germination; accuracy of labelling) and the yields that it provides for the Professor Zhang as
the source of this
farmer. Similar criteria inform the selection of the ‘best’ varieties for pro- information, although
motion to farmers throughout the province, while little or no considera- he has made it clear
that he was
tion is given to the environmental concerns of the central government. misquoted.
Faced with this apparent lack of interest in practical application of
6 The first of these
its research results, as well as the expectation that a large and profitable failed partnerships
market for its genetically engineered rice was about to open, HAU responded had been with a
company selling
by forming its own seed company at the end of 2004. This initiative was ‘health’ drinks, the
informed by the vision of a seed company unlike any then existing in second with a real
estate company.
China, of a Chinese Monsanto. Implementing such a grandiose vision
required significant finance, and so HAU turned to the private sector for
the necessary capital. Since China’s seed companies (like seed companies
in most of the world) are generally poorly capitalised, the university had to
look for partners operating in other sectors and so with limited under-
standing of agriculture. The relationships that resulted proved problem-
atic, mainly as a result of the gulf between the two sides of the partnership.
In the first year of the company’s operation, two successive partnerships
collapsed and a third was formed.6
Describing these relationships, which Professor Zhang termed ‘a mar-
riage between science and capital’, he explained that ‘we have different
ways, different views of development and different interests’. The commer-
cial partners did not share the university’s knowledge or its vision for the
future of the enterprise. As a result of this difference, ‘it’s very difficult to
reach a common understanding, although we talk and then it seems we
have common understanding, but in reality, when it comes into practice, it
seems we don’t have common understanding’.
In particular, each of the commercial partners wanted an unrealisti-
cally quick return on its investment: ‘they don’t have the patience to wait
several years to get the seed; they want the money before they put down
any money’. Financial returns were far less important to the university,
since its work was supported by the government. This meant that its staff
would not lose anything if the seed company failed to make a profit,
although ‘if the capital makes money, then they may get some money for

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themselves’. The university’s priority was different: ‘I’m only interested in

seeing what we have been doing be useful to agriculture’. Unfortunately,
this concern was apparently not shared by its commercial partners.

This article has confirmed that the universities studied were undertaking
research that was consistent with China’s new policy for agricultural
innovation, although the goals of this policy were perhaps at variance with
the ‘mission’ of one of the universities, which was defined in terms of a
commitment to fundamental research. More broadly, it examined other
actors that play a part in the process of agricultural innovation and so
assessed whether the province studied possesses an innovation system
capable of implementing the new policy. Two points are immediately
apparent: the province studied possesses all the elements needed for an
effective innovation system; but the various actors in place lack the agree-
ment on objectives that is required for effective innovation.
With regard to the first point, we note the presence of publicly-funded
universities performing applicable research and enjoying commercial
relationships with seed companies and venture capitalists. An effective regu-
latory regime is in place, with defined standards for seed quality and charac-
teristics being rigorously enforced. However, the division of labour that is
implicit in the differing missions of these actors is somewhat puzzling. As we
saw, Wuhan University is supposed to undertake ‘basic’ research; HAU is
supposed to apply the results of such research and develop new crops, which
can then be mass-produced and marketed by the seed industry. However, the
example of BPH resistance showed that the skills required to undertake
‘basic’ research (in this case the ability to maintain a viable insect popula-
tion) were also essential for breeding crops with this trait, so that such plant-
breeding might have been performed more effectively at Wuhan University
than in other institutes. Equally, the ‘applied’ work on a new form of hybrid
rice led directly to fundamental research on the molecular basis of HL male
sterility, which in turn provided tools to facilitate the development of new
rice hybrids. Turning to the work of HAU, the projects discussed involve
genetic modification and so commercialisation of the crops that they are
developing is not at present permitted. In the meantime, their main impact
has been the large number of publications in high impact factor journals
that they have produced, a measure that is usually more appropriate for
assessing ‘basic’ scientific research. These experiences suggest that ‘basic’
and ‘applied’ research are so closely related that attempts to separate them
at an institutional level are unlikely to prove helpful.
The division between research (in universities) and industry could also
prove problematic, since it limits the ability of industry to recognise new
technological opportunities to respond to market demands. This weakness
was a feature of each of the three models of university-industry collabora-
tion that were encountered. Wuhan University had first developed and
commercialised a new product, and then formed a company around it.

14 J. David Reece
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The company remains entirely dependent on the university for its

new product development, and so is not in a position to use customer
(farmer) feedback to inform the characteristics of new products. University
researchers said that it was a valuable source of finance for further
research but not of information about the traits that should be incorpo-
rated into future products. Such technological dependence of the company
upon the university was also a feature of HAU, which not only defines the
products to be offered by its seed company but even (unlike Wuhan
University) manages its company’s production and marketing activities.
This arrangement contrasts with the practice of the ‘leading’ seed company,
which itself decides how to respond to its customers’ requirements and pays
for the development of new crops with the required traits. Virtually all the
research that it requires is contracted out to university researchers, with its
own in-house breeders concentrating on near-routine activities (described
in interview as ‘production of parental lines’) and not undertaking the
applied research activities that companies in other contexts would perform
in-house. Working in this way may limit the research that the company
commissions, since it is unlikely to be aware of relevant scientific develop-
ments and so may be slow to realise that new opportunities exist for
research to find solutions to the problems faced by its customers.
HAU continues to rely on venture capital to finance the development of
its company. It is remarkable that in the space of a year three successive
companies were willing to invest in this venture: the new company did not
(yet) have any distinctive new products; its strategic objectives were not a
response to market demand and not formed by commercial considerations;
and the seed sector provides neither the rate nor the rapidity of return on
investment that these companies expected. The willingness of these com-
panies to invest may perhaps be understood as recognition of the scientific
prowess of HAU, together with a general faith in technology and a deter-
mination to exploit the new opportunities expected to arise from the com-
mercialisation of GM rice.
More generally, the relationships between universities and seed compa-
nies are ambiguous and require further research. It is curious that while
the royalties that seed companies pay to universities at an institutional level
are apparently too small to influence their research agenda, the payments
made to individual breeders working for universities seem to be sufficient
for the breeders to develop varieties that meet the companies’ needs. It is
not clear how the breeders’ time and other research resources are divided
between these two very different research agendas.
With regard to the second point, it is clear that the environmental
agenda of the national government and the universities is not shared by seed
companies, farmers, or even by the seed bureau (regulator). The position
of the latter is at first sight surprising, since the seed bureau is also a public
agency and so could be expected to implement public policy. However, the
seed bureau is an organ of provincial government and so is not linked to
the ministries of the national government. In fact, the powers of the seed

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bureau could enable it to play a decisive role in reducing the environmen-

tal impact of agriculture, since it could refuse to certify seeds that required
above-average levels of agro-chemicals (and so prevent their sale), promote
seeds that performed well with low levels of inputs and so give a commercial
advantage to the suppliers of such seeds, and disseminate information to
farmers about the feasibility and benefits of low-input agriculture. Actions
of this kind would be likely to create demand for the kinds of technologies
that the national government wishes to be used.
Government policy, however, has acted only to increase the supply of
environment-friendly crop varieties and has not included measures to
stimulate demand for such technologies. Since these technologies are being
developed for the sake of the environment rather than to meet user needs,
demand for them may not develop once they are available to users. Indeed,
there is no evidence that such demand exists, and so public policy mea-
sures to stimulate demand are essential if these technologies are ever to be
put to practical use.

This research was part of the work of the ESRC Genomics Network. I would like to
thank my Chinese hosts for their gracious hospitality and my informants and inter-
viewees for giving away their time so generously. I am especially grateful to Professor
Zhang Qifa for his considered and thought-provoking comments on an earlier
version of this article and to Gao Lili for help and support throughout the research
process. All responsibility for the content of this article must rest with the author.

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Suggested citation
Reece, D. (2008), ‘Assessing a rural innovation system: Low-input rice in Central
China’, International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development
7: 1, pp. 3–17, doi: 10.1386/ijtm.7.1.3/1

Contributor details
Dr. David Reece is a Trustee of Devon’s Development Education Centre. Contact:
The Global Centre, 17 St David’s Hill, Exeter, Devon, EX4 3RG, UK.
E-mail: faithful_frodo@yahoo.co.uk

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TMSD-7_1-02-Lin.qxp 5/16/08 7:15 PM Page 19

International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development

Volume 7 Number 1 © 2008 Intellect Ltd
Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/ijtm7.1.19/1

Determinants of the adoption of

technological innovations by logistics
service providers in China
Chieh-Yu Lin Chang Jung Christian University

Abstract Keywords
The growth of China’s economy hinges to a large extent on the ability of the logis- technological
tics industry to operate more efficiently and effectively in the global supply chain innovation
system. China’s logistics service providers should pay attention to adopt more technology adoption
efficient logistics technologies to provide better services for their customers. This supply chain
article studies the factors influencing the adoption of technological innovations by performance
logistics service providers in China and investigates the influences of adopting logistics service
new technologies on supply chain performance. A questionnaire survey is con- providers
ducted to study the adoption of technological innovations by China’s logistics China
industry. Technological innovations are classified into data acquisition technolo-
gies, information technologies, warehousing technologies, and transportation
technologies. The influencing factors include technological, organizational, and
environmental characteristics. We find that the adoption of technological innova-
tions is significantly influenced by technological, organizational and environmen-
tal characteristics and that adopting new technologies will increase supply chain
performance for the logistics industry in China.

More than two decades of economic reform and transition to market
economy has brought China unprecedented economic growth. With the
fast growth in China’s economy and China’s accession to World Trade
Organization (WTO), the demand for logistics services has been growing
significantly in China, and the logistics industry in China is set to take off.
The total logistics value has grown by 29.9 per cent year-on-year (China
Distribution and Trading, 2005). New modern facilities such as logistics
parks, distribution centers and warehouses are being built at a record
setting pace. Many logistics companies have invested extensively in infor-
mation and logistics technologies. As China continues to develop into a
global manufacturing factory, its logistics industry will play an important
role in the global supply chain. One key to effective supply chain is to make
the logistics function more efficiently (Bowersox, Closs and Cooper, 2002).
The globalization of supply chain has prompted many firms to develop

TMSD 7 (1) 19–38 © Intellect Ltd 2008 19

TMSD-7_1-02-Lin.qxp 5/16/08 7:15 PM Page 20

logistics as a part of their corporate strategy (McGinnis and Kohn, 2002).

To deliver products quickly to customers, many companies seek to out-
source their logistics activities to logistics service providers. This reflects
the trend of using logistics service providers to satisfy the increasing need
for logistics services (Lieb and Miller, 2002).
To fully satisfy the diversifying requirements of customers, many logistics
service providers improve their service efficiency by continuous adoption of
information or automation technologies (Mason-Jones and Towill, 1999;
Sauvage, 2003). Many studies have found that innovation is the most
important tool for enterprises to keep their competitive advantage (Kimberly
and Evanisko, 1981; Damanpour and Evan, 1984). However, most research
about innovation focused on manufacturing industries, though increasing
attention has been paid to innovation in service industries recently (Gallouj,
2002; Howells and Tether, 2004; Miles, 2004). The survival of an enterprise
in the age of knowledge-based economy depends on how to improve their
organizational innovation capability. Technological innovation is the key
variable and the means of differentiation between logistics service providers
(Sauvage, 2003). Nixon (2001) suggests that logistics service providers
should employ new information technologies to raise their service capability
in the e-commerce age. Speakman (2002) proposes that logistics companies
could increase their performance by employing new technologies. Chapman,
Soosay and Kandampully (2003) suggest that the logistics industry should
pay more attention to innovation in logistics service, and the innovation in
logistics can be implemented through technology, knowledge and relation-
ship networks. Adopting new technologies might enable logistics service
providers to enhance their service abilities.
Based on the above illustrations, it can be concluded that technological
innovation is important for China’s logistics service providers. Most opera-
tions in China’s logistics service providers are labour intensive and rely on
the input of a large number of service workers. Nowadays, in the age of
knowledge-based economy, how China’s logistics service providers can be
transformed from labour-intensiveness into knowledge-intensiveness and
how they can make full use of the market intelligence to create knowledge
and further take advantage of the knowledge to innovate products, ser-
vices as well as strategies to promote the competence of organizations, are
the topics worth taking into deep consideration. Continuous technological
advancement can assist China’s logistics industry to revolutionise the way
they operate and conduct their business. When logistics service providers
draw up strategies for adopting technological innovations, they should
know what factors will influence the adoption of technological innova-
tions. However, there is still a lack of empirical research on technological
innovation for China’s logistics industry. Therefore, the main purpose of
this article is to explore the determinants of adopting technological inno-
vations by the logistics industry in China.
The next section presents a summary of innovation in logistics tech-
nologies and section three introduces the theoretical foundations of the

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determinants of innovation. Section four gives a description of the

research methodology, while section five focuses on the analysis of the
results and the discussion of the findings. The final section gives conclu-
sions and research’s implications.

Innovation in logistics technologies

Definition of innovation
Porter (1990) said that ‘companies achieve competitive advantage
through acts of innovation. They approach innovation in its broadest
sense, including both new technologies and new ways of doing things’.
What is innovation? One of the problems in managing innovation is varia-
tion in what people understand by the term. Drucker (1985) defines inno-
vation as the specific tool of entrepreneurs, the means by which they
exploit change as an opportunity for a different business or service. It is
capable of being presented as a discipline, capable of being learned,
capable of being practiced. Betz (1997) assumes that innovation is to
introduce a new or improved product, process, or service into the market-
place. Tidd, Bessant and Pavitt (1997) define innovation as ‘a process of
turning opportunity into new ideas and putting these into widely used
practice’. Afuah (1998) proposes that innovation is the use of new techni-
cal and administrative knowledge to offer a new product or service to cus-
tomers. The product or service is new in that its cost is lower, its attributes
are improved, it now has attributes it never had before, or it never existed
in that market before.
Therefore, we can conclude that innovation relates to any practices
that are new to organizations, including equipment, products, services,
processes, policies and projects (Kimberly and Evanisko, 1981;
Damanpour, 1991). The new product or service itself is called an innova-
tion, reflecting the fact that it is the creation of new technical or adminis-
trative knowledge, or it is new to customers. The new technical or
administrative knowledge that is used to offer the new product or service
can underpin any of the chain of activities that the firm must perform in
order to offer the new product. It can be in the design of the product or
service or in the way the product or service is advertised.
Past research has argued that distinguishing types of innovation is
necessary for understanding organizations’ adoption behavior and identi-
fying the determinants of innovation in them (Knight, 1967; Rowe and
Boise, 1974; Downs and Mohr, 1976). Among numerous typologies of
innovation advanced in the relevant literature, the pair of types of innova-
tion, administrative and technological (or technical) innovations, is com-
monly used (Damanpour, 1991). Technological innovation pertains to
products, services and production process technology; it is related to basic
activities and can concern either product or process (Knight, 1967;
Damanpour and Evan, 1984). Administrative innovation involves organi-
zational structure and administrative processes; it is indirectly related to
the basic work activities of an organization and is more directly related to

Determinants of the adoption of technological innovations by logistics . . . 21

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its management (Knight, 1967; Kimberly and Evanisko, 1981;

Damanpour and Evan, 1984). This article will focus on the technological
innovations in the logistics industry.

Innovation in logistics technologies

Logistics is the supply of service or product to the demander or demanding
unit at the right time, in the right quantity and quality, at the right cost
and at the right place. The Council of Logistics Management (currently,
Council of Supply Chain Management) in USA defines ‘logistics manage-
ment’ as ‘a kind of programming, implementing and controlling process
dealing with the flow from the primitive occurring point to the final con-
sumption point and the storage efficiency as well as the cost benefit of raw
material, half-finished product, finished product and related information,
for the purpose of satisfying the customer’s requirement’ (Bowersox and
Closs, 1996). Logistics has become an important source of competitive
advantage (Day, 1994; Olavarrieta and Ellinger, 1997).
Due to the emergence of the concept of supply chain management,
logistics management has attracted more and more attention. Logistics
management has become a strategic factor that provides a unique com-
petitive advantage (Christopher, 1993). A supply chain includes all the
interactions between suppliers, manufactures, distributors and customers.
The chain includes transportation, scheduling information, cash and
credit transfers, as well as ideas, designs and material transfers. Logistics
service providers play an important role in the supply chain. One of the
keys to effective supply chain management is to make the logistics func-
tion more efficiently in the supply chain (Bowersox et al., 2002).
A logistics service provider is a provider of logistics services that per-
forms all or part of a client company’s logistics function (Coyle, Bardi and
Langley Jr, 1996; Delfmann, Albers and Gehring, 2002). To fully satisfy
the increasing requirements of customers for one-stop services, many
logistics service providers have taken initiatives to broaden the scope of
their services (Murphy and Daley, 2001). In addition to transportation
and warehousing functions, logistics service providers can also provide
other services such as materials management services, information-
related services and value-added services (Berglund et al., 1999). Recently,
many logistics service providers try to improve their operation efficiency
by continuous implementation of information or automation technologies
according to their business characteristics (Mason-Jones and Towill, 1999;
Sauvage, 2003). The operation processes in logistics service providers,
such as distribution centers, have their own features and know-how
knowledge. It is important for logistics service providers, in this age of
knowledge-based economy, to accumulate and use their skills and knowl-
edge efficiently and consistently. In order to keep the competitive advan-
tage, logistics companies must make use of knowledge more efficiently to
make them become innovation-based logistics service providers (Chapman
et al., 2003).

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Technology has traditionally been viewed as the key to productivity in

manufacturing; however, technology has assumed greater significance in
services recently (Bitner, Brown and Meuter, 2000; Howells and Tether,
2004). Technology enables service firms to improve service efficiency and
effectiveness. Based on the above discussion about innovation, we think
that innovation is a process of turning opportunity into new ideas and of
putting these into widely used practices. According to the logistics activi-
ties, technological innovations in the logistics industry can be classified
into four categories: data acquisition technologies, information technolo-
gies, warehousing technologies and transportation technologies.

Data acquisition technologies

Logistics service providers usually deal with a large amount of goods and
data. Data collection and exchange are critical for logistics information
management and control. Good quality data acquisition can help logistics
service providers deliver customers’ goods more accurately and efficiently.
The bar code system and radio frequency identification system (RFID) are
acquisition technologies that can facilitate logistics data collection and

Information technologies
Information technologies are the devices or infrastructures to make com-
munications of business information among several organizations more
efficiently. Many logistics managers see the information technology as a
major source of improved productivity and competitiveness. Information
technologies may increase organizational productivity, flexibility and com-
petitiveness as well as stimulate the development of inter-organizational
networks. The information technologies that are commonly used in logis-
tics industry include electronic data interchange (EDI), the Internet, value
added network (VAN), point of sales (POS), electronic ordering system
(EOS), logistics information system, computer telephony integration and
enterprise information portals. Electronic data interchange is identified as
inter-company computer-to-computer exchange of business documents in
standard formats. Recently, extensible markup language (XML) provides a
more efficient way for data exchange.

Warehousing technologies
A warehouse is typically viewed as a place to store inventory. However, in
many logistical systems, the role of the warehouse is more properly viewed
as a switching facility as contrasted to a storage facility. Warehousing
plays an important role in a logistical system. The design of a warehouse
management system should address physical facility characteristics and
product movement. The warehousing technologies that are commonly
used in logistics industry include automated storage and retrieval system
(AS/RS), automatic sorting system, computer-aided picking system and
thermostat warehouse. The automated storage and retrieval system is a

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means to high density, hands free buffering of materials in distribution and

manufacturing environments and can offer a quick and efficient way to
search and move storages from a warehouse.

Transportation technologies
Transportation is one of the most visible elements of logistics operations.
Transportation functionality provides the major function of product move-
ment. The major objective of a transportation management system is to
move product from an origin location to a prescribed destination while
minimizing costs and damage expenses. The movement, at the same time,
must take place in a manner that meets customer demands regarding
delivery performance and shipment information availability. The trans-
portation technologies that are commonly used in logistics industry
include transportation information system, global positioning system
(GPS), geographical information system (GIS), radio-frequency communi-
cation system and transportation data recorder. The transportation infor-
mation system and geographical information system can help logistics
managers planning, managing and controlling transportation issues. The
global positioning system and radio-frequency communication system can
track and guide drivers during the transportation of products.

Technological innovations and supply chain performance

Innovation can reinforce competitive advantage for companies in markets
where customer preferences change rapidly, where differentiation is limited,
and where competition is intense (McAfee, 2002). A substantial body of
research links innovation and performance for service industries (de Brentani
and Cooper, 1993; Irwin, Hoffman and Geiger, 1998; Johne and Storey,
1998; Lynn et al., 1999; Gray, Matear and Matheson, 2000, Harvey, 2000;
Li and Atuahene-Gima, 2001). In the logistics literature, it has been shown
that logistics services capabilities, such as warehousing and freight bill
payment, are drivers for superior performance (Murphy and Poist, 2000).
Customer-focused capabilities including responsiveness and flexibility can
enhance performance (Zhao, Droge and Stank, 2001). Lai (2004) suggests
that a LSP with a better service capability attain a higher service perfor-
mance. Based on the above discussions, the following hypothesis is proposed:
Hypothesis H1: Logistics service providers, who are willing to adopt techno-
logical innovations, are more attain better supply chain performance than those
who do not.
Several measures in the evaluation of supply chain performance have
been identified (Beamon, 1999; Brewer and Speh, 2000; Chan and Qi,
2003; Gunasekaran, Patel and McGaughey, 2004; Rafele, 2004). Neely,
Gregory and Platts (1995) define quality, time, flexibility and cost as
primary categories of performance measurements. Based on the available
literature, supply chain performance measurements in this study consist of
financial indices including profit margin, revenue growth, cost per order,
cost per unit and return on assets and non-financial indices including

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order fill rates, order cycle time, delivery time, customer requirements met,
number of faults and flexibility.

Determinants of innovation
There is a large body of research done on the determinants of innovation
(Kimberly and Evanisko, 1981; Amabile, 1988; Tornatzky and Fleischer,
1990; Damanpour, 1991; Wolfe, 1994; Tidd et al, 1997). Kimberly and
Evanisko (1981) suggest that the individual factor, organizational factor
and contextual factor would influence the adoption by hospitals of techno-
logical innovation. Variables affecting technology adoption are classified
into individual, task-related, innovation-related, organizational and envi-
ronmental characteristics. Tornatzky and Fleischer (1990) suggest that
the adoption and implementation of technological innovation would be
affected by the technological context, organizational context and the
external environmental context. Patterson, Grimm and Corsi (2003) indi-
cate that technology adoption is affected by organizational size, structure
and performance, supply chain strategy, transaction climate, supply chain
member pressure and environmental uncertainty. Scupola (2003) use
technological, organizational and environmental characteristics to explain
the adoption of Internet commerce. This article will investigate the influ-
ence of technological, organizational and environmental factors on the
adoption of technological innovations by China’s logistics service
providers. Although the individual factor might affect adopting technolog-
ical innovations by logistics service providers, this article will not investi-
gate each individual’s influence on the company’s innovation.

Technological characteristics
Technologies can be viewed as one kind of knowledge (Grant, 1996). Tsai
and Ghoshal (1998) found that an organization will have higher innova-
tive capability when knowledge can be distributed easily within the orga-
nization. The transferability of knowledge or technology will influence
technological innovation; technological innovation can be advanced when
the technology has higher transferability. The transferability of technology
is determined by the explicitness of technology. It is more easy to transfer
or share technological knowledge with higher explicitness (Grant, 1996;
Teece, 1996). In addition to the explicitness of the technology, how the
technology fits with the technologies that a firm already possesses will also
be another important technological characteristic (Tornatzky and
Fleischer, 1990; Chau and Tam, 1997). Teece (1996) found that techno-
logical innovation usually follows a technological paradigm. The cumula-
tive nature of technologies will influence the innovation in technologies.
Grant (1996) and Simonin (1999) also concluded that an organization
with rich experiences in the application or adoption of related technologies
will have higher ability in technological innovation. Therefore, we would
expect that explicitness and accumulation of logistics technology might
influence technological innovation.

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TMSD-7_1-02-Lin.qxp 5/16/08 7:15 PM Page 26

Hypothesis H2a: The more explicit the technology, the more the likelihood
that China’s logistics service providers will adopt innovation in logistics technol-
Hypothesis H2b: The more the accumulation of technology, the more likely
that China’s logistics service providers will adopt innovation in logistics technol-

Organizational characteristics
Much of the research about organizational behavior has argued that
certain features of organizations themselves, including structures, cli-
mates, and cultures of organizations, will influence the adoption of inno-
vation (Kimberly and Evanisko, 1981; Tornatzky and Fleischer, 1990;
Russell and Hoag, 2004). Amabile (1988) finds that management skills,
organizational encouragement for innovation and support of innovation
resources would help the improvement of organizational innovation.
Tornatzky and Fleischer (1990) suggest that informal linkages and com-
munication among employees, the quality of human resources, leadership
behavior of top management and the amount of internal slack resources
would significantly influence the adoption of technological innovations. A
firm with higher quality of human resources, such as better education or
training, will have higher ability in technological innovation. Therefore,
we would expect that organizational encouragement and quality of
human resources might influence technological innovation.
Hypothesis H3a: The more the organizational encouragement, the more the
likelihood that China’s logistics service providers will adopt innovation in logis-
tics technology.
Hypothesis H3b: The higher the quality of human resources, the more the
likelihood that China’s logistics service providers will adopt innovation in logis-
tics technology.

Environmental characteristics
In addition to technological and organizational characteristics, the exter-
nal environment in which a firm conducts its business will also influence
the innovative capability (King and Anderson, 1995). Miles and Snow
(1978) found that organizations would pay more attention on innovation
when they face environments that are vulnerable to instability and chaos.
Kimberly and Evanisko (1981) concluded that environmental complexity
and uncertainty would influence organizational innovation in the case of
hospitals. Damanpour (1991) found that environments with high uncer-
tainties would have a positive influence on the relationship between orga-
nizational structures and organizational innovation. Zhu and Weyant
(2003) suggest that demand uncertainty tends to increase a firm’s incen-
tive to adopt new technologies. Provision of government support is
another important environmental aspect that bears on technological
innovation. The government can both encourage and discourage the
adoption of innovation in the administration of regulatory mechanisms

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(Tornatzky and Fleischer, 1990; Scupola, 2003). The government can

provide financial incentives, pilot projects and tax breaks to stimulate
technological innovation for logistics service providers. Therefore, envi-
ronmental uncertainty and governmental support can be expected to
influence technological innovation.
Hypothesis H4a: The more the environmental uncertainty, the more likely that
China’s logistics service providers will adopt innovation in logistics technology.
Hypothesis H4b: The more the provision of government support, the more the
likelihood that China’s logistics service providers will adopt innovation in logis-
tics technology.

Research framework
Based on the above discussions, the research framework is organised
around the four main hypotheses, as shown in Figure 1. This research
framework will be verified from a questionnaire survey in China’s logistics
industry. The questionnaire contains six parts: company’s information,
technological context, organizational context, environmental context, the
adoption of technological innovations and supply chain performance.
There are 61 items in the questionnaire. Besides, the company’s informa-
tion, the other items were measured using the five-point Likert scales
anchored by ‘strongly disagree’ and ‘strongly agree’. The willingness to
innovate or acquire new technologies and the utilization of innovative tech-
nologies are used as measurements of adoption of technological innovation.

Data collection and sample

The data to test our hypotheses came from a questionnaire survey of logis-
tics service providers in China. With China becoming a global manufac-
turing powerhouse, its central and local governments have delivered
several policies to reinforce the logistics industry (Jiang, 2002). Moreover,
after China’s accession to WTO, the operation of foreign logistics compa-
nies in China has boosted the growth of China’s logistics industry. More
and more logistics companies in China have begun to adopt technological

Figure 1: Research Framework

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TMSD-7_1-02-Lin.qxp 5/16/08 7:15 PM Page 28

innovations to increase their logistics service capabilities. However, the

logistics industry in China is still in its infancy compared with its counter-
parts in more developed countries. Ta, Choo and Sum (2000) found that
the logistics barriers to international operations in China include lack of
cargo tracing services, lack of delivery reliability for local carriers, lack of
carrier selection, complicated customs procedures and geographical frag-
mentation of transportation networks.
Generally, logistics service providers are companies which carry out
logistics activities for their customers. Logistics activities associated with
logistics service providers include warehousing, transportation, inventory
management, order processing and packaging (Sink, Langley and Gibson,
2996; Delfmann et al., 2002).
The sample frame was drawn from members of the Logistics Council in
Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen regions because the development of logis-
tics service providers in these three regions are more mature than in other
regions in China. The Beijing Municipal Government has placed high on
the agenda the establishment of a highly effective logistics platform by
2010 in its tenth five-year development plan. The Shanghai Municipal
Government has giving priority to the development of three large-scale
logistics parks during its tenth five-year plan period. The Shenzhen
Municipal Government plans to develop logistics services into one of the
three mainstay industries in the 21st century.
Five hundred questionnaires were mailed and/or delivered directly to
the sampled companies in each region from June to August in 2005. In
order to get a higher rate of response, we also personally administered
questionnaires to some logistics companies in each area.
In total, we delivered 1500 questionnaires, and 583 completed question-
naires were returned: 163 in Beijing, 201 in Shanghai and 219 in Shenzhen.
Of these respondents, 26 were excluded because their responses were incom-
plete and somewhat suspect. The overall response rate is 37.1 per cent.
The basic information of these companies is shown in Table 1. It was
found that most of logistics service providers in China do not have R&D
departments. Only four per cent of the companies in sample survey have
R&D departments. In China, most logistics companies belong to small and
medium size enterprises.
In this study, the measured scales were submitted to factor analysis.
Factors with eigen values greater than 1.0 for each characteristic are
summarised in Tables 2, 3 and 4. Reliability analysis was also conducted.
According to the reliability coefficients shown in Table 5, the smallest
value of Cronbach’s alpha for this study is 0.7915. This implies that the
sampling results are reliable. Technological context is factorised by ‘explic-
itness of technology’ and ‘accumulation of technology’; organizational
context is factorised by ‘organizational encouragement’ and ‘quality of
human resources’; environmental context is factorised by ‘environmental
uncertainty’ and ‘provision of governmental support’; supply chain perfor-
mance is factorised by ‘financial’ and ‘non-financial’ measures.

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Category Number Percentage (%)

Company history (years) 0~5 389 69.8
6~10 123 22.1
11~20 35 6.3
Above 20 10 1.8
Number of employee Below 50 204 36.6
51~100 186 33.4
101~300 103 18.5
301~500 43 7.7
Above 501 21 3.8
Capital (Million, RMB Yuan) Below 1 133 23.9
1~5 184 33.0
5~10 117 21.0
10~50 76 13.7
Above 50 47 8.4
R&D department Yes 534 95.9
None 23 4.1

Table 1: Basic information of companies in the sample.

Factor loadings
Items Factor 1 Factor 2
Explicitness of technology (Factor 1)
It is easy to find books or other resources about
the technology. 0.818 0.125
It is easy to understand the technology. 0.783 0.142
It is easy to learn the application of the
technology from the books. 0.762 0.163
It does not need too many experiences to learn
the technology. 0.714 0.193
Accumulation of technology (Factor 2)
Our company has implemented many related
technologies. 0.109 0.821
It is necessary to have experiences in using
related technologies. 0.141 0.774
It is easy to integrate that technology with
company’s current logistics system. 0.152 0.712
Eigen value 4.175 2.819
Variance explained 36.133 % 32.496 %
Accumulated variance explained 36.133 % 68.629 %

Table 2: Result of factor analysis for technological factors.

Table 6 shows the correlations among these factors and the innovation
in logistics technologies. The correlation matrix gives us initial evidences
of our hypotheses: technological, organizational and environmental are
associated positively with the adoption of technological innovations, and
the supply chain performance is positively associated with the adoption of
technological innovations. Moreover, the technological, organizational
and environmental factors are not highly correlated.

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Factor loadings
Items Factor 1 Factor 2
Organizational encouragement (Factor 1)
Company’s leaders encourage employees to
learn new information. 0.832 0.131
Our company provides supports for employees
to learn new information. 0.816 0.099
Company’s leaders can help employees when
they face new problems. 0.776 0.103
Our Company provides rewards for innovative
employees. 0.735 0.129
Quality of human resources (Factor 2)
Employees possess abilities to use technologies to
solve problems. 0.100 0.813
Employees can learn new technologies easily. 0.134 0.788
Employees usually provide new ideas for
companies. 0.115 0.746
Employees can share knowledge with each
others. 0.197 0.701
Eigen value 4.231 2.987
Variance explained 36.309 % 32.715 %
Accumulated variance explained 36.309 % 69.024 %

Table 3: Result of factor analysis for organizational factors.

Factor loadings
Items Factor 1 Factor 2
Governmental support (Factor 1)
Government helps training manpower with
logistics skills. 0.838 0.091
Government encourages companies to propose
projects of logistics technologies. 0.802 0.083
Government relieves the regulation for the
logistics industry. 0.776 0.071
Government provides financial support for the
development of logistics technologies. 0.711 0.096
Environmental uncertainty (Factor 2)
Competitors usually provide new logistics
services. 0.113 0.819
Customers’ requirements are diversified. 0.103 0.794
The advance in new logistics technologies
is quickly. 0.102 0.768
Customers’ requirements vary quickly. 0.093 0.708
Eigen value 4.204 2.901
Variance explained 36.243 % 32.579 %
Accumulated variance explained 36.243 % 68.822 %

Table 4. Result of factor analysis for environmental factors.

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Factors Cronbach’s alpha

Technological context
Explicitness of technology ␣ ⫽ 0.8126
Accumulation of technology ␣ ⫽ 0.8382
Organizational context
Organizational encouragement ␣ ⫽ 0.8947
Quality of human resources ␣ ⫽ 0.8164
Environmental context
Environmental uncertainty ␣ ⫽ 0.8436
Governmental support ␣ ⫽ 0.9079
Supply chain performance
Financial ␣ ⫽ 0.8291
Non-Financial ␣ ⫽ 0.7915
Adoption of technological innovations ␣ ⫽ 0.8751

Table 5. Results of reliability analysis.

Variables Means Std 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

1. Explicitness of technology 3.79 0.89 1.0
2. Accumulation of technology 3.26 0.93 0.26 1.0
3. Organizational encouragement 4.01 0.81 0.18 0.25 1.0
4. Quality of human resources 3.86 0.96 0.25 0.31 0.38 1.0
5. Environmental uncertainty 3.01 1.05 ⫺0.03 0.06 0.08 0.11 1.0
6. Governmental support 4.15 0.68 0.09 0.15 0.12 0.08 ⫺0.06 1.0
7. Adoption of innovations 3.58 1.02 0.41⫹ 0.58** 0.61** 0.66** 0.33 0.71** 1.0
8. Financial performance 3.37 0.86 0.16 0.21 0.43⫹ 0.51* ⫺0.21 0.33 0.68** 1.0
9. Non-Financial performance 3.04 0.94 0.13 0.24 0.40⫹ 0.53* ⫺0.18 0.28 0.64** 0.44⫹ 1.0
p < 0.1.
*p < 0.05.
**p < 0.01.

Table 6. Result of correlation analysis.

Results and discussion

Using the results of the questionnaire survey, we first investigate the adop-
tion of technological innovations by China’s logistics service providers, and
then study the influences of technological, organizational and environmen-
tal factors on the adoption of technological innovations and the relation-
ship between technological innovation and supply chain performance.

Adoption of technological innovations by China’s logistics

service providers
Logistics technologies can be divided into four categories: data acquisition
technologies, information technologies, warehousing technologies and
transportation technologies. We asked logistics service providers what
kinds of innovative logistics technologies they acquired during the past
three years. A summary of the adoption of technological innovations by
logistics service providers in China is shown in Table 7. It was found that
almost all respondents acquired innovative information technologies
during the past three years. This could possibly be attributed to the rapid
Determinants of the adoption of technological innovations by logistics . . . 31
TMSD-7_1-02-Lin.qxp 5/16/08 7:15 PM Page 32

Logistics technologies Number (N ⫽ 557) Percentage (%)

Data acquisition technologies 312 56.0
Information technologies 529 94.9
Warehousing technologies 411 73.8
Transportation technologies 493 88.5

Table 7: Adoption of technological innovations by China’s logistics service providers.

Dependent variable: Adoption of technological innovations

Predictors Coefficient ␤ t
Control variables
Company history 0.024 0.748
Number of employee 0.038 0.385
Capital size 0.101 1.597+
Technological context
Explicitness of technology 0.159 1.701+
Accumulation of technology 0.162 2.733*
Organizational context
Organizational encouragement 0.201 2.909*
Quality of human resources 0.199 3.521**
Environmental context
Environmental uncertainty 0.131 1.158
Governmental support 0.216 3.711**
R2 0.683
adj R2 0.579
F 9.284**
p < 0.1.
*p < 0.05.
**p < 0.01.

Table 8: Standardised regression results for the determinants of technology


growth in information and communication technologies over the past

decade and by the urgent needs of logistics companies to deal with a great
amount data. However, only 56 per cent of the respondents acquired inno-
vative data acquisition technologies such as bar code or RFID technologies.

Determinants of innovation in logistics technologies

To find the influence of technological, organizational and environmental con-
texts on adoption of the technological innovations, regression analysis was
used. Technological context consists of explicitness of technology and accu-
mulation of technology; organizational context consists of organizational
encouragement and quality of human resources; environmental context con-
sists of environmental uncertainty and governmental support. We took these
six factors as independent variables and the adoption of technological innova-
tion as the dependent variable, and consequently, employed the method of
regression analysis to determine their relationship. We also take company

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history, number of employee and capital size as control variables in the regres-
sion analysis. Table 8 shows the results of regression analysis.
Table 8 shows that the capital size of logistics service providers may have
positive influences on the adoption of innovative logistics technologies. This
implies that logistics service providers with a larger scale may have more
willingness to adopt innovative logistics technologies. However, the positive
effects are not significant. It can also be found that the technological, orga-
nizational and environmental contexts have positive influences on the adop-
tion of technological innovations by China logistics service providers.
Explicitness of technology, accumulation of technology, organizational
encouragement, quality of human resources and governmental support all
have significant influences on the adoption of technological innovations.
This means that the hypotheses H2a, H2b, H3a, H3b and H4b are not rejected,
but the hypothesis H4a is rejected. Therefore, we can conclude that for
China’s logistics service providers, higher explicitness of technology can help
the transfer of technological knowledge within the organization and, there-
fore, raise the willingness to adopt technological innovations. Logistics com-
panies with rich experiences in the application or adoption of related logistics
technologies will have higher willingness to adopt technological innovations.
Organizational encouragement can give employees motivation and support
to adopt technological innovation. High quality of human resources means
that employees are capable of innovation in technologies. Governmental
support can encourage and guide logistics service providers to innovate in-
logistics technologies. The government can draw up public policies to
encourage private sector performance improvements through trade and
inter-modal policies, infrastructure investment and development, creative
financing arrangements, tax incentives, safety regulation, public/private
partnerships and special programs and projects (Morash and Lynch, 2002).
Although environmental uncertainty does not have significant influ-
ence on the adoption of technological innovations, the positive effect
reveals that China’s logistics service providers still want to adopt innova-
tive logistics technologies to overcome the challenges of environmental
uncertainties. Moreover, because most logistics companies in China are
small and medium in size and have their strength in providing flexible ser-
vices to customers’ varying requirements, environmental uncertainty is to
some extent common to them. This appears to be the reason why environ-
mental uncertainty does not feature as a significant influence on the
adoption of technological innovations by China’s logistics industry.

Innovation in logistics technologies and supply

chain performance
The influence of adopting innovative logistics technologies on supply chain
performance is investigated using regression analysis. Company history,
number of employee and capital size are also taken as control variables in
the regression analysis. The results of the regression analysis are shown in
Table 9 below.

Determinants of the adoption of technological innovations by logistics . . . 33

TMSD-7_1-02-Lin.qxp 5/16/08 7:15 PM Page 34

Dependent variables: Supply chain performance

Financial Non-Financial
Predictors Coefficient ␤ t Coefficient ␤ t
Control variables
Company history 0.023 0.930 0.021 0.994
Number of employee 0.019 0.602 0.038 1.003
Capital size 0.039 1.038 0.047 1.106
Adoption of technological
innovations 0.213 4.041** 0.201 3.835**
R2 0.617 0.601
adj R2 0.561 0.553
F 8.935** 8.214**

p < 0.1.
*p < 0.05.
**p < 0.01.

Table 9: Standardised regression results for the supply chain performance.

We find that the adoption of technological innovations exhibits signifi-

cant and positive influences on both financial and non-financial supply
chain performances. This means that the evidence at hand does not
warrant rejection of the hypothesis H1. Indeed, the evidence appears to
suggest that China’s logistics service providers with favorable attitude
toward and keen to adopting innovative logistics technologies would
achieve better supply chain performance.

With the Chinese government actively engaged in formulating policies to
promote China’s participation in the global economy, China has become
an important investment destination for a growing number of multina-
tional corporations which are located in China to take advantage of low
labour costs and the potentially huge market that China offers. However,
many foreign investors have faced several logistics problems with respect
to the transportation of materials or products and the flow of information.
The logistics cost in China is still high compared to many developed coun-
tries. Hence the logistics bottleneck on the growth of inward investment in
China, and hence, the Government’s concern to promote the development
of the logistics industry.
Many logistics companies in China have started adopting innovative
logistics technologies with the view to enhancing their services. Advanced
technologies and innovations play a critical role in expediting the growth
of the logistics industry in China. However, there is a lack of empirical
research on the adoption of logistics technologies in China. This article
has attempted to fill the knowledge gap by investigating the determinants
of technological innovations in China’s logistics industry. It is found that most
of China’s logistics service providers in China tend to rely on information

34 Chieh-Yu Lin
TMSD-7_1-02-Lin.qxp 5/16/08 7:15 PM Page 35

technologies to enhance their supply chain management. It is also found

that China’s logistics service providers with a more favorable attitude
toward adopting new logistics technologies achieve better supply chain
performance. Technological, organizational and environmental factors
significantly affect the adoption of technological innovations by China’s
logistics industry. It is found that higher explicitness and accumulation of
technology can help the transfer of technological knowledge within the
organization and can raise the capability to adopt innovative technologies.
China’s logistics companies can increase their technological innovation
capabilities by encouraging or supporting their employees to adopt new
technologies and by training and educating their employees. Moreover,
policy can stimulate the adoption of innovative logistics technologies
through the provision of financial incentives, pilot projects and tax breaks.

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Suggested citation
Lin, C. (2008), ‘Determinants of the adoption of technological innovations by logis-
tics service providers in China’, International Journal of Technology Management
and Sustainable Development 7: 1, pp. 19–38, doi: 10.1386/ijtm.7.1.19/1

Contributor details
Chieh-Yu Lin is Associate Professor, Department of International Business, Chang
Jung Christian University, Taiwan. Contact: 396, Sec 1, Chang Jung Rd, Kway Jen,
Tainan 71101, Taiwan, Republic of China.
E-mail: jylin@mail.cju.edu.tw

38 Chieh-Yu Lin
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International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development

Volume 7 Number 1 © 2008 Intellect Ltd
Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/ijtm7.1.39/1

Innovation and entrepreneurship in

Brazilian universities
Mariza Almeida Augusto Motta University Centre

Abstract Keywords
This article is concerned with the analysis of university-based initiatives in triple helix
Brazil, emphasising activities directed at enhancing innovation and entrepreneur- entrepreneurial
ship. The Triple Helix thesis is utilised here to probe the nature of the changes university
taking place in Brazilian universities, reflecting the characteristics of the changes innovation
taking place in the wider economy. The article begins by reviewing some of the Brazil
modifications introduced in the Brazilian innovation system and by explaining
how universities have been incorporating entrepreneurial activities. Three univer-
sity case studies are presented in order to identify different models of entrepre-
neurship and innovation activities. The article shows that different structures
have arisen in universities in order to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurial
activities. Government support for these initiatives has been increasing at the
federal, regional and local levels.

In the configuration of a new economic model, known as ‘the learning
economy’, where knowledge is understood to be the key driver of growth
and wealth, issues relating to change and learning assume a progressively
more important role, making skill-building and innovation fundamental
to economic health and well-being. At the same time, a general perception
has taken hold in the world that technological factors are important to
competitiveness and economic growth.
In the modern knowledge economy, growth depends extensively on the
presence or the formation of a network, which provides a favourable envi-
ronment for innovation based on the development indigenous capabilities.
Even though firm-specific factors are important determinants of innova-
tion activity, technological opportunities and a favourable entrepreneurial
environment also have a positive effect.
The evolution of the relationships among the institutions from the
three separate spheres, namely, university, industry and government,
shows different patterns according to the level of development and to the
historical and institutional traditions of individual countries (Senker
2003). In the international context, developing countries in general are
observed striving to see their economies evolve from one based on low

TMSD 7 (1) 39–58 © Intellect Ltd 2008 39

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1 The R&D sector was technology use aimed at resource exploitation to a position associated
excluded from the with high technology-based economic growth. The desire to free economies
data cited above,
given that in Brazil, from their dependence on natural resources and other limiting factors that
basic, applied and inhibit growth is at the heart of this transformation. No less important for
developmental developing countries is the need to identify and address the range of factors
research is generally which are of fundamental significance for technology-based growth.
conducted by public
institutions. Many of For the past two decades, Brazil has been undergoing a transition from
these produce services a top-down innovation system to an innovation system which operates at
specialized in
intensive knowledge
various levels: municipal, regional, national and multi-national. In this
generation, new innovation structure, initiatives arise from diverse actors, hitherto
particularly in the inactive in the field, most especially universities and industrial associa-
fields of energy,
agriculture, medicine tions. Universities not only play their traditional roles, but also take on
and information and some of the roles of other institutional spheres – industry and government,
technology. They tend in particular – in helping to put knowledge to use, both by establishing
to work for both the organisational mechanisms to transfer knowledge and technology and by
government and the
private sector through playing a strategic role in regional innovation (Etzkowitz and Mello 2004).
contracts which sport The first academic revolution, the incorporation of research as a broad
university mission, took place in Brazil in the 1970s, expanding the tradi-
tional support role of the university in society to one directly linked to
national priorities. Although this transformation took place under a mili-
tary regime, the universities were left with some autonomy that enabled
them to provide a space for the nurturing and articulation of new initia-
tives aimed at transferring knowledge produced at the universities to
industry. These initiatives were originally implemented outside of the uni-
versities’ formal structure. They were not the result of academia incorpo-
rating economic and social development as a mission, for such a mission
would have made universities fragile and vulnerable without support from
the other institutional spheres of the Triple Helix. Recently, however, funding
agencies such as CNPq (National Research Council), Finep (Projects and
Studies Financing Agency) and others at regional and municipal levels
have been increasing the support for university-based knowledge transfer
The results of the ‘Research into Technological Innovation in Brazil
(PINTEC)’ published by the Brazilian Agency for Geography and Statistics
(IBGE), revealed that, between the years 2003 and 2005, only 33.4 per cent
of the country’s industrial firms renewed their technology base. High-tech
intensive companies, such as those involved in telecommunications and
computing, had higher rates of innovation: 45.9 per cent and 57.6 per cent,
respectively. These numbers reveal a low level of dynamism in the compa-
nies in question, because product innovation occurs at an annual rate of
6.5 per cent in the industrial sector, 8.4 per cent in telecommunications
and 15.5 per cent in the computer industry.1
With R&D activities being concentrated in public institutions such as
universities, the interface between these institutions and companies
obviously becomes of prime importance. Here, we find activities which can
be considered to be examples of Triple Helix interactions as well as the

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transformation of teaching and research universities into entrepreneurial

universities (Etzkowitz and Zhou 2007).
According to a 1968 law, institutions of higher education in Brazil are
classified as either public or private. Public institutions are sub-classified as
federal-supported and managed by the Federal Government; state-sup-
ported and managed by state governments; and municipal-supported and
managed by municipal governments. Private institutions, on the other
hand, can be sub-classified as non-profit or pro-profit. Finally, non-profit
private institutions can be communitarian, confessional (religious orienta-
tion) and philanthropist. The 1968 law categorises institutions of higher
education as universities; specialised universities and university centres;
centres for technological education; isolated schools; extensive schools;
and institutes of higher education. The INEP Educational Census (2005)
gives a comprehensive picture of the state of the Brazilian higher educa-
tion with 2,165 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), distributed among
five categories as shown in Table 1 below.
No study has yet been made regarding the entrepreneurial activities in
these institutions of higher education in Brazil, so it is difficult to evaluate
how the set of actions and programmes promulgated by these institutions
have contributed to the country’s economic development.
Article 207 of Brazil’s 1988 post-military Constitution stipulates that
research, teaching and extension are, in principle, inseparable activities of
universities in Brazil. Universities, however, are not directly charged with
the task of making contributions to economic development.
The Technological Innovation Law No. 10.973/2004 was an important
watershed as it established innovation incentive measures and situated
scientific and technological research within a productive environment,
seeking to create technological autonomy and industrial development in
Brazil. This law aimed at encouraging strategic partnerships between uni-
versities, technological institutes and companies; stimulating the partici-
pation of science and technology institutes in the innovation process; and
creating incentives for innovation within companies.
After the establishment of the Technological Innovation Law, Andifes
(National Association of Federal Higher Learning Institutes), an organisation

Spe.Univ/ Ext.Schools/ Center

HEIs type Universities Univ.Center Institutes for Tech. Total
Federal 52 – 8 37 97
State 33 – 26 16 75
Municipal 5 7 47 – 59
Total Public 90 7 81 53 231
Pro-Profit 25 155 1213 127 1520
Non-Profit 61 69 280 4 414
Total Privates 86 224 1493 131 1934
Total HEI 176 231 1574 184 2165
Source: INEP (2005) Census.
Table 1: Higher education institutions in Brazil, 2005.

Innovation and entrepreneurship in Brazilian universities 41

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which includes 58 federal universities, created a Commission for Science,

Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the remit to evaluate
the extent of the commitment of the university system to the development
of entrepreneurship through teaching and research. According to the
Commission’s report, only some 9 per cent of the participating universities
had incorporated entrepreneurship in their undergraduate courses before
the 2004 law was passed; 82 per cent got involved with it consequent
upon the enforcement of the law; and a further 9 per cent still had no
courses or dealing with entrepreneurship in their undergraduate pro-
grammes. Results for graduate level courses were even more extreme, as
none of the universities involved had dealt with the topic prior to the 2004
law, as shown in Table 2 below.
The data in Table 2 show that programmes in a good number of federal
universities do not address the issue of entrepreneurship head on, and that
those universities which already deal with the issue would need to expand
their course offerings throughout all their departments. Where companies
generate little innovative activities on their own and R&D activities are
largely concentrated within the university system and in research insti-
tutes, the significance of incorporating entrepreneurship studies in under-
graduate and postgraduate programmes cannot be over-emphasised.
In this article, we consider the involvement of three Brazilian universities
in activities directed towards disseminating entrepreneurship behaviour and
innovation practice in accordance with local conditions and internal and
external influences. The remainder of the article is seven parts. Part two pre-
sents the methodology of the study. Part three discusses the conceptual basis
of the research. Part four looks into the changes which have occurred in tech-
nological development policies in Brazil. Part five deals with the beginning of
the teaching of entrepreneurship as a subject in Brazilian universities. Part six
presents the results of our three case studies; and the seventh part concludes
with a discussion of our findings and future recommendations.

Activities linked to
Level entrepreneurship Percentage
Undergraduate Departments with One department: 27%
courses dealing with Several departments: 64%
Entrepreneurship All departments: 9%
Activities Lectures: 30%
Optional or complementary
classes: 20%
Activities integrated into the
curriculum: 50%
Graduate Departments with One department: 14%
courses dealing with Several departments: 57%
Entrepreneurship All departments: 29%
36% still have no courses
Source: Andifes (2006).
Table 2: Entrepreneurship activities at federal universities.

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Methodology 2 Part of this research

The research presented below is exploratory in nature. Its goal is to provide was conducted while
the author was
an overview of the extent to which universities in Brazil have effectively working on her
incorporated entrepreneurship and innovation studies in their programmes doctoral dissertation
in 2001/2004, and
using the case study approach, which is considered appropriate as it can the rest in
provide ideal typifications that would allow a better understanding of the 2006/2007.
characteristics of a more general problem.
For the purpose of this study, three cases have been chosen from the pop-
ulation of Brazilian universities that have developed entrepreneurial-related
activities. These choices were made on grounds that the three cases are at
different stages in the course of implementing entrepreneurial activities.
The questions which this research seeks to answer include the following:

• Can these universities be considered to be entrepreneurial according to

the definition provided by Etzkowitz and Zhou (2007)? Are entrepre-
neurial activities accepted and systematically supported? Do interface
mechanisms, such as technology transfer offices, exist? Do a significant
number of staff members create companies which generate funds to
support university research and other activities?
• What internal or external factors influenced these institutions to take
on board entrepreneurship as a mainstream concern?
• How was the process of incorporating entrepreneurial activities under-
taken in each institution and what is its significance for the extension
projects proposed by the universities in question?

Different approaches were used for eliciting data for the study, including
recourse to published and unpublished sources, semi-structured interviews
with professors and/or university directors, and participation in events
where university representatives presented information regarding their
institutions and programmes.2

Brief survey of Triple Helix experience

The Triple Helix thesis provides a useful framework for us to examine
the inter-relationships between the three main actors in the innovation
chain: university-industry-government (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff 2000).
The interaction among these players in the innovation process is central
to policy initiatives aimed at improving the conditions for innovation
and knowledge generation. The model explains new and complex inter-
institutional relationships where innovations occur in a process of contin-
uous exchange of ideas among the three spheres. Institutional overlapping
creates a new environment, leading to increased interaction which, in
turn, results in new innovation strategies. The emergent entity – the
Triple Helix – constitutes a new synthesis between university, industry and
government (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff 2000).
Research directed towards innovation, which was previously limited to
company R&D laboratories, is now increasingly being conducted within

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universities. This has led to the development of an entrepreneurial culture

within universities and has had an impact on both teaching and research
activities. New organisational structures appeared, in the form of offices
for the transfer of technology, spin-off companies, technology parks, incu-
bators and other entities (Etzkowitz et al. 2000).
The Triple Helix perspective is based upon the presupposition that the
relationships between university, industry and government create condi-
tions for the production of technological innovations and that specific
groups inside the three helices meet in order to address new problems
arising in a constantly changing economic, institutional and intellectual
world (Shinn 2002).
The creation of an entrepreneurial university involves the cultural
transformation of academia, so that this plays a more active role in society
at several levels. Research and teaching activities need to be developed and
directed to contribute to economic and social development as well as to the
education of students and the advancement of knowledge. Such a univer-
sity, which is committed to promoting entrepreneurial attitudes and is
capable of creating initiatives at various levels (among faculty, students
and administrators, for example), is considered to be an entrepreneurial
university (Etzkowitz 2006).
The entrepreneurial university develops distinct activities within a creative
tension and possesses three primary characteristics: (1) entrepreneurial
activities are accepted and systematically supported; (2) interface mecha-
nisms, such as technology transfer offices, exist; and (3) a significant
number of staff members create companies, which generate funds for
research and other university activities (Etzkowitz and Zhou 2007).
Cultural and national factors evidently have an impact upon this
change. Many studies have been conducted regarding entrepreneurial
experiences inside universities in countries with different economic and
political conditions. For example, the study by Saad, Zawdie and Derbal
(2005) looks into the triple helix experience in developing countries with
particular reference to experiences in Algeria, Malaysia and Ethiopia.
There is also Nanal’s work (2007) regarding the importance of an ethical
culture based upon public transparency.
The types of entrepreneurial activities also vary. Lee and Chen (2007)
have looked into the stimulus given to undergraduate student entrepre-
neurship at the Multimedia University in Malaysia. The generation of spin-
offs at the Universidad Autônoma de Barcelona was facilitated by the
growth in research activities, internal changes in the institution itself and
in the surrounding environment (Gonzalez 2007). Marques (2007) has
also described a university entrepreneurial model in Portugal based on the
cooperation between university and industry through the construction of
business incubators associated with and/or promoted by universities.
Jacob, Lundqvist and Hellsmark (2003) have described the transforma-
tions of the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. In Brazil,
several studies regarding experiments in transforming the universities and

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research institutes have been undertaken, emphasising different perspec- 3 Mello, J.M.C. and
tives. Zouaim and Sousa (2005) have analysed the effects of management Almeida, M.
Interview with: 1)
changes at the Instituto de Pesquisas em Energia Nuclear em São Paulo Maurício Guedes,
(IPEN) and Mello and Renault (2006) have described the bottom-up initia- Director of Federal
University of Rio de
tives taking place in civil society which have created the so-called commu- Janeiro Science Park,
nity universities which seek to develop the surrounding communities and on December 12,
2001; Ricardo
regions, particularly in the country’s southern states. Etzkowitz, Mello and Pereira, COPPETEC,
Almeida (2005) have analysed the creation and development of the incu- Federal University of
Rio de Janeiro, on
bator movement. Finally, Lahorgue, Mello and Santos (2005) have January 7, 2003.
researched technology transfer offices. These people were
members of the NIT
at the Federal
Brazilian political change and new proposals for University of Rio de
technology transfer Janeiro.
The military government that took power in 1964 continued to apply the
same science and technology (S&T) policies adopted after the Second World
War. These were directed towards national security, technological autonomy
and the development of institutional infrastructure and human resources
for universities and state-owned companies.
Some good results were obtained in developing indigenous technologies
in fields such as energy (off-shore technologies), telecommunications,
information and aviation. However, the technological autonomy project
was mainly directed towards state industries in strategic sectors. The
private sector, as a whole, was left outside this project and did not benefit
from technology transfers from universities and public laboratories. Short
of R&D policy of their own, the companies of this sector were generally
reduced to acquiring mature technologies from sources outside the
country (Coutinho and Ferraz 1995).
The need for the role of government in technological development
began to be felt in the mid-1970s, when CNPq, an agency created to support
academic research, was expanded to include technology (although it
retained its original name). Another important issue that dominated S&T
policy in the 1980s was university–industry relationships. The main point
debated in this respect was how to create new policies and new mecha-
nisms to improve the transfer of knowledge from universities to industry.
CNPq, normally more interested in supporting academic science, began to
take actions focused on technological innovation programmes beginning
with the creation of a technological innovation office in 1980. As a first
step, twelve Technological Innovation Centers (NITs) were set up in
research institutes and universities across the country. The NITs’ goals
were to promote innovation in universities and research institutes, encour-
age knowledge transfer to industry and conduct technological forecast-
ing.3 The NIT programme was closed at the end of the 1980s, in part due
to the severe economic crises affecting Brazil at that time (Medeiros, Stal
and Souza Neto 1987). A second programme, however, the ‘Program for
the Establishment of Science Parks’, was introduced in the mid-80s by
CNPq under the direction of the Technological Innovation Office. Difficulties

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4 http://www. apparent in these science park initiatives included insufficient resources,

memoria.cnpq.br/ absence of venture capital and lack of academic leadership.
sociedadeinformacao/ In 1986, the military government came to an end and Brazil returned
softex/softex_2000. to democratic rule. The re-democratisation process began with elections
pdf, accessed on
October, 21, 2007. for state governments in 1982. This made state governments more recep-
5 Idem. tive to academic proposals in general and to science and technology initia-
tives in particular (Etzkowitz, Mello and Terra 1998). Regional development
based on contributions from science and technology thus began to occur
at the state level. State secretariats for Science and Technology were estab-
lished from 1984 onwards, and these began to develop into regional
S&T plans.
The emergence of this space in civil society, associated with the S&T
infrastructure built by the military regime, propitiated conditions for the
establishment of new types of university-based organisations in line with
the Triple Helix model of overlapping spheres. The reorganisation of civil
society allowed for a whole new set of policies to be developed. In a climate
of increased political freedom, following the debate over the transfer of
technology from universities to industry, it was proposed that incubators
be established. As civil society learned to express itself and the bottom-up
policy for creating incubators was consolidated, different kinds of institu-
tions became involved in the their organisation.
The entrepreneurial university was introduced in Brazil through teach-
ing and the development of research as a highly organised activity. New
university initiatives based upon the Triple Helix model were introduced in
a bottom-up fashion in conjunction with industrial organisations and
non-governmental organisations and received the support of municipal,
state and federal governments. From this emerged new types of university-
based organisations – the hybrid organisations. Academic entrepreneurship
also takes place through innovation in incubation, science parks, technol-
ogy transfer offices and junior company projects.

The beginning of entrepreneurship teaching in Brazil

The first ‘Information Technology Law’ No. 7,232/84, was a significant
milestone, which guaranteed a market in the IT area for Brazilian compa-
nies. As a result, an investment strategy was developed for both the gov-
ernment and the private sectors. This strategy focused on the development
of human resources, with the view to allowing the transfer and assimila-
tion of technologies and R&D. The ultimate goal was the assembly of
microelectronics and hardware architecture and the development of basic
software and parallel support for first applications.4 This strategy of creat-
ing a niche market had both defenders and critics; and although its termi-
nation in 1991 was criticised by some as the abandonment of the struggle
for technological independence, this change also brought about a pro-
found transformation in both national policy and in the configuration of
the IT economic sector. At the level of government policy, the focus
switched from hardware to software development.5

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In 1991, the Brazilian Software Engineering Symposium formed the 6 Ibid.

concept of creating a national software producing and exporting industry.
University computer scientists drew up the proposal with contributions
from the Computer Sciences Advisory Committee, the Brazilian Computer
Society, ASSESPRO (Association of Brazilian Information Technology,
Software and Internet Enterprises), AUTOMÁTICA and important national
leaders in this field.6
As a result of this involvement of institutions from all three spheres of
the Triple Helix, a programme was established in 1992 to stimulate the
creation of software companies, and the National Export Software Program
(Softex) was founded by CNPq. Other steps were also taken later to com-
plement this initiative. Table 3 presents the chronological development of
these activities, the institutions which lead them, the programmes or pro-
jects which were created, the impact of these upon the teaching of entre-
preneurship and, finally, the results achieved.
The Softex programme was national in scope, but sensitive to regional
characteristics. Its goal was to carry out a series of coordinated steps,

Institution Year Programme Influences Results

National 1992 SOFTEX Programme Stimulates the foundation Institutions acting together
Research of a Brazilian software with local Softex agents
Council industry geared to in 15 states, supporting
(CNPq) exportation more than 1000 software
development companies(a)
1995 Generation of New Organise regional A total of 21 units were
Enterprises in nuclei geared towards selected, by means of
Software, Information stimulating creation public notices issued in
Technology and of new companies in 1996 and 1997, to host
Services (Genesis the software sector the local nuclei(b)
1996 Softstart Project It aimed to set up an Create entrepreneurship
entrepreneurship courses in 200 of the
courses at universities country’s technical and
higher education
Softex nuclei 1998 To transform Softex Widen actions designed Contributed the experience
Forum nuclei into to create companies and knowledge acquired
incubators and entrepreneurs in in the process of creating
order to meet the businesses and in the
project’s initial goals teaching of entrepreneurs
and to participate to Anprotec(d)
in Anprotec
(a) http://www.softex.br/portal/_asoftex/agentes.asp, accessed on October, 21, 2007.
(b) http://www.memoria.cnpq.br/resultadosjulgamento/softex_2001_result.htm, accessed on October, 21, 2007.
(c) Dolabela (1999).
(d) Interview with José Alberto Sampaio Aranha, director of the Brazilian Association of Science Parks and Business
Incubation (Anprotec) and Director of the Genesis Institute at PUC-Rio, on October, 09, 2001.
Table 3: Softex programme.

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involving government agencies, universities and industry with the view to

promoting the technological capacity of software and information technol-
ogy companies, as well as the creation of new companies. The programme
involved measures which encouraged the development of software for export
as a source of foreign revenue (Prochnik 1998; Valdés and Furiati 1994).
The creation of new businesses in the high technology software sector
was planned by Softex to stimulate recently graduated professionals to
start up businesses based on their knowledge of software and services.
This idea led to the Genesis Project in 1995. The Genesis Project aimed to
inject university students and recently graduated professionals with the
entrepreneurial ‘bug’ and equip them with the necessary knowledge, such
as management and entrepreneurial skills, tools and methods (Silva and
Araújo 1996).
In 1996, CNPq created the Softstart project, which was linked to Genesis.
This groundbreaking initiative covered basic entrepreneurial training right
through the monitoring of ensuing start-ups during their initial phase.
During this period, industry – university relations were hardly in evidence in
the majority of Brazilian universities, and because of this, entrepreneurship
training was originally implemented outside of the academic sphere with
no direct linkages to universities and without the direct involvement of the
federal and state educational ministries and institutions (Dolabela 1999).
Entrepreneurship was introduced as a theme within universities through
initiatives which were directed by institutions and bodies that were not
formally part of Brazil’s educational sector. This may explain the incon-
gruities in the data presented above regarding the diffusion of entrepre-
neurship in the undergraduate and post-graduate programmes.

Towards an entrepreneurial university

Three case studies are presented here involving Brazilian universities that
introduced entrepreneurship. The cases look into local contexts and exter-
nal interference and opportunities to establish the factors have been crucial
in widening activities relating to entrepreneurship in Brazilian universities.

The Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio)

PUC-Rio was chosen as one of our three case studies because it undertakes
innovation and entrepreneurial activities as part of its mission and as a
matter of an institutional policy. PUC-Rio is a private, non-profit Catholic
university based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest city. It was
founded in 1941 by the Jesuits in order to develop knowledge based on
humanistic values. Over the years, the university has gained experience
that has made it an exemplar for higher education, research, social projects
and entrepreneurship. PUC-Rio has approximately 10,000 undergraduate
students, 2,500 graduate students and 5,000 extension students.
These have at their disposal a first-rate educational structure, containing
29 undergraduate programmes which participate in several different
diploma-orientated and certificate courses. The university also has 50

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postgraduate programmes divided into 26 masters’ degree and 24 doctorate 7 Research reputation
degree courses. as measured by
Table 4 below presents, in chronological order, the internal and exter- publications
nal factors which favourably impacted PUC to introduce entrepreneurial (Guarannys 2003)
Until the 1990s, PUC-Rio was mainly a basic education and research
university with financial support from Finep for its science and engineer-
ing programmes since the 1960s. The University had established several
laboratories and has a good reputation for research.7
The changes which led PUC-Rio to institute entrepreneurial activities
within its campus came about in the 1990s, as can be seen in Table 4.
These changes were the result of external pressures and internal leader-
ship which used an immediate crisis to visualise new opportunities. The
external pressures came in the form cuts in federal resources dedicated to
higher education. This led to financial instability for PUC-Rio that posed a
threat to its established institutional prestige. Faced with this problem, the
University sought alternative financing strategies to reduce its dependency
on the federal government. Consequently, PUC created its Technology
Transfer Office as a first attempt to create ties with industry (Guananys
2003; Aranha et al. 1998).
In 1995, Finep created the REENGE, which aimed at improving engi-
neering education with the aim to enhancing interaction between the pro-
ductive and research sectors. This created an opportunity for an internal
debate regarding engineering education in a post-industrial context of rapid
technological change and economic globalisation (Aranha et al. 1998).
Elective classes on entrepreneurship dealing with behaviour, simula-
tion and planning were offered to graduate students for the first time in
1997 as a consequence of Softex and Softstart Project. These classes were
pioneered by PUC-Rio’s Entrepreneurs Formation Program (EFP).
CET (Coordination of Entrepreneurship Teaching) is an agency of the
Genesis Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneur Action created in 2000 to
promote educational activities, research and extension in the area of entre-
preneurship. The entrepreneurship programme includes 14 classes: com-
mercial and social enterprises; venture capital; business plan; issues related
to the creation of technological, cultural and design firms; and creativity.
According to Guananys (2003), PUC-Rio’s establishment of an incuba-
tor also resulted in changes in laboratories and researchers, transforming
several groups into what can be described as quasi-companies. A series of
external pressures and internal debates combined to create new opportu-
nities; but what really turned PUC into one of the most successful cases as
an entrepreneurial university in Brazil is the internal consensus, particu-
larly among its Directors, that established entrepreneurship and develop-
ment as an integral component of the University’s mission. Consequently,
the focus on entrepreneurship covered all areas of the University’s pro-
grammes and a research environment was created to attend to the needs
of industry. Finally, institutional space was built for students, researchers

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Institution Year Decision Influences Result

Federal 1994 The federal government Resources for Brazilian Puc-Rio develops an
Government changes public universities, including adjustment process
policies for the PUC-Rio, quickly and create the CTC
promotion and decline and are Development Office(a)
subsidy of practically
technological areas extinguished in 1994
Finep 1995 REENGE program PUC-Rio starts an Engineering course
aimed at improving internal debate curriculums are
engineering education regarding engineering modified in order to
by enhancing education renew engineers’
interaction between professional profile
the productive and in the new
research sectors economy(b)
CNPq 1992 Softex Project launched – –
CNPq 1995 Genesis Project launched – –
CNPq 1996 CNPq invites Puc-Rio submits a The PUC-Rio proposal is
universities to present proposal selected, giving new
proposals for the impulseto the
establishment of construction of an
Genesis project entrepreneurial culture
nuclei in the university(c)
CNPq 1997 Softstart Project Elective entrepreneurship Those classes were
launched classes in behaviour, pioneered by PUC-Rio’s
simulation and Entrepreneurs
planning, are offered Formation
to undergraduate Program (EFP)(d)
students for the
first time
PUC-Rio 1998 Infogene Nuclei InfoGene Nuclei The Technological
participates in the becomes a Gênesis Incubator could receive
Softex nuclei Forum Technological 20 firms to incubate(e)
Incubator and is
associated with
2000 Puc-Rio decides to New teaching programs CET becomes an agency of
evaluate its experience were adopted in the the Genesis Institute for
in teaching second semester Innovation and
Entrepreneurship of 2001 Entrepreneur Action(f)
From Genesis Institute for Institute aims to Institute has been
2000 Innovation and promote educational focusing its actions on
on Entrepreneur activities, research three major areas:
Action active and extension in the entrepreneurial
entrepreneurship education; outreach
activities with entrepre-
neurs; and entrepre-
neurial research
(a) Guarannys (2003).
(b) Aranha, Pimenta-Bueno, Carmo and Silveira (1998).
(c) http://www.cin.ufpe.br/~genesis/historico.html#edital96, accessed on October, 20, 2007.
(d) Salim 2001.
(e) Almeida, M. interview with José Alberto Sampaio Aranha, Director of Genesis Institute at PUC-Rio, on October, 09, 2001.
(f) Salim 2001.
Table 4: External and internal influences and their impact on PUC-Rio.

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and professors to create companies based upon research conducted in 8 Renato Aquino Faria
incubators linked to the Genesis Institute. Nunes, Dean of
Federal University of
Itajubá. Presentation
Federal University of Itajubá at XVI Seminário
Nacional da
This case involves a university with an entrepreneurship project under devel- Anprotec. Salvador,
opment. The University’s Dean, who had been an incubator manager, pro- October, 20, 2006.
posed to transform the University’s isolated entrepreneurial activities into an 9 Almeida. M. interview
with Renato Aquino
institutionalised and cohesive university mission that introduced innovation Faria Nunes, Dean of
and entrepreneurship as a common element to all courses in the University.8 Federal University of
The Federal University of Itajubá, located in a small town in Minas Itajubá, on
September, 19, 2007.
Gerais state, was founded in 1931 as the Instituto Eletrotécnico e Mecânico
de Itajubá (IEMI). In 1968, the school, renamed as the Itajubá Federal
Engineering School (UNIFEI), started to expand its engineering under-
graduate courses. In 1994, the university began to offer masters courses
and in 1998, seven additional undergraduate courses were added. In
2002, UNIFEI became the Federal University of Itajubá.
UNIFEI offers eleven undergraduate, six MA and two PhD programmes,
with a total enrolment of 2,200 students. Table 5 presents, in chronological
order, the internal and external factors which have had an impact upon
UNIFEI, as well as the changes which have been wrought in terms of the
introduction of entrepreneurial activities.
UNIFEI became entrepreneurial in focus influenced partly by internal
factors and partly by the new pedagogical project designed during
2004–2008. Other than reinforcing its research and teaching activities,
UNIFEI also sought greater participation in local development projects and
on the international scene. The new pedagogical project considers local
development activities as a socially responsible part of the University’s
extension mission.
UNIFEI’s entrepreneur and entrepreneurship training programme cuts
across all departments, encouraging innovation and generating new
enterprises (both within and outside of its incubators).
One of the first activities of the ‘entrepreneurial university’ project was
transfer of the management of the university restaurant and snack bar to
the students’ organisation in February, 2005. The Dean proposed this
challenge and it was immediately accepted by the students, who had already
presented a business plan working out the costs of the restaurant, the
financial viability of the business, meal prices and so forth. In the Dean’s
opinion, the restaurant has thus become a management lab for the stu-
dents from business and industrial engineering courses.9
Another objective of the programme is the dissemination of entrepreneur-
ial culture through the university environment by promoting discussions,
business plan competitions and by recommending that entrepreneurship
courses be open to students from across the University.
There are three incubators at the University. One is dedicated to the
support of technological firms. The second, which was established upon
agreement with the local government, incubates firms in traditional

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Institution Year Decision Influences Result

Escola Federal de 1995 Cefei (Centro Promote the teaching of Creation of entrepemeurial
Engenharia de Empresarial de Entrepreneurship in classes
Itajubá Formação the School of
Empreendera de Engineering
Itajubá) created(a)
1998 Business Department Promote the teaching Creation of
creates Entrepre- of Entrepreneurship entrepreneurial classes
neurship classes(b) in the Business School
2000 Establishment of the Create high tech 14 companies supported
Empresas de Base companies by the incubator
Tecnológica de
Itajubá Incubator(c)
Ministério da 2002 Transform the Federal Strengthens and expands Strengthens school’s role
Educação Engineering School the university in the region
onto the Federal
University of Itajubá
Universidade 2004 Professor Renato New pedagogical model Entrepreneurial research
Federal de Aquino, creator of is defined for the and local development
Itajubá the incubator, is university in gets a big boost
named as Dean(d) 2004–2008
2005 Entrepreneurial Widening of Entrepreneurial content
activities included entrepreneurial in 17 of the 25
in the school’s teaching to other undergraduate
program graduate and programs; lectures on
undergraduate the theme in
programs post-graduate programs
Technological park Installed at the university Under construction
Creation of the Centro Incubator directed Incubates 6 companies
Gerador de Empresas towards traditional
de Itajubá (CEGEIT) economic sectors
2007 Creation of the University started to Incubates 5 groups
Cooperativas contribute to social
Populares Incubator inclusion
New campus is built Installed in neighbouring The university amplifies its
city of Itabira in activities and
partnership with local partnerships
municipal government
and the Vale do Rio
Doce Company
(a) Araújo, Lago, Oliveira, Cabral, Cheng and Fillion (2005).
(b) Leite (2002).
(c) Ribeiro Jr and Silva (2006).
(d) Almeida.M. interview with Renato Aquino Faria Nunes, Dean of Federal University of Itajubá, on September, 19, 2007.
Table 5: External and internal influences on UNIFEI.

economic sectors. The third is a cooperative incubator, which was estab-

lished to organise enterprises that create jobs for marginalised social sectors.
The project of transforming UNIFEI into an entrepreneurial university
is not yet complete. The changes to date have nonetheless kept pace with

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the growing interest in entrepreneurship in the context of an expanding 10 Ronaldo Tadeu Pena,
university system in Brazil. Dean of Federal
University of Minas
Gerais, presentation
Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) at XVII Seminário
Nacional da
The Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), situated in Belo Horizonte, Anprotec, Belo
offers 44 undergraduate programmes, currently catering for over 35,000 Horizonte, October,
18, 2007.
students. It has also about 6,000 students enrolled in masters and PhD
11 Ibid.
programmes.10 Unlike in the two cases discussed above, at UFMG, entre-
preneurial activities have not been implemented in a top-down fashion. 12 http://www.inova.
Entrepreneurship is an isolated activity here and depends on the activities modules/wfchannel/
of a handful of professors and colleges.11 In spite of this, some colleges index.php?pagenum=
62, accessed on June,
have been able to create successful spin-offs, such as the IT course, which 15, 2007.
some professors used to create the Akwan company. Google bought this
13 http://www.face.
firm which is now its laboratory in Latin America (Deutscher, Renault and ufmg.br/servicos/
Ziviani 2005). UFMG has promoted various internal entrepreneurial activ- sub_ser_cei_his.php,
accessed on June, 06,
ities in the University, and has also forged partnership with external insti- 2007.
tutions to do the same. Some examples are mentioned in Table 6 below. 14 Ronaldo Tadeu Pena,
The Computer Science course at UFMG was a pioneer in Brazil in intro- Dean of Federal
University of Minas
ducing entrepreneurship classes to undergraduate students in 1993. This Gerais, presentation
work was initiated by two professors at the University (Silva and Colenci at XVII Seminário
Jr 2002). Nacional da
Anprotec, Belo
In 2003, the CIM incubator and Inovatec decided to merge and Horizonte, October,
become a new incubator named Inova-UFMG. The unification of the two 18, 2007.
projects, which was led by the UFMG Dean, joined the better physical
structures of Inovatec with the incubation know-how of CIM.12 In 2006,
another incubator was established by the UFMG’s Business School.13
The absence of a centralised project at UFMG allowed considerable flex-
ibility in the creation of an entrepreneurial environment, albeit without
any commitment that the institution of formal academic programmes
would have warranted. As shown in Table 6, several initiatives have taken
place at UFMG over the years in order to promote entrepreneurship.
However, the University still lacks a unified policy geared towards imple-
menting these activities, which have for the most part resulted from iso-
lated and ad hoc initiatives.14

The state of entrepreneurial activities within the Brazilian University system
raises two key issues. The first is university autonomy. This allowed activities
related to entrepreneurship to be conducted, new courses to be offered to
students, innovative companies to be created, incubators to be established,
local development networks to be contacted, and so forth, as a result of the
formation of local contacts and agreements. Incubators assumed a leader-
ship role in different areas, disseminating the concept of entrepreneurship
and – on a wider scale – interacting with and convincing institutions, uni-
versities, research centres and governments (federal, state and municipal) to
take part in the movement and support the incubators and entrepreneurial

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Institution Year Decision Influences Results

Federal 1993 Introduction of UFMG was a pioneer in This experiment created
University of Entrepreneurship Brazil 30 new IT
Minas Gerais class in the Computer companies(a)
Science Department
CNPq 1992 Launching of the – –
Softex Project
CNPq 1995 Launching of the – –
Genesis Project
CNPq 1996 CNPq invites universities Founding of a Softex In 11 years of functioning,
to present proposals nucleus in Belo 29 companies have
for the establishment Horizonte, the been benefited or are
of Genesis project Sociedade Mineira de still receiving the
nuclei Software (FUMSOFT) upport of the
UFMG professors sincubator(b)
participate in the
CNPq 1997 Softstart Project Elective subjects in As these classes already
launched entrepreneurship in existed in the
areas of behavior, Computer Sciences
simulation and Department and the
planning, were Softex nucleus was
offered to established beyond
undergraduate the university’s walls,
students for the first there wasn’t much
time of an impact
Federal 1997 Physics Department Interdisciplinary focus Students are taught to
University of includes Entrepre- with the participation present projects for the
Minas Gerais neurship in their of undergraduate future incubator(c)
curriculum students from both
the Physics and
1999 Physics Department An external network of The multidisciplinary
creates the university’s institutions is character of the
first incubator, the established to support incubator has favored
Multidisciplinary the incubator the formation of mixed
Innovation Center teams within the
(CIM) resident companies(d)
2001 The Coordenadoria de Undergraduate Classes implemented in
Transferência e programs which 10 undergraduate
Inovação Tecnológica want to receive programs(e)
organises a support in order to
competition for the implement their own
diffusion of Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship classes are selected
2002 Engineering School Helps academic Develops pre-incubation
decides to organise a community elaborate phase(f)
Technological technical and
Entrepreneurship and economic viability
Innovation Center studies regarding the
(Empreende) results of research

Table 6: External and internal influences and their impact over UFMG. (continued)

54 Mariza Almeida
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Institution Year Decision Influences Results

2002 A second incubator: Systematically Successful creation of
the Enterprising implements activities various spin-offs(g)
Center of which permit the
Technological DCC to improve and
Innovation (Inovatec), expand the
is created by the technology
Computer Sciences generation and
Department transference project
2003 The CIM and Inovatec Improvement in the 28 companies are
incubators are merged, capacities of the served(h)
forming a new incubated companies
incubator (INOVA)
(a) Silva and Colenci Jr (2002).
(b) http://www.fumsoft.softex.br/insoft/insoft.php?m⫽0.1&s⫽0, accessed on June 13, 2007.
(c/d) Valadares and Cabral (2002).
(e) http://www.ufmg.br/prpq/EditalCTIT2001.doc, accessed on June 13, 2007.
(f) Cheng, Drummond and Mattos, 2004.
(g) http://www.face.ufmg.br/servicos/sub_ser_cei_his.php, accessed on June 15, 2007.
(h) http://www.inova.ufmg.br/portal/modules/wfchannel/index.php?pagenum⫽62, accessed on October 31, 2007.
Table 6: External and internal influences and their impact over UFMG.

Entrepreneurial university Pontifical Catholic Federal University Federal University of

characteristics according University of Rio de of Itajubá (UNIFEI) Minas Gerais (UFMG)
to Etzkowitz and Zhou (2007) Janeiro (PUC-Rio)
Entrepreneurial activities are Yes Proposal in progress Isolated activities
accepted and systematically
Interfaces are present Yes (Incubator, TTO) (Incubator) Yes (Incubator, TTO)
Spin-off creation and Yes No Yes
generation of resources
for the university
Source: Based on the definition of entrepreneurial university by Etzkowitz and Zhou (2007).
Table 7: Case study comparison.

activities inside the university system. The second issue relates to the expan-
sion of this process inside each university, while university autonomy is
maintained. This has often depended on the existence of internal consensus
that is crucial for welding isolated initiatives into a cohesive action proposal
that can be incorporated into the university’s mission.
Table 7 shows the different stages in the evolution of entrepreneurship
in the three universities discussed in this article and the similarities and
differences thereof. Developments at UNIFEI and UFMG are still inchoate
and it is not yet clear as to how they would respond subject to internal and
external pressure. Although the three universities are different in size and
legal mandate, we can see that at both PUC-Rio, the non-profit private
university, and UNIFEI, which is a federal university, an internal consen-
sus can be achieved for the adoption and development of entrepreneurship

Innovation and entrepreneurship in Brazilian universities 55

TMSD-7_1-03-Almeida.qxp 5/16/08 7:16 PM Page 56

programmes. On the other hand, even where a university-wide consensus

does not exist and entrepreneurship activities are limited to one or a few
departments, as in the case of UFMG’s Computer Sciences Department,
these departments came into being largely as a result initiatives driven
from within the university.
The creation of an entrepreneurial environment in a university is a step
towards transforming it into an entrepreneurial university, depending,
among other things, on the extent of participation of the university’s various
departments and networks to which the university is linked. Isolated initia-
tives, like those which occurred in PUC-Rio towards the mid-90s, can find
institutional space to grow and become university-wide policy. This has
encouraged the creation of new opportunities for students and staff in teach-
ing activities and participation in the foundation of spin-offs.
The entrepreneurial activities which are reshaping the Federal University
of Itajubá have created new possibilities for the University. Universities have
started to develop the ethos of commercial entrepreneurship, and a new trend
is emerging making way for the culture of social entrepreneurship to evolve.
This has already occurred, if to a limited extent, in teaching and research
and in incubator activities, and is reflected in the growing number of
cooperative incubators in recent years.

This article has attempted to show the importance of internal and external
factors that influence the role of universities in economic development
through the development of entrepreneurial culture. There is, however, no
single road towards the development of entrepreneurial university. There
are many outstanding differences, even within the Brazilian environment,
between universities and institutions, such as the three cases discussed in
this article.
A major feature in the process of building an entrepreneurial univer-
sity is the complementary interaction between university, industry and
government (the three helices), which inevitably widens the original goals.
For example, the Softex programme originally sought to create new com-
panies, but in order to facilitate its goals, it needed to create a second
programme – Sofstart – which introduced the teaching of entrepreneur-
ship in different institutions. Likewise, other institutions came up with ini-
tiatives that increased the number of incubators in Brazil, specifically with
the aim to reduce social inequality by shifting the teaching of technologi-
cal entrepreneurship towards the realm of social intervention activities.

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Suggested citation
Almeida, M. (2008), ‘Innovation and entrepreneurship in Brazilian universities’,
International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development 7: 1,
pp. 39–58, doi: 10.1386/ijtm.7.1.39/1

Contributor details
Dr Mariza Almeida is Assistant Professor at the Augusto Motta University Centre
in Brazil. Contact: Avenida Paris, 41, Bonsucesso, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil, CEP
21041-020. Tel: 0055 2138 829752; Fax: 0055 2139 778943
E-mail: mariza@unisuam.edu.br; almeida.mariza@globo.com

58 Mariza Almeida
TMSD-7_1-04-Memon.qxp 5/16/08 7:16 PM Page 59

International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development

Volume 7 Number 1 © 2008 Intellect Ltd
Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/ijtm7.1.59/1

Knowledge proximity and technological

relatedness in offshore oil and gas and
offshore wind technology in the United
Zahid A. Memon Mehran University of Engineering
and Technology
Roshan S. Rashdi Mehran University of Engineering
and Technology

Abstract Keywords
The United Kingdom (UK) has a strong base of offshore oil and gas (O&G) indus- core competence and
try and possesses enormous offshore wind power (over 40 per cent of the total in capabilities
Europe). The skills and technological resources of the O&G industry could possi- offshore O&G
bly be applied to develop offshore wind farms to generate electricity. In this installations
article, the core capabilities and competencies of offshore O&G industry are offshore wind farms
studied to see if they can supplement the emerging offshore wind industry, which diversification
is likely to be one of the future renewable energy sources for the United Kingdom. technological
The fact that the United Kingdom will turn out to be energy importing country in discontinuities
the future against its current position as energy exporting country, prompts the
need to explore avenues for alternative sources of energy. The authors perceive
this threat to offshore O&G sector as an opportunity for the offshore wind indus-
try, and investigate, through a survey of views, the proposition that the offshore
wind industry offers a future market opportunity for the offshore O&G industry
in the United Kingdom.

The purpose of this article is to investigate the extent to which the offshore 1 Wind turbines
concentrate airflow
oil and gas (O&G) sector in the United Kingdom can diversify its operations energy to drive
to build renewable energy plants (offshore wind farms),1 in addition to pro- generators to produce
ducing fossil fuels – the main area of its operation. The article looks into the electrical energy.

core capabilities and core competencies of offshore O&G firms that can be
adapted to construct offshore wind farms to generate renewable energy
from offshore wind. The United Kingdom has an abundant resource of off-
shore wind, which could be exploited to produce electrical energy (DTI
2003). This goal can be achieved, inter alia, by establishing more wind

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TMSD-7_1-04-Memon.qxp 5/16/08 7:17 PM Page 60

farms on commercial basis. This would call for, among other things, the
development of wind turbine manufacturing and related technologies.
Consideration of renewable options is inescapable in view of the decline
of the stock of oil, gas and coal deposits (ICEPT, 2003) and the growing
concern with climate change arising from the use of fossil fuels (DTI,
2002). After Canada, the United Kingdom has been the only net energy
exporting country of the world following the successful development of
North Sea O&G reserves (The UK Energy White paper 2003). But this sce-
nario is fast changing. By 2020, it is projected that the United Kingdom
will depend on imported energy for about 75 per cent of its total primary
energy needs (The UK Energy White paper 2003).
Diversification is one of the options for energy policy in the United
Kingdom (DTI’s Report on Diversification). Technological diversification
would allow certain skills in the offshore O&G sector to be transferred to
offshore wind industry for effective application. This sort of diversification
of the O&G sector into offshore renewable industry may possibly be a
response to the threat posed by the dwindling O&G reserves in the United
Kingdom. It is also necessary for the UK O&G sector to keep its skill base
from withering away and also to keep its operations in UK waters. The
experience of the UK offshore O&G industry spans over three decades (DTI,
2003). Its knowledge, technological capabilities and access to offshore
wind resource could provide a viable basis for offshore wind farm con-
struction in the United Kingdom, as this article shows.

Diversification and core competencies

Firms generally tend to diversify as they grow and mature. The specific con-
ditions that enhance firms’ decision to diversify and the extent of the bene-
fits to be derived from diversification are probed here in the context of the
relationship between innovation and diversification, which occur as major
technological traits. Also raised as a point of discussion here is the impact of
changes (innovations) arising from diversification on the competencies or
capabilities of firms. The core competence is the collective learning in the
organization (Prahalad and Hamel, 1990). The core competence of O&G
firms may be their seabed survey expertise, offshore installation and con-
struction skills and overall marine experience of their manpower and
machine tools at their disposal to carry out such operations.

It is in the nature of firms in a competitive environment to evolve adapting
to changing market and resource conditions. In order to compete and
retain its market share, a firm must innovate, introducing changes in the
characteristics of the goods and services it supplies. Sometimes innovative
activities enable firms to extend their operations into more than one tech-
nology, that is, to be ‘technologically diversified’ (Breschi, Lissoni and
Malerba 2003). So, it can be inferred that it is actually innovation that
prompts a firm to diversify and broaden its base. It can also be argued that

60 Zahid A. Memon and Roshan S. Rashdi

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technological diversification pre-empts product and service diversification

and leads to service and product innovation as a result.
Innovation refers to change. If change occurs in multi-faceted ways, it
forms the basis for diversification. Change of this kind can take two forms
– change in products and services supplied (product innovation), and
change in the ways in which the goods and services are created and deliv-
ered (process innovation) (Tidd, Bessant and Pavitt 2002). The changes in
product and process characteristics could sometimes be minor, slow and
gradual; and sometimes they could be of radical nature resulting in tech-
nological paradigm shifts.
There has been a growing body of research over the years on corporate
diversification (Granstrand et al. 1990). They have further explained that
the pioneering research was done by Nelson (1957) followed by his
various contemporaries like Patel and Pavitt (1994). Much of the research
so far has, however, been on product rather than market diversification or
firms’ expansion into a broader range of product areas’ (Granstrand et al.
1990). Technological diversification, on the other hand, is defined by
Kodama (1986) and Pavitt et al. (1989) as extension of the competence of
industry into various technological areas (Granstrand et al, 1990).
Technological diversification is analogous to technological transition in a
manner that cellular phones experienced transition from analogue to
digital technologies. Technological competence of a firm evolves over time
and is even transformed with the accumulation of knowledge and the
application of it. The pace at which technological competence and capabil-
ities are transformed depends on the opportunities and incentives that are
open to firms (Patel and Pavitt 1994).

Competence and technological discontinuities

After an extensive study of different firms for the pattern of technological
changes, Tushman and Anderson (1996) note that firms may go through
changes of ‘discontinuous’ nature and that technology is a crucial element
in shaping the firms’ environmental conditions. They argue that while
firms innovate in a gradual and incremental manner, sometimes certain
major ‘breakthroughs’ (discontinuities) occur that may either enhance or
destroy the competence of the firms that innovate. They identify two dif-
ferent forms of technological discontinuities: competence-destroying dis-
continuities; and competence-enhancing discontinuities.
Competence-destroying discontinuities (radical innovations), destroy
the traditional competence of firms in the production of goods and ser-
vices, and introduce novel ways of doing things. This is akin to what
Joseph Schumpeter would refer to as ‘creative destruction’ to show that
the new way of doing things is radically different from the old or existing
way. Competence-enhancing discontinuities (incremental innovations)
are, on the other hand, based on the existing skills and capabilities of
firms. Tushman and Anderson specify that while competence-destroying
discontinuities occur in new firms and cause drastic changes and major

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TMSD-7_1-04-Memon.qxp 5/16/08 7:17 PM Page 62

shake-ups in the environmental conditions of the firms, competence-

enhancing discontinuities are initiated by existing firms and result in less
‘environmental turbulence’. Indeed, competence-enhancing advances
permit existing firms to exploit their competence and expertise and
thereby gain competitive advantage over smaller or newer firms. However,
they argue that both types of discontinuities create uncertainty in the
organization, albeit in varying degrees and with varying implications for
the organisation and management of the firm and production and market-
ing strategies.

Role of ‘knowledge proximity’ in diversification

One important aspect of the concept of ‘knowledge proximity’ in diversify-
ing firms relates to geographical nearness and neighbourhood, which
results in learning and knowledge spill over from one firm to another
(Breschi et al. 2003). Another important aspect relates to the generic
nature of knowledge used in multiple technologies and activities. Firms
may also diversify in related technologies keeping in view the lower
switching costs in terms of locally available opportunities of diversification.
This way, high capital costs incurred on R&D and human resources may
be avoided. Diversification could in this case be seen as a two way process
in which the firms at the diversification and acquisition ends share com-
monalities and proximities. In the words of Breschi et al. (2003):

firms follow a coherent pattern of technological diversification, which clus-

ters around groups of technologies that share a common or complementary
knowledge base, rely upon common scientific principles or have similar
heuristics of search.

Diversification of offshore O&G industry into offshore renewable industry

will depend upon the nature of both industries and the ability of O&G firms
to diversify and of wind industry to absorb the technology. This may call
for a close look into the capabilities of both industries to be able to see
whether the ‘R&D outlays’ have really been beneficial for the industry at
source and the industry at use.
The concepts of ‘prior knowledge’, ‘knowledge proximity’ and ‘techno-
logical relatedness’, have resulted in the transformation of one technology
into another sharing commonalities. Thus, diversification opportunity
may very well be available to the offshore O&G industry; it may also be the
creation of offshore renewable energy through wind and tidal and wave

Diversification in O&G sector: future prospects

In a report produced by DTI/PILOT (Sustainability Through Diversity
2003), it has been identified that over 850 companies in the United
Kingdom are operating in the O&G environmental market. Over half are
primarily product suppliers. The report further suggests that the UK O&G

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supplier industry, which covers more than half of the environmental

market, has considerable strengths, assets and capabilities (unique to off-
shore environment), which are transferable into other market sectors. It
also outlines a number of potential opportunities for new business in three
main markets where there is an outline fit with supplier strengths and
Table 1 below provides an insight into the various supplier opportunities
of offshore O&G firms that can be used to strengthen marine wind industry
in addition to other sectors like onshore wind and tidal and wave technolo-
gies, and shows the scope for successful diversification of one sector into
another, sharing knowledge similarities and complementarities.
O&G firms’ experiences, skills, facilities and equipment used in provid-
ing construction support to complex offshore projects can be directly
transferable for use in the construction and installation of offshore wind
farms. O&G companies have extensive experience in areas such as supply

Source: DTI/PILOT Study - Executive Summaries, available on CD-Rom. Acquired on

personal request.
Table 1: (Matrix): Prospects for the UK O&G supplier industry.

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TMSD-7_1-04-Memon.qxp 5/16/08 7:17 PM Page 64

2 DTI is responsible for chain co-ordination, manpower and equipment supply, procurement,
giving consent for the planning and logistics support.
wind projects in the
3 Interview with DTI Survey of data
personnel. A number Views expressed by different people from the renewable energy sector, the
of respondents also
referred to the O&G sector and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)2 – the three
competence of O&G major stakeholders – are analysed and discussed here. Data used in this
firms in the
construction of the
article were obtained through the administration of questionnaires, tele-
recently built North phone interviews and face to face meetings. The overall survey results are
Hoyle offshore wind found to be very satisfactory as far as amount and quality of information
farm in the UK. This
led to the transfer of are concerned.
certain skills from
O&G industry to the
North Hoyle offshore Transferable skills
wind project. Interestingly, views on transferable skills are similar across all stakehold-
ers. There is consensus that the offshore O&G industry has skills, facilities
and equipment that the wind industry requires. Some emphasised that the
experience of the offshore O&G industry in installing structures of all kinds
worldwide. The UK offshore industry has been at the forefront of this tech-
nology, particularly the engineering and management skills. Installation
of small structures such as wind farms would be a relatively straightfor-
ward project for the ‘techno-rich’ O&G industry.
The O&G industry has capability to undertake construction activities in
adverse conditions. It has also marine expertise as in cable laying, lifting
and installation; marine equipment like sub-ploughs; and knowledge of
marine legislation and control. All these are important for building the
support structures of offshore wind farms like that of Scroby Sands, United
Kingdom’s largest offshore wind farm inaugurated in March, 2005.
According to a business executive associated with an O&G supplier
company and involved in the engineering and management, the most
obvious areas where the offshore industry prior experience can be useful
are fabrication and installation. There have been many structures placed
offshore in all kinds of environments and in all sizes – from the very small
(wind turbine scale) to structures weighing thousands of tonnes. The
hardware required is available from a number of installation specialists.
Crane vessels exist in O&G operator companies that are capable of
installing single piece structures weighing from a couple of hundred up to
12,000 tonnes.
The skills in engineering and marine engineering are also usable.
Inspection and maintenance are areas for which the wind industry would
need support in the future. These skills and expertise do lie in the O&G
sector. Moreover, the operations and maintenance (O&M) expertise of the
O&G sector is potentially transferable. For instance, an existing O&G
product manufacturing company was involved in the North Hoyle off-
shore wind farm.3
As a Project Engineer in a renewable energy firm noted, the role of O&G
project management expertise could be significant when multi-million

64 Zahid A. Memon and Roshan S. Rashdi

TMSD-7_1-04-Memon.qxp 5/16/08 7:17 PM Page 65

4 Operator companies
are the oil companies,
which explore,
develop and produce

Figure 1: Transferable skills from O&G to offshore wind as per survey results.

contractual arrangements with weather risk and high vessel costs is some-
thing the wind industry is not yet familiar with. O&G companies also have
good experience in foundation construction and installation – particularly
for tripods in deeper water. For O&M, there is already a skill base, but for
transfer to happen, the skills of O&G technicians would need to be directed
by experienced wind turbine engineers.
The O&G skills suitable for offshore wind farm industry indicated by
various people covered in the survey are shown in Figure 1 below.
The Technical Manager of an offshore O&G operator4 company revealed
during the telephone interview that their company had involvement in
wind projects in Spain, especially in the area of tightening bolts/joints. He
considered the joint tightening know-how in O&G firms critical to the
wind turbines to withstand vibration/stress and maintain torque/tension
during turbulent weather. Also, knowledge and experience in bridge con-
struction, like assembling large structures, are transferable to the wind
farm construction, which means that civil engineering and construction
firms have scope of work in turbine construction and related activities.

Not all respondents are agreed on the extent of effectiveness of O&G firms
in strengthening offshore wind-farm development, and hence on the scope
for diversification of O&G firms into the offshore wind industry. Different
viewpoints are expressed by respondents from O&G companies, renewable
industry (offshore wind farm) and DTI with respect to the limitations on
offshore diversification.

O&G companies’ views

A respondent from an O&G company said that offshore wind offers a diver-
sification opportunity, but only to those companies that are prepared to

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adapt to the needs of an industry with a different cost structure and

prospect of long term recovery of investment. Another respondent said
that the scope for diversification was not as large as it is often made out to
be. This is largely because, he argued, the costs associated with offshore
wind power are scarcely competitive without subsidy and the facility pro-
vided to trade renewable obligation in view of the safety and environmen-
tal impact of the industry that would have unfavourable consequences
particularly for the shipping and fishing industries.
There is also the view that the O&G business in United Kingdom is
decreasing and that diversification into the renewable offshore wind sector
would hardly feature as a matter of priority in the circumstances. Rather,
relocation of business to other potential overseas sites like Singapore,
Russia and Brazil would be a sound option for the O&G business in the
United Kingdom.
According to the manager of a fabrication and engineering company,
their company relied on the major contractors in the oil industry, as their
main source of work recognised some years ago that the volume of work
from the oil industry was on the decline. The company’s turnover was 85
per cent oil related in 1999. The traditional workload of the company dis-
appeared fast consequent upon the closure of the Ardersier Construction
Yard, the decline of the Nigg Yard and the decline of drilling activity in the
North Sea. By 2003, the business turnover had fallen by 50 per cent and
the company was in dire straits. It was felt that diversification could be the
way forward for an O&G company in such a difficult situation. However,
diversification into markets, which are new and volatile, such as offshore
wind, involve investment risks in the sense that immediate returns are
hardly in sight. The decision to diversify is not therefore straight forward
in such cases.

Renewable industry’s position

Respondents from the offshore wind sector were less sceptical than those
from O&G companies over the issue of diversification. Diversification is
generally perceived here as more of an opportunity than a risk for O&G
companies; and respondents maintained the view that insofar as the skills
and scale of facilities required for the manufacture of towers and mono-
piles are similar to O&G yards, there could be good market in the offshore
wind sector to warrant provision of enough work that would keep at least
a small team in an O&G company permanently occupied in offshore wind.
Respondents are not however unaware of the limitations of diversification
opportunities for O&G companies.
A major constraint on O&G diversification is the scale of the offshore
wind industry which, being small, cannot fully support the scale of the
current O&G activities. Yet another problem militating against technology
transfer across sectors the cultural difference between the O&G and off-
shore wind sectors. Moreover, profit margins in the wind sector are cur-
rently small unlike the margins afforded by many in the O&G sector.

66 Zahid A. Memon and Roshan S. Rashdi

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These, it was generally acknowledged, would act as a disincentive for O&G

companies to diversify into offshore wind.

DTI’s position
The majority of respondents from DTI agreed with the idea of offshore
wind offering a sustainable opportunity to O&G firms to diversify into off-
shore wind business; but they also expressed concern about the economic
viability of such diversification.
These views are broadly reflective of the DTI Gap Analysis which high-
lights cost and market factors as constraints on the diversification of O&G
into offshore wind industry. Although the O&G industry has the skills and
expertise to be able to diversify into offshore wind, the exercise would not
be cost-effective. Moreover, offshore wind business is much more standard-
ised and based on much lower margins than O&G. Regarding the market
constraint, as mentioned elsewhere above in this article, offshore wind
would not be commercially viable without Government support. This situ-
ation would hardly make offshore wind business in the United Kingdom
an attractive proposition for O&G to diversify into. O&G is very profitable
business, whereas offshore wind has yet to demonstrate such profitability.
It would therefore make more economic sense for multinational oil com-
panies to continue to exploit hydrocarbon resources in other parts of the
world rather than diversifying into UK offshore wind that would give
them, if at all, very modest returns.

The offshore O&G sector in United Kingdom constitutes a mature industry.
Offshore wind, on the other hand, is a growing industry. A major challenge
that the O&G sector has to contend with is the decreasing fossil fuel
reserves and the uncertain prospects for further explorations. It is as such
steadily heading towards stagnation and decline. In the circumstances, it
would need to take necessary steps to diversify its operational capabilities
and respond to the needs expressed in the emerging environmental market.
The competence of the O&G industry and its business and technologi-
cal environment appear to favour transition to offshore wind business. The
major incentive offered by transition is that the O&G sector would remain
in the forefront as a provider of renewable energy and thus avoid the risk
of stagnation and decline. It is apparent from the survey, however, that
even after recognizing offshore renewable sector as a potential area of
diversification, the O&G sector is rather reluctant to diversify into offshore
wind business. This could be due to the problem of technological uncertainty
transition and diversification would bring in train for O&G firms.

The survey conducted by the authors of this article has provided enough
evidence to suggest that offshore O&G industry skills are transferable to
offshore wind farm construction. But, given that the UK offshore wind

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industry is inchoate and offering only modest profit margins, it is consid-

ered by the offshore O&G industry only as a residual opportunity. However,
there is good reason to believe that the two sectors could work together to
provide substantial support to offshore wind farm development in the
United Kingdom.
The core competence areas that are of common usefulness to both
O&G and offshore wind industries involve material and manpower skills. It
is apparent from the survey that the transferable manpower skills of O&G
technicians would need to be directed by experienced wind turbine engi-
neers, whereas the material skills can be transferred with much ease.
The offshore O&G sector is diversifying into offshore renewable sector,
but not to the extent required to achieve renewable targets. This is mainly
due to the investment risk and uncertainty that would militate against the
possibility of achieving smart returns. However, government subsidy is
seen by many as an important factor to considerably increase the scale of
transfer of technology from O&G sector to wind farm construction.
The UK O&G industry recognises the decline in its activity could be coun-
tered by diversifying into offshore wind industry. However, as discussed in
the article, this opportunity is not considered commercially serious enough
to be taken on board with total commitment. Rather, the industry would
prefer to relocate its businesses to oil rich countries overseas.
The survey shows project management, inspection and maintenance,
construction of foundations and installation expertise as the top four areas
in offshore wind farm development where offshore O&G prior competence
is transferable. They are in total consonance with DTI matrix shown in
Table 1.

The authors acknowledge the help and guidance offered by Dr. Jim Watson of the
Science and technology Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex,
United Kingdom.

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Suggested citation
Memon, Z.A. and Rashdi, R. (2008), ‘Knowledge proximity and technological
relatedness in offshore oil and gas and offshore wind technology in the United

Knowledge proximity and technological relatedness in offshore oil and gas . . . 69

TMSD-7_1-04-Memon.qxp 5/16/08 7:17 PM Page 70

Kingdom’, International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable

Development 7: 1, pp. 59–70, doi: 10.1386/ijtm.7.1.59/1

Contributor details
Zahid A. Memon is Assistant Professor at Mehran University Institute of Science
and Technology Development (MUISTD), Jamshoro, Pakistan. Contact: Mehran
University Institute of Science and Technology Development (MUISTD), Jamshoro-
76062, Pakistan. Tel: +92 22 2772430-31; Fax: +92 22 2772432
E-mail: memon.zahid@muet.edu.pk; memonzahid2007@yahoo.com
Dr. Roshan S. Rashdi is Professor at Mehran University Institute of Science and
Technology Development (MUISTD), Jamshoro, Pakistan. Contact: Mehran
University Institute of Science and Technology Development (MUISTD), Jamshoro-
76062, Pakistan. Tel: +92 22 2772430-31; Fax: +92 22 2772432
E-mail: codirector.muistd@muet.edu.pk; pirrashdi@yahoo.com

70 Zahid A. Memon and Roshan S. Rashdi

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International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development

Volume 7 Number 1 © 2008 Intellect Ltd
Article. French. doi: 10.1386/ijtm7.1.71/1

Partenariat public-privé en Tunisie:

Les conditions de succès et d’échec
Amira Bouhamed Université de Sfax
Jamil Chaabouni Université de Sfax

Résumé Mots clés

Les changements qu’a subi le contexte politique, économique et social ont suscité partenariat
le développement des accords de partenariat public-privé. La présente recherche a public-privé
mis l’accent sur les différentes conditions favorables et défavorables susceptibles sous-traitance des
d’influencer la réussite de la relation de sous-traitance des services publics. La services publics
recherche empirique menée auprès de dix-huit établissements universitaires en établissements
Tunisie (Sfax) ainsi qu’auprès de leurs fournisseurs a permis de relever que: les universitaires
évaluations pré et post contractuelles et le climat de confiance représentent des conditions de succès
voies porteuses pour le succès de la relation de sous-traitance. Les conflits d’in- conditions d’échec
térêts et l’asymétrie d’information entre les partenaires constituent des condi-
tions qui entravent la réussite d’une telle relation. Keywords
Abstract subcontracting
Changes in the political, economic and social environments may spark the devel- public sector
opment of the public-private partnerships agreements. The article notes that a organizations
range of favourable and unfavourable conditions are likely to influence the rela- success and failing
tionships of suppliers with the public sector in Tunisia. This empirical research factors
focuses on eighteen academic establishments in Tunisia (Sfax) and their suppli-
ers. The investigation highlights the impact of determinants such as trust and
pre- and post-contract evaluation on successful suppliers relationships. The con-
flicts of interests and the asymmetry of information between the partners are
found to be examples of inhibitors to the success of such relationships.

Depuis quelques décennies, la crise qui a affecté la légitimité de l’organisa-
tion publique, son rôle et son fonctionnement a été à l’origine de l’émer-
gence de la réflexion sur le new public management (Yaya 2005: 5). Né en
Grand Bretagne, depuis les années 80, sous le gouvernement de Margaret
Thatcher et dans bien d’autres pays de tradition anglo-saxonne, le new
public management est un mouvement de réforme du secteur public. Il
consiste à favoriser la transposition de modèles de gestion du secteur privé

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sur le secteur public (Pettigrew 1997: 113). Moderniser l’Etat, le réinven-

ter, moderniser les services publics, améliorer la gestion des organisations
publiques et instaurer des contrats de performance sont les objectifs de ce
mouvement (Yaya 2005: 6). L’approche de l’administration publique rela-
tive à la façon de fournir ses services à ses ‘citoyens-clients’ a changé. La
culture bureaucratique fait place à l’innovation, l’imputabilité selon les
résultats et le management des affaires. La prudence et la stabilité sont
remplacées par l’entrepreneurship, la flexibilité et la créativité (Morin
1998: 17).
Assurer de nouvelles missions et dépasser le simple statut de prestataire
unique des services publics représentent aussi des défis lancés par les insti-
tutions internationales. Les exigences internationales sont considérées par
les grands bailleurs de fonds multilatéraux–notamment par la Banque
Mondiale (BM) et le Fond Monétaire International (FMI). - comme une
composante indissociable des programmes d’ajustement structurel (Medeb
2003: 1). Pour répondre à ces défis, la Banque Mondiale a proposé un
découpage du secteur public en trois domaines distincts: les entreprises
stratégiques, les entreprises non indispensables au processus de développe-
ment candidates à une procédure de liquidation juridique et les entreprises
non stratégiques mais viables candidates désignées à des opérations de pri-
vatisation (Guillaumont et al. 1997: 275).
La privatisation peut être totale ou partielle (partage des responsabilités
entre les acteurs publics et privés) (Medeb 2003: 1–2). Cette dernière caté-
gorie pouvant être mise en oeuvre au moyen du partenariat public-privé
(PPP). A cet égard, le paradigme impliquant l’intervention de l’Etat-nation
pour délivrer les services cède la place au nouveau paradigme de parte-
nariat (Fisbein et Lowden 1999: 69). Le PPP a été défini par Choe, (2002:
281) comme suit: «Les PPP rassemblent un large éventail de talents et de
ressources provenant aussi bien du secteur public que du secteur privé. Ils
produisent des résultats qui profitent à tout le monde et qui sont dans la
ligne des intérêts et des problèmes généraux de la Société». Ce qui carac-
térise le partenariat public-privé (PPP) des autres types de partenariat con-
cerne la spécificité de ses parties contractantes (partenaires public et privé).
Cependant, s’engager dans un partenariat est une décision stratégique.
Elle peut avoir des effets aussi bien positifs que négatifs sur les partenaires
mais aussi sur certaines parties prenantes telles que le consommateur.
L’objectif de cet article est d’analyser les conditions qui favorisent le succès
d’un PPP et celles de l’échec de telles relations inter-organisationnelles.
L’intérêt est porté sur une forme particulière de PPP à savoir la sous-
traitance des services publics. Ce type de partenariat a été développé dans
plusieurs pays tels que: le Royaume-Uni, l’Australie, la Turquie, les Etats-
Unis et la Nouvelle-Zélande (PUMA, Note de Synthèse N°2, 2004: 2-4). En
Tunisie, la sous-traitance des services publics est considérée comme étant
l’une des formes les plus courantes de la privatisation. Elle est fréquem-
ment utilisée par les autorités locales et les services de santé (Rapport de
l’ISP 2004: 18).

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Afin d’évaluer le succès du PPP, une revue des critères développés à cet
effet est présentée dans la première partie. Nous proposons, dans la deux-
ième partie, un aperçu théorique sur les conditions de réussite et d’échec
de ces partenariats. L’étude de la littérature débouche sur la proposition
d’un modèle conceptuel qui est testé sur la relation de sous-traitance entre
les institutions universitaires rattachées à l’université de Sfax (Tunisie) et
leurs prestataires (entreprises de services).

Les critères d’évaluation du succès du PPP

Le succès du partenariat peut être évalué par le degré de réalisation des
objectifs stratégiques des parties contractantes (Lambe et al. 2002: 149) en
l’occurrence les partenaires public et privé. Par ailleurs, un des principaux
enjeux des PPP est d’améliorer le bien-être collectif. C’est au consomma-
teur des services publics d’apprécier l’atteinte de cet objectif (Rapport de
développement dans le monde, 1994: 78).

Les objectifs du partenaire public

Les objectifs de l’organisation publique sont multiples et ne sont pas toujours
harmonieux (Guillaumont et al. 1997: 272). A cet égard, la recherche de
l’intérêt général n’est plus à elle seule suffisante, faut-il encore que l’or-
ganisation publique apporte la preuve de son efficience et de son efficacité
(Chevallier 1997: 31).
La politique de PPP a été reconnue comme étant profitable pour
améliorer l’efficience et l’efficacité de l’organisation publique. Elle met en
place de nouveaux mécanismes gouvernementaux et une coopération
(Choe 2002: 283). Cette coopération contribue à accroître la mobilisation
de l’ensemble des ressources complémentaires (matérielles et immatérielles),
à améliorer l’efficience et l’efficacité de leur utilisation et à réaliser un effet
de synergie (Fisbein et Lowden 1999:16; 86).
Le PPP permet aussi de dépasser les difficultés de juger la performance
de l’organisation publique. En effet, cette dernière ne peut pas définir l’effi-
cience et l’efficacité de son action en fonction de critères simples, quantita-
tivement mesurables et objectivement partagés. Ces critères influencés
essentiellement par la logique marchande existent plutôt, dans le secteur
privé (Favoreu 2004: 8). Le PPP permet aussi de remédier à la dilution des
responsabilités. En effet, l’acteur public a un unique interlocuteur qu’il
peut responsabiliser (Landier et Benayoun 2003: 26).
De ce fait, l’amélioration de l’efficience et de l’efficacité du partenaire
public peut être considérée comme étant un critère d’évaluation du succès
du PPP.

Les objectifs du partenaire privé

La coopération avec le secteur public permet à l’entreprise privée de générer
une «rente relationnelle» (Dyer et Singh 1998) sur la base des ressources
partagées. En effet, selon l’approche relationnelle, la performance de l’en-
treprise est liée au réseau de relations que celle-ci développe et entretient

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avec l’ensemble des acteurs présents dans son environnement. Ce réseau

de relations permet de créer et de coordonner des ressources relationnelles
qui dépassent les frontières de l’organisation (partager des connaissances
et des savoir-faire, exploiter des compétences complémentaires, etc.)
(Donada et Garrette 2001: 21).
Le sous-traitant développe aussi, une capacité à travailler avec des
clients non traditionnels ce qui permet l’expansion de son marché (Fisbein
et Lowden, 1999: 34) et par conséquent de se faire voir, se ménager des
positions (Damon 2002: 39) et se créer une réputation (Fisbein et Lowden
1999: 33), ce qui participe à la réalisation de profits.
Ainsi, nous pouvons considérer que le succès du PPP est évalué par la
réalisation des objectifs du partenaire privé tels que la création d’un réseau
relationnel, l’accès à de nouveaux marchés, la réputation et la réalisation
de profit.

Les objectifs des bénéficiaires

Le PPP ouvre la perspective d’une mobilisation des compétences et des
ressources complémentaires susceptibles d’être utilisées pour trouver des
solutions harmonieuses aux problèmes économiques et sociaux et pour
assurer le bien-être de la communauté (Choe 2002: 281). Il s’agit essen-
tiellement de la réduction des coûts de prestation des services, l’élargisse-
ment de la gamme des services offerts, l’amélioration de la qualité, etc.
(Aubert et Patry 2004: 5).
Le citoyen participe directement ou indirectement au financement du
PPP et il est le bénéficiaire des biens et services qui sont produits par le
partenariat. Il peut mieux évaluer la qualité des services rendus et l’amélio-
ration du bien-être social (Rapport de développement dans le monde 1994:
78). La satisfaction du bénéficiaire est supposée être l’objectif ultime du
partenariat (Aubert et Patry 2004: 5) dans la mesure où le citoyen est
devenu de plus en plus exigeant (Morin 1998: 19). La satisfaction des béné-
ficiaires constitue donc un critère important d’évaluation du succès du PPP.

Quels référentiels théoriques d’explication des conditions de

succès et d’échec du PPP?
La théorie des coûts de transaction (TCT) (Coase 1937; Williamson 1975,
1985) est le paradigme dominant pour l’analyse du dilemme «faire ou
faire faire». Elle a été utilisée par nombreux travaux empiriques portant
sur la sous-traitance (Barthélémy 2004). Or, la TCT ne permet pas de cap-
turer certaines caractéristiques de la relation entre le donneur d’ordres et
son prestataire à savoir: l’asymétrie d’information et le conflit d’intérêts.
Pour introduire ces deux dimensions, il semble pertinent d’analyser la
sous-traitance aussi, sous l’angle d’une relation entre un principal et un
agent, comme l’indique la théorie de l’agence (TA) (Chanson 2003). Pour
cette raison, nous mobilisons aussi bien la théorie des coûts de transaction
que la théorie de l’agence afin d’appréhender respectivement les condi-
tions de succès et celles de l’échec du PPP.

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La théorie des coûts de transaction et les conditions

de succès du PPP
Selon la TCT, les acteurs ont des comportements opportunistes (Williamson,
1975). L’objet des contrats de partenariat est de formuler les engagements
bilatéraux de manière à réduire ces risques d’opportunisme (Calvi et al.,
2000: 10). Or, les contrats réels sont relativement incomplets et ne sont
pas strictement appliqués (Nogatchewsky 2003: 174).
Les contrats ne sont pas les seules garanties contre l’opportunisme. Ils
peuvent être complétés par d’autres mécanismes de gouvernance qui sont
liés à l’auto-exécution de l’accord (self-enforcing agreement) dans laquelle
aucune tierce personne ne participe pour déterminer si une violation
intervient (Dyer 1997). Dyer, (1997) et Dyer et Singh, (1998) distinguent
entre les garanties formelles et les garanties informelles.

Les garanties formelles

Dans la littérature, les économistes mettent l’accent sur les mécanismes
formels et sur la rationalité dans la relation de gouvernance (Poppo et
Zenger 2002: 710). Les garanties formelles peuvent prendre deux formes
dans la sous-traitance: l’évaluation ex-ante et l’évaluation ex-post de la
relation (Calvi et al. 2000: 7).
L’évaluation ex-ante permet d’estimer la qualité marchande ou potentielle
du fournisseur (évaluation de l’organisation): compétitivité prix, respect des
normes de qualité, réputation, etc. (Neuville 1997: 302; Baudry 1999: 65;
Aubert et Patry 2004: 9). Dans le cadre du PPP, la sélection du prestataire
privé peut s’effectuer soit par négociation directe ou par le recours à l’appel
d’offres. La négociation peut faire baisser le coût global et améliorer l’offre en
permettant la mise en place de solutions innovantes (Viau 2003). L’appel
d’offres met en place des procédures écrites et formelles favorisant la trans-
parence, la crédibilité, la responsabilité, la mise en place de la concurrence et
la diffusion large de l’information (Viau 2003; Jost et al. 2005).
La phase du choix du fournisseur privé s’avère, alors stratégique pour
le client public. Il s’agit essentiellement d’évaluer les compétences du sous-
traitant et d’estimer sa capacité à être fiable. Parallèlement, le sous-trai-
tant s’assure de la transparence des procédures de sélection et du respect
des engagements du donneur d’ordres (Trégan 2004). L’évaluation ex-
ante contribue alors à la réalisation des objectifs des partenaires public et
privé et à la satisfaction des bénéficiaires.

Proposition 1: le recours du donneur d’ordres publics à des mécanismes d’évalua-

tion ex-ante de son sous-traitant privé, augmente la probabilité de réussite du PPP.
L’évaluation ex-post mesure la qualité effective du partenaire privé
(évaluation de sa production). Elle concerne aussi bien la quantité que la
qualité de ses prestations et sa conformité aux cahiers des charges (Neuville
1998: 19).
Les dispositifs de contrôle mis en place permettent au partenaire public
de lutter contre l’opportunisme du fournisseur privé, de s’assurer qu’il se

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comporte conformément à ses attentes (Nogatchewsky 2003: 182) et

d’agir sur les futures phases de sélection (Calvi et al. 2000: 7). Ils permet-
tent aussi, de coordonner les activités, leur donner un ordre, compte tenu
des intérêts divers et potentiellement divergents des acteurs de la coopéra-
tion (Nogatchewsky 2003: 173). Cette évaluation post-contractuelle
représente une condition favorable à la réalisation des objectifs des parte-
naires et à la satisfaction des bénéficiaires.

Proposition 2: le recours du donneur d’ordres public à des mécanismes d’évaluation

ex-post de son sous-traitant privé, augmente la probabilité de la réussite du PPP.

Les garanties informelles

Pour les sociologues, la relation d’échange est basée sur une composante
sociale représentée par la confiance (Poppo et Zenger 2002: 710; Calvi
2000: 7). Neuville (1997: 303) et Zaheer et al. (1998: 142) distinguent
entre deux types de confiance qui peuvent s’instaurer dans la coopération:
la confiance inter-organisationnelle qui règne entre les organisations
partenaires et la confiance inter-personnelle entre les membres des deux
Le climat de confiance permet de réduire la perception du risque associé
aux comportements opportunistes en diminuant leur probabilité d’appari-
tion (Brulhart 2002: 56) et de suspendre en partie les incertitudes. La
confiance est un réducteur d’anxiété qui permet aux individus d’entrer en
interaction et de s’engager dans l’action collective (Giauque 2004: 14).
Elle permet à chacun de se concentrer sur les bénéfices à long terme de la
relation plutôt que de vérifier au jour le jour l’engagement du partenaire,
ce qui permet de réduire les coûts de transactions (Trégan 2004). Ainsi, la
confiance contribue à assurer l’amélioration du bien-être collectif en
livrant des services publics de qualité et à mieux satisfaire les attentes des
partenaires public et privé.

Proposition 3: la confiance entre le donneur d’ordres public et le sous-traitant

privé accroît la probabilité de réussite du PPP.

La théorie d’agence et les conditions d’échec du PPP

Selon Montmorillon (1989: 18), «il y a relation d’agence, quand un agent
appelé principal ou mandant délègue tout ou une partie de son pouvoir de
décision à un autre agent dénommé mandataire. La notion d’agence a
même été étendue à toutes les formes de coopération qui se nouent entre
deux partenaires». Dès que s’établissent de telles relations, des coûts spéci-
fiques apparaissent. Les coûts d’agence proviennent de la nécessité de
contrecarrer les comportements opportunistes inévitables dès qu’il y a
asymétrie d’information et conflits d’intérêts entre le principal et l’agent
(Voisin 1995: 485). Baudry (1993: 55) distingue deux caractéristiques de
la relation d’agence: l’asymétrie dans la distribution de l’information et le
conflit d’intérêts entre le principal et l’agent.

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L’asymétrie d’information
La TA suppose une situation d’asymétrie d’information ce qui est le cas dans
la sous-traitance. En effet, les firmes sous-traitantes sont mieux informées
sur les conditions de la demande et des coûts que le donneur d’ordres. En
outre, la réalisation des projets publics ou la prestation des services publics
sont soumises à l’opportunisme éventuel des différents acteurs (Martimort
et Rochet 1999: 48).
Fabbe-Costes et Brulhart (1999: 37) suggèrent que cette situation
d’asymétrie d’information constitue une incitation à la méfiance. Par contre,
le partage d’informations permet d’anticiper, coordonner et planifier les
actions, de mesurer les résultats, de détecter les non-qualités et de mettre
en place un processus d’apprentissage partagé ou collectif pour stimuler le
changement dans le partenariat (Kanter 1994: 107).
L’asymétrie d’information est plus accentuée dans le PPP dans la
mesure où les partenaires poursuivent des logiques différentes dans le mana-
gement de leurs systèmes d’informations (degré de confidentialité [Huat
1980: 188], disponibilité des données, nature des informations [Nutt 2000:
81]). L’asymétrie d’information peut alors, entraver la réalisation des objec-
tifs des deux partenaires publics et privés et la satisfaction des bénéficiaires.

Proposition 4: Plus l’asymétrie d’information entre les partenaires est élevée,

plus la probabilité d’échec du PPP s’accroît.

Les conflits d’intérêts

En général, les objectifs des partenaires ne peuvent pas toujours s’aligner.
Plus particulièrement, lorsqu’il s’agit de partenaires appartenant à des
secteurs différents (public et privé), les objectifs peuvent être encore plus
conflictuels (Huat 1980: 187).
L’organisation publique est plutôt dominée par l’intérêt général
(Chevallier, 1997: 26). Il s’agit d’objectifs économiques généraux et des
objectifs non économiques qui sont des obligations sociales (Boyne 2002:
100). Cette situation est due au fait que la propriété des organisations
publiques est commune et que ces organisations sont soumises à des con-
traintes du système politique (Boyne 2002: 98; Nutt 2000: 81). Par contre,
l’entreprise privée est influencée par les contraintes économiques (Boyne
2002: 98). Ses propriétaires ou ses actionnaires sont plutôt intéressés par la
réalisation des objectifs économiques (Bonnafous 2002: 180).
La différence de logiques et de valeurs prédominantes dans les deux
organisations augmente l’écart entre les objectifs poursuivis par les parties
engagées dans le PPP (Huat 1980: 187). Cette condition est à l’origine
d’un état conflictuel, provoquant, ainsi, la non-réalisation de leurs objec-
tifs et la dégradation du bien-être social.

Proposition 5: un niveau élevé de conflits d’intérêts entre les partenaires accroît

la probabilité d’échec du PPP.
Le modèle de recherche peut être schématisé comme suit:

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Figure 1: Le modèle de recherche.

Méthodologie de la recherche
La recherche menée sur le terrain vise à tester les propositions théoriques
dans le cadre de la sous-traitance des services publics au sein des établisse-
ments universitaires. Il s’agit d’une recherche plutôt exploratoire menée
durant l’année 2004, auprès de 19 établissements de formation rattachés
à l’université de Sfax (Tunisie), ainsi qu’auprès de leurs fournisseurs (dix
entreprises de services).
Deux principales méthodes de collecte de données ont été retenues,
à savoir l’analyse documentaire et l’entrevue semi-dirigée. Les textes
réglementaires et les cahiers de charges ont été des sources pour l’analyse
du contexte de la relation. En outre, nous avons réalisé, au début de la
recherche, une première pré-enquête auprès d’un établissement grâce à
un entretien approfondi couvrant les différents aspects de l’externalisation
de certains services. Une deuxième pré-enquête a été menée, par la suite,
auprès d’une entreprise privée de services concernant ses activités sur
le marché public et en particulier, au sein des institutions universitaires.
Les informations collectées ont permis d’élaborer les questionnaires
Le questionnaire destiné aux établissements comporte les parties suiv-
antes: les objectifs des institutions et des bénéficiaires, L’évaluation ex-ante,
l’évaluation ex-post, la confiance, l’asymétrie d’information et les conflits
d’intérêts. Le deuxième questionnaire destiné aux entreprises traite les
aspects suivants: les objectifs des entreprises de services, l’évaluation ex-
post, la confiance, l’asymétrie d’information et les conflits d’intérêts.
Dix-huit institutions universitaires ont accepté de participer à cette
recherche. La collecte de données a été effectuée auprès des responsables
de la gestion des contrats de sous-traitance. Ces derniers occupent diverses
fonctions: secrétaire général (7), responsable financier (7), administrateur
conseiller (2), secrétaire principal (1) ou chef de service personnel (1). Six
prestataires privés de services ont fourni des informations exploitables
pour l’étude. L’enquête a été menée auprès des gérants (5) et un respons-
able administratif.
La méthode de traitement des données est celle de l’analyse du
contenu. Cette méthode repose sur le postulat que la répétition d’éléments
de discours révèle les centres d’intérêt et les préoccupations des acteurs
(Thiétart 1999). En outre, la méthode du tri simple a été retenue afin
d’analyser les données quantitatives.

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Résultats et discussion
Dans les institutions universitaires, le nettoyage et le gardiennage demeurent
les services les plus souvent sous-traités (17). La pratique de sous-traitance
a démarré depuis à peu près 20 ans. Cependant, elle a marqué récemment
une évolution qui nous a amené à l’étudier.

Les critères d’évaluation du succès de la relation

de sous-traitance
La mesure du succès du PPP réfère à trois critères: la réalisation des objec-
tifs des partenaires public et privé et la satisfaction des bénéficiaires.

Les objectifs des établissements universitaires

Les institutions ont deux objectifs: le premier est lié à l’amélioration de la
qualité des services sous-traités (88,9% des interviewés) et le second con-
cerne la réduction des coûts [les charges du personnel (classées en deuxi-
ème position par 50%) et les autres coûts de l’activité (matériaux, lessives,
etc.) (classés en dernière position par 61,1%)].
Avec le passage au mode du marché, les institutions visent ‘l’améliora-
tion de la qualité des services avec un minimum de coûts’ (Secrétaire général de
l’Université de Sfax). Confrontées à ce dilemme, les institutions n’atteignent
pas toujours leurs objectifs. Alors que 55,6% des répondants indiquent que
les attentes de leurs établissements sont satisfaites, 33,3% mentionnent
qu’ils sont peu satisfaits voir totalement insatisfaits (5,6%).
Ce résultat corrobore les résultats de l’étude menée par la Banque
Mondiale portant sur 6 cas de contrats de concession dans le secteur de
distribution de l’eau en Amérique Latine: certains opérateurs privés ont
été capables d’améliorer la qualité du service, comme à Buenos Aires et à
Santiago. Par contre, d’autres expériences ont un faible impact comme à
Cancun (Ideloviteh et Ringskog 1995: 25).

Les objectifs des sous-traitants

Les objectifs des sous-traitants sont d’abord appréhendés par la part de
marché public dans le chiffre d’affaires total de l’entreprise. Pour trois
entreprises, les marchés publics participent à plus de 50% dans leurs chiffres
d’affaires. La focalisation sur la clientèle publique s’explique par la solva-
bilité de ce type d’organisation.
Les sous-traitants s’attendent, aussi à tirer d’autres avantages du parte-
nariat: le développement de relations multiples au niveau de l’admini-
stration et une bonne réputation. Ces deux types d’avantages ont été aussi
reconnus par Fisbein, et Lowden, (1999, p.34) dans une étude concernant
le PPP en Amérique Latine, en particulier, en Colombie et au Venezuela.
Par contre, les compétences techniques (classées en 3ème position) et les
relations pour pouvoir recruter (classées en 4ème position) restent des gains
facultatifs. Les entreprises poursuivent deux principaux objectifs: celui du
profit et celui du développement de relations multiples au niveau de l’ad-
ministration et de l’amélioration de leur réputation.

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Les objectifs des bénéficiaires

La catégorie des bénéficiaires regroupe les étudiants, les enseignants et le
personnel de l’institution. Vu la durée limitée de la recherche, la collecte
des données concernant le niveau de satisfaction des bénéficiaires n’a
touché qu’une seule catégorie, à savoir les administratifs (18).
Les résultats de l’enquête montrent qu’au sein de certaines institutions,
les bénéficiaires des services sous-traités ont gardé le même niveau de sat-
isfaction (55,6% des répondants). 38,9% des interviewés ont mis l’accent
sur les avantages tirés en terme de consolidation du bien-être collectif.
Ce résultat rejoint ceux publiés par le rapport de développement dans le
monde, (Banque Mondiale 1994) qui mentionne que la participation du
secteur privé dans la fourniture des services d’infrastructure a induit des
gains en termes de bien-être collectif, dans certains pays (par exemple,
dans le secteur de télécommunication au Chili, au Mexique, et au

Les conditions de succès de la relation de sous-traitance

L’évaluation ex-ante
L’évaluation précontractuelle des sous-traitants privés a été formalisée, con-
formément aux articles 30 et 38 du décret n°2002-3158 par une procédure
d’appel d’offres (9 établissements) ou par une consultation (9). L’analyse a
porté sur les critères d’évaluation et les sources d’information utilisés par les
institutions universitaires pour sélectionner leurs sous-traitants.
La sélection des prestataires se base sur des critères qui sont souvent objec-
tifs: la situation financière du titulaire du marché [la conformité des docu-
ments exigés par la loi (décret n°2002-3158) et le chiffre d’affaires (63,6%
pour l’appel d’offres et 35,7% pour la consultation)], les cautionnements, les
pièces justificatives portant sur les employés (100% pour les deux procédures)
et la réputation du sous-traitant [ses expériences passées avec l’institution en
question (57,1% pour la consultation) et/ou avec d’autres institutions (72,7%
pour l’appel d’offres et 71,4% pour la consultation)].
L’utilisation de ces critères augmente la probabilité de choisir un
prestataire apte à améliorer la qualité des services et à mieux satisfaire les
Le choix effectué sur la base du critère «offre du moins-disant» (100%
pour l’appel d’offres et 85,7% pour la consultation) entraîne la satisfaction
des attentes du donneur d’ordres relatives à la diminution des coûts. Ce
critère permet aussi de garantir l’égalité et la transparence dans la procédure
de sélection et de limiter la corruption. Toutefois, dans la plupart des cas, la
prise en compte du prix le plus bas sans respect du salaire minimum légal
payé aux employés provoque des difficultés dues à l’incapacité du sous-
traitant à remplir ses obligations ce qui conduit à la dégradation de la qualité.
Or si l’on admet, comme l’a relevé Maréchal et Morand, (2002: 107), dans le
cas de la France, que l’objectif de la puissance publique ne se limite pas à la
recherche du coût le plus faible, mais intègre la volonté de garantir la péren-
nité financière des entreprises, alors le critère de choix ci-dessus évoqué serait

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insuffisant. Ceci pourrait expliquer pourquoi un nouveau décret a substitué la

procédure d’adjudication où seul le critère de prix est retenu par la sélection
de l’offre économiquement la plus avantageuse.
En outre, les institutions essaient souvent de s’assurer de la fiabilité des
informations recueillies afin de choisir un sous-traitant apte à accomplir
les exigences des cahiers de charges. Ainsi, l’offre du soumissionnaire con-
stitue la principale source d’information, particulièrement pour les appels
d’offres. Pour la consultation, 42,9% des enquêtés affirment que leurs
institutions consultent aussi l’université de Sfax et les autres institutions.
Par ailleurs, l’attribution du marché se réfère souvent aux textes régle-
mentaires qui incitent les donneurs d’ordres à respecter des principes
comme la sincérité, la transparence des procédures et le recours à la con-
currence entre les soumissionnaires. Néanmoins, ces principes ne sont pas
toujours respectés, surtout dans la procédure de consultation. A cet égard,
la législation tunisienne a limité les conditions du recours à la consulta-
tion aux marchés dont le montant de la commande est inférieur à 30 000
dinars (décret n° 2003-1638).
Certes, l’évaluation précontractuelle basée sur des procédures et des
critères en vue de sélectionner le soumissionnaire qui répond au mieux
aux divers objectifs des parties contribue à la réussite de la relation de
sous-traitance, néanmoins elle est insuffisante pour satisfaire toutes les

L’évaluation ex-post
Une fois l’accord conclu, un système de contrôle est instauré par l’étab-
lissement et son prestataire. Afin de vérifier l’impact de cette évaluation
post-contractuelle, les critères et les sources d’informations utilisés ont été
Les critères d’évaluation réfèrent aux aspects suivants: le déroulement
satisfaisant des prestations (88,9% pour les établissements et 83,3% pour
les entreprises); la présence des employés (94,1% pour les établissements et
83,3% pour les entreprises); la disponibilité des fournitures et des matéri-
aux (70,5% pour les établissements et 83,3% pour les entreprises) et la
satisfaction des bénéficiaires (60,6% pour les établissements).
Les institutions n’accordent pas la même importance au contrôle des
conditions de travail des employés. Un premier groupe d’interviewés
affirme que la satisfaction des employés (53%) ainsi que les problèmes
qu’ils rencontrent (47%) sont fréquemment suivis. Un second groupe
mentionne que ce suivi est rarement réalisé. Ainsi, le système existant
d’évaluation post-contractuelle de la relation s’intéresse principalement à
la qualité et aux coûts des services. Ce résultat rejoint celui trouvé par
Calvi et al. (2000: 12–13), dans le cadre d’une recherche réalisée auprès
des responsables achats dans des entreprises de divers secteurs d’activités.
Pendant cette phase, les institutions font appel à diverses sources d’in-
formation. La majorité des informations provient des constats de ceux
chargés de procéder au contrôle et appartenant à l’institution (100%), des

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réclamations des bénéficiaires (61,1%) ou des remarques du personnel de

l’institution (55,6%). Les sources d’information internes occupent alors
une place primordiale. Calvi et al (2000: 12) ont constaté que les
acheteurs se servent généralement des informations provenant du système
d’information interne (66%).
La mise en place de ce mécanisme de suivi, incorporant des indicateurs
et des sources d’information en rapport avec les activités sous-traitées
posséde des avantages. Il donne à l’institution une image proche de l’état
réel des prestations. Ceci permet d’assurer la réalisation des objectifs de
l’institution en termes d’amélioration de la qualité et de satisfaction des
bénéficiaires. Aussi, le système de contrôle instauré par le titulaire du
marché permet de détecter les défaillances avant qu’elles ne soient trans-
mises à l’administration de l’institution. Ce système permet au sous-trai-
tant d’être plus fiable, de construire une réputation afin de pouvoir élargir
par la suite sa part de marché public.
Néanmoins, cette évaluation présente des limites. La difficulté réside
dans la méconnaissance des services comme le nettoyage ou le gardien-
nage «qui n’ont pas de caractéristiques techniques. La qualité ne peut pas
être alors déterminée avec précision» (Secrétaire général de l’Université de
Sfax). Par ailleurs, l’intégration de la dimension de responsabilité sociale
dans les mécanismes de contrôle est faible. Ces défaillances peuvent avoir
des répercussions perverses sur le bien-être social et ensuite sur la qualité
des services.
L’évaluation ex-post permet ainsi d’atteindre les objectifs de certaines
parties de l’accord mais au détriment de la satisfaction d’autres attentes.

La confiance
Afin d’étudier le rôle de la confiance dans le succès du partenariat étab-
lissements universitaires-entreprises de services, l’analyse a été basée sur
la typologie proposée par Zaheer et al. (1998: 149) distinguant entre:
a. La confiance inter-organisationnelle: A ce niveau deux phénomènes
sont analysés: la durée de la sous-traitance dans les établissements et l’in-
tention des prestataires concernant le développement de leurs activités sur
le marché public. La durée de sous-traitance s’étale sur une année (une
institution), sur deux ans (9) ou sur trois ans (8). La majorité des institu-
tions optent pour le renouvellement des contrats de sous-traitance. Ce
choix est fondé sur trois critères classés comme suit:

a. La crédibilité du sous-traitant (66,7% des répondants)

b. Le suivi quotidien des prestations par le gérant (55,6%)
c. La réactivité (66,7%): l’aptitude du sous-traitant à agir à temps pour
résoudre les problèmes.

La complémentarité entre ces trois critères permet aux prestataires de sus-

citer la confiance des établissements et de les inciter à étendre la durée de
la relation. En étant constamment associées, les deux parties peuvent

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bénéficier d’un investissement idiosyncrasique qui correspond au fait

qu’elles aient appris à travailler ensemble (Trégan 2004).
Selon la théorie du capital social, les individus travaillent ensemble de
manière efficace et efficiente lorsqu’ils se connaissent, se comprennent
mutuellement, se font confiance et s’identifient les uns aux autres (Nkakleu
2003). Le renouvellement des contrats permet aussi de diminuer les coûts
de transaction ex-ante tels que les coûts de recherche d’informations et les
coûts associés à la négociation et l’élaboration du contrat (Williamson
1985). Cette situation conduit, d’une part, à la réduction des coûts des ser-
vices et d’autre part, à l’augmentation du profit pour les entreprises.
Toutefois, cette stabilité contractuelle apparente ne signifie pas l’élimi-
nation de toute concurrence puisque annuellement, chaque prestataire est
remis en compétition avec d’autres entreprises. Une telle remise en con-
currence agit comme un stimulant de l’effort fourni par les prestataires
(Baudry 1993: 53–59) pour mieux satisfaire les attentes de l’institution et
des bénéficiaires en termes d’amélioration de la qualité.
En outre, le sous-traitant qui a pu susciter la confiance des établisse-
ments est en mesure de se construire une réputation et multiplier le
nombre de ses clients publics. Dans une autre perspective, les institutions
ont pu susciter la confiance de certaines entreprises (trois) qui désirent
développer leurs activités sur le marché public, vu la solvabilité, la trans-
parence et la crédibilité des organisations publiques. Les autres entreprises
ont plutôt l’intention de réduire leurs activités sur ce marché. Elles mettent
l’accent sur le manque d’organisation qui caractérise le marché public
comme la concurrence déloyale et le choix de l’offre du moins-disant.
L’intention des entreprises privées de développer leurs activités sur le
marché public augmente le nombre des soumissionnaires. La multiplicité
des offres permet aux institutions de choisir le prestataire qui répond au
mieux à leurs attentes.
b. La confiance interpersonnelle: Décrivant la dimension relationnelle du
capital social, Tsai et Ghoshal, (1998) considèrent que la confiance interper-
sonnelle facilite la communication, l’échange d’informations, de connais-
sances et des ressources entre les acteurs. A cet égard, l’étude a porté sur le
rôle des rencontres entre les représentants des organisations partenaires.
Ces rencontres représentent, en fait des occasions pour échanger des
informations. La conformité des prestations, l’organisation du travail et les
réclamations des bénéficiaires sont souvent discutées. Viennent ensuite, la
satisfaction des employés et les problèmes rencontrés par ces derniers.
Ces rencontres permettent également de remédier aux défaillances et
d’améliorer la qualité pour mieux satisfaire les attentes des institutions
et des bénéficiaires. Elles offrent un certain nombre de solutions pour
développer les relations interpersonnelles et diminuer la distance culturelle
et sociale des parties contractantes (Fabbe-Costes et Brulhart, 1999: 38).
Ces conditions peuvent à terme induire des relations d’attachement entre
les membres partenaires, élargir le réseau relationnel des entreprises et
leur construire une réputation.

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La confiance interpersonnelle permet aussi de réduire les coûts de

transaction grâce à une meilleure circulation de l’information et à un con-
trôle social exercé par les membres (Tsai et Ghoshal, 1998).
Les données collectées permettent de reconnaître que la complémen-
tarité entre la confiance inter-organisationnelle et la confiance interper-
sonnelle participe à l’achèvement des objectifs des divers acteurs impliqués
dans le PPP.

Les conditions d’échec de la relation de sous-traitance

L’asymétrie d’information
Afin d’étudier le phénomène d’échange des informations, cette recherche
s’est intéressée à la qualité des informations fournies par chaque parte-
naire. Les informations fournies par les sous-traitants sont considérées par
les donneurs d’ordres comme étant peu crédibles (77,7% des interviewés),
incomplètes (72,2%), peu conformes à leurs obligations (55,5%) et rarement
fournies à temps (77,7%).
Par contre, les entreprises disposent d’une information de qualité.
La plupart des interviewés affirment que les informations transmises
par leurs partenaires publics sont généralement crédibles (83,3%), com-
plètes (66,7%), conformes à leurs obligations (66,7%) et fournies à temps
Les partenaires publics disposent alors, de moins d’informations sur
l’état réel des prestations que leurs associés privés, ce qui conduit à ce
que Voisin (1995, p. 490) appelle ‘un avantage informationnel du mandataire
sur le mandant sous la forme d’une rente informationnelle’. Cette situation
d’asymétrie d’information mène à une observabilité imparfaite des com-
portements opportunistes du sous-traitant qui apparaissent souvent en
phase post-contractuelle. A cette phase, les prestataires profitent de la
«rente informationnelle» qu’ils détiennent et réduisent les coûts de l’activité
afin d’accroître leurs marges bénéficiaires. Ceci entrave l’amélioration de
la qualité et la satisfaction des bénéficiaires.
L’asymétrie d’information a des effets distincts sur la réussite de la sous-
traitance. Elle entrave, d’une part, la réalisation des objectifs du partenaire
public et des bénéficiaires et représente, d’autre part, une opportunité pour
les sous-traitants en augmentant leurs profits, à court terme. Toutefois, les
comportements opportunistes peuvent à long terme, influencer négative-
ment leurs réputations et réduire leurs parts de marché.

Les conflits d’intérêts

La majorité des interviewés (77,2% des établissements et 66,7% pour les
entreprises) mentionnent qu’ils rencontrent souvent des désaccords avec
leurs partenaires. Ces désaccords sont d’origines diverses.
Pour les établissements universitaires: L’insatisfaction des employés du
sous-traitant (soucis relatifs au paiement des salaires, à l’assurance contre
les accidents de travail, etc.) est la première cause (58,8%). Les problèmes
de communication sont classés en 2ème position (52,9%). L’opportunisme

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du sous-traitant (41,2%) est la 3ème raison des désaccords entre les parties
Les failles de la réglementation tunisienne représentent la principale
cause de ces différends. Les défaillances sont liées à «l’inexistence d’organ-
ismes de suivi des entreprises, de leurs pratiques et de la validité des docu-
ments justificatifs qu’elles fournissent» (Responsable financier) et au choix
du fournisseur le moins-disant (Décret n° 2002-3158).
Pour les entreprises de services: Le conflit sur les délais de paiement est
le premier motif indiqué par la plupart des répondants (66,7%). Il est
souvent dû «à la dispersion de la responsabilité, de la prise de décision et de
l’information entre plusieurs acteurs, au sein des organisations publiques»
(Gérant/entreprise de services). Les conflits liés aux aspects sociaux con-
cernent principalement le personnel du partenaire public qui se décharge
de certaines de ses activités qui se voient effectuées par les employés de
l’entreprise (83.3%).
Ces conflits d’intérêts provoquent, d’abord, la dégradation de la qualité
et l’insatisfaction des bénéficiaires. Ils engendrent aussi, des coûts
d’agence trop élevés augmentant les coûts des services. En outre, ils
peuvent influencer négativement la santé financière de l’entreprise et sa
capacité à couvrir ses charges. En effet, les PME sous-traitantes qui déga-
gent de petits fonds de roulement sont souvent dans l’incapacité de gérer
des impayés (Trégan, 2004: 11).
Ces conflits peuvent s’amplifier jusqu’à bloquer la relation. Toutefois, le
règlement amiable demeure la modalité la plus souvent utilisée pour
résoudre ces problèmes (83,3% pour les institutions et 100% pour les
prestataires). Baudry (1994: 44) a constaté, dans son échantillon, que les
litiges sont toujours résolus à l’amiable. En dehors des clauses con-
tractuelles, des accords entre les établissements et leurs partenaires
peuvent constituer des arrangements de convenance en rapport avec les
relations de pouvoir. Chaque participant à la transaction trouve un intérêt
à la poursuite de la relation (Baudry 1993: 59).
Malgré les comportements opportunistes des prestataires, les acteurs
publics ne peuvent pas réagir puisque ces sous-traitants aboutissent à des
résultats plus satisfaisants en termes de qualité, coût et délai. Ils permet-
tent de remédier à la lourdeur dans la gestion publique des ressources
humaines. Selon Pochard (2000: 7), la gestion de la fonction publique est
à dominante bureaucratique et administrative. Le monde de l’entreprise
multiplie plutôt les efforts demandés au personnel. Même si certains con-
flits persistent, le sous-traitant accepte de maintenir une relation stable
avec ses clients publics pour ne pas subir les représailles du partenaire
public qui peut allonger les délais de paiement et/ou appliquer les pénalités
et les sanctions financières.
Certes, les conflits entravent, la réussite de ce PPP. Toutefois, dans la
plupart des cas, la relation est maintenue puisqu’elle permet de dépasser
les faiblesses de chaque partenaire. La coopération est parfois dictée par un
besoin (Derbel et Ben Ammar Mamlouk 2003).

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Le PPP est l’une des alternatives qui marque la redéfinition du rôle de
l’Etat. L’objectif de ce travail de recherche est de cerner les différentes con-
ditions de succès et d’échec de cette relation. La revue de la littérature a
permis de dégager les critères d’évaluation du succès du PPP à savoir la
réalisation des objectifs des partenaires public et privé et des bénéficières.
Pour cerner les différentes conditions susceptibles d’influencer l’atteinte
de ces objectifs, deux corpus théoriques ont été mobilisés. Selon la théorie
des coûts de transaction, les évaluations ex-ante et ex-post et la confiance
représentent des mécanismes augmentant la probabilité de réussite du PPP.
La théorie de l’agence met plutôt l’accent sur l’asymétrie d’information et le
conflit d’intérêts entre les partenaires en tant que conditions d’échec du PPP.
La recherche empirique a été menée auprès de 18 institutions universi-
taires ainsi qu’auprès de leurs prestataires (6 entreprises). Les résultats
montrent que cette coopération n’aboutit pas toujours aux objectifs visés.
Plusieurs facteurs peuvent expliquer ce résultat. Les évaluations ex-ante
et ex-post et la confiance permettent de favoriser la réalisation de certains
objectifs du partenariat et d’entraver l’atteinte d’autres. Dans le même
ordre d’idées, l’asymétrie d’information et le conflit d’intérêts perturbent le
déroulement du PPP, sans toutefois rompre la relation qui reste, malgré
tout, profitable pour les différentes parties.
Cette situation paradoxale peut s’expliquer par le fait que les acteurs
respectent les prescriptions des organisations internationales et le nouveau
cadre de la gestion publique, mais en gardant la même philosophie de
gestion dans l’administration publique et dans l’entreprise privée.
Selon Gosse et al. (2002) la sous-traitance induit une forme d’organi-
sation paradoxale qui se définit par certains attributs des nouvelles formes
organisationnelles, tout en présentant des similitudes avec les caractéris-
tiques du taylorisme. La question qui se pose alors, comment les opérateurs
publics peuvent-ils adopter les prescriptions des institutions internationales
de façon à ne pas heurter la capacité de changement de l’organisation? Ceci
représente un défi au niveau de la théorie et de la pratique que d’autres
recherches devraient examiner.
Si les intérêts certes différents des parties en collaboration peuvent
inciter à l’opportunisme, des aménagements réglementaires conjugués avec
un renforcement du processus d’apprentissage récent relatif à la coopéra-
tion entre le public et le privé pourraient améliorer les chances de succès
partagé du PPP. A cet effet, une plus grande autonomie dans la gestion
publique combinée avec la mise en place de mécanismes d’imputabilité
serait d’un apport substantiel.

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Suggested citation
Bouhamed, A. and Chaabouni, J. (2008), ‘Partenariat public-privé en Tunisie: Les
conditions de succès et d’échec’, International Journal of Technology Management
and Sustainable Development 7: 1, pp. 71–89, doi: 10.1386/ijtm.7.1.71/1

Contributor details
Amira Bouhamed is Researcher and Lecturer at the Faculty of Economics and
Management of Sfax in Tunisia. Contact: Chercheur, Faculté des Sciences
Economiques et de Gestion de Sfax, BP 1088, 3018 Sfax, Tunisie.
E-mail: Amira.Bouhamed@fsegs.rnu.tn
Jamil Chaabouni is Professor in Management Studies at the Faculty of Economics and
Management of Sfax in Tunisia. He leads a Reseach Unit on Management Studies. His
research interests include governance, strategy and organisational structure, organi-
sational change and information management. Contact: Professeur, Faculté des
Sciences Economiques et de Gestion de Sfax, BP 1088, 3018 Sfax, Tunisie.
E-mail: Jamil.Chaabouni@fsegs.rnu.tn

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Event Report
International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development
Volume 7 Number 1 © 2008 Intellect Ltd
Report. English language. doi: 10.1386/ijtm7.1.91/4

Global student innovators workshop:

Opening the way for product inspiration
and sustainability
Caroline Cottrill British Telecom (BT)
Tony Houghton British Telecom (BT)

A major responsibility of industry is not only to innovate but also to
understand and address evolving need profiles and technological trends in
the light of the global objectives of sustainability. How do school age chil-
dren view tomorrow’s world and to what extent are such views seriously
taken on board by corporate business in the innovation design process?
As a leading provider of communication solutions with a long track
record in research and development through partnership with Universities
and technology companies, British Telecom (BT) has recently taken the ini-
tiative to understand the needs and potentials of student innovators ranging
from 6 to 18 years of age. The initiative went global with the launch of the
first ‘Global Student Innovators BT Design Hothouse Challenge’ in December
2007. This initiative would allow BT to incorporate the views of those repre-
senting the mindset of the next-generation of customers into innovation
designs for communication services. It is significant that BT has one of the
largest technology research centres in the United Kingdom, which received
£727 million in R&D investment in 2005–2006. The Design Hothouse ini-
tiative also gives gifted school children the opportunity to be able to tap their
creative potentials at an early age.
The remainder of this brief aims to highlight the significance of BT’s
research and innovation programmes in the light of its recently launched
Global Student Innovators BT Design Hothouse Challenge.

The initiative
Prior to the Hothouse, about thirty schools in the United Kingdom and those
around the globe were invited to participate in the following challenge:

• Design creative IT/communications technology implementations that

can positively impact education as well as local and global communities.
TMSD 7 (1) 91–93 © Intellect Ltd 2008 91
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For example, what might be the next cool, ultra cheap mobile device?
How might we best include older members of the local community?
How might we use communications technology to reduce the carbon
• Use the most effective communication and collaboration methods in
designing the technology. For example, a technology-rich school might
discover a free on-line collaborative working tool which they can use
with their partner schools, or a technology impoverished school might
enlist the support of the local Internet café, and a school might explore
how tin cans can enhance a WLAN.

After months of activities, eight winning teams and their global ‘twin’, from
countries such as India, United States and Uganda, were chosen by BT to
take part in the first Global Student Innovators Hothouse on 3 December
2007 in London.
The Hothouse featured selected students and BT people working
together in teams to develop and present the existing ideas, prototypes and
solutions taking into account originality of idea and the feasibility of their
ideas from business and technical perspectives.
The participants undertook an intensive hot-house product prototype
design activity with BT business and technology experts with the possibil-
ity of taking the idea through to delivery, that is, BT will support the devel-
opment of the idea. BT is already doing this with the free open source
BECTA compliant learning platform easiAPP, which was a result from pre-
vious Understanding the Young Customer work. The project Wiki is an
ongoing log of just how far these ideas have come – over 50 percent of pro-
jects are now real.

Hothouse outcomes
The judges voted Gorseland Primary School, Ipswich, first for their innov-
ative project ‘iCook’, http://www.icookbook.net/. Gorseland collaborated
with their twin school Kudawella, in the Hambantota district of Sri Lanka
to develop ‘iCook.’ This collaboration offered many possibilities to explore
and contrast healthy eating, global differences and to learn local people’s
recipes. Pershore High School, South Worcestershire came second (fabu-
lous variety of five ideas with a common theme) and Katha school, India,
third. Details of all the schools projects can be found on www.easicop.org

The workshop presented a learning experience that would help young stu-
dents shape their perception of corporate responsibility for innovation in
the light of future needs and prime them into being prospective innovators.
The workshop was also significant for BT, as champion of the initiative, in
terms of feeling the way forward into the future with respect to market
research and development trends, as school children are frequently the
entry point in households for new technology-based services or devices.

92 Caroline Cottrill and Tony Houghton

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Moreover, students studying computer science today could become the

technology entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Even though IT is playing an
increasingly important role in everyday life, the number of students pursu-
ing engineering degrees and IT careers is stagnating. Initiatives such as BT
Design’s Global Student Innovators Hothouse is expected to encourage
students to consider a career in technology by giving them valuable real-
world experience in problem-solving, team dynamics, public presentations
and other career-building skills.

Suggested citation
Cottrill, C. and Houghton, T. (2008), ‘Global student innovators workshop: Opening
the way for product inspiration and sustainability’, International Journal of
Technology Management and Sustainable Development 7: 1, pp. 91–93, doi:

Contributor details
Caroline Cottrill is an internal communications manager and project leader in BT.
Contact: PP 3/3, Telephone House, Charter Square, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S1 1BA.
E-mail: caroline.cottrill@bt.com
Dr Tony Houghton is head of the Global Student Innovators BT Design Hothouse
Challenge. Contact: PP 3/3, Telephone House, Charter Square, Sheffield, South
Yorkshire S1 1BA.
E-mail: tony.houghton@bt.com

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Book Reviews
International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development
Volume 7 Number 1 © 2008 Intellect Ltd
Reviews. English language. doi: 10.1386/ijtm7.1.95/5

Science and Citizens: Globalization and the Challenge

of Engagement, Melissa Leach, Ian Scoones and
Brian Wynne (eds.) (2005)
London: Zed Books, 295 pp., ISBN 1 84277 550 2 (hbk);
1 84277 550 0 (pbk), £19.99.

Science and Citizens represents one of the first attempts to broadly ‘engage
with engagement’ in the context of science, technology and development.
This edited collection presents a series of case studies of engagement from
countries in both the North and South, including South Africa, China,
India, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone as well as countries such as the UK
and USA. The book attempts to segue a range of concerns regarding
science, for example, the role of indigenous knowledge, what we mean by
citizenship, how participation shapes policy and how risk is perceived and
what role this plays in decision-making. These debates, amongst others,
key into the heart of debates around the development, or construction, of
new knowledge in context.
The book focuses on case studies from many different contexts, and
while case studies are both Northern and Southern, developed and devel-
oping, I believe the importance of the book lies in the representation of the
South. There is a massive literature on how citizens engage with science in
the North where the discipline of science and technology studies has been
widely deployed. For various reasons the discipline has been much less
widely engaged in the South. One of the strengths of the book, then, is this
attempt to tissue together such diverse case studies and draw insights from
across both development studies and science and technology studies.
The book, primarily drawn out of work organised by the Institute of
Development Studies at Sussex, is organised and linked together into four
sections: ‘science and citizenship’ and ‘beyond risks: defining the terrain’
set the conceptual scene, whilst ‘citizens engaging with science’ and ‘par-
ticipation and the politics of engagement’ encompass around a dozen case
studies that represent a variety of technologies, contexts and continents.
The editorial team are particularly noteworthy, Melissa Leach and Ian
Scoones have a long history of looking at the role knowledge plays in
shaping development, and implicit in that is, understanding how knowl-
edge is produced, negotiated and contested. The final member of the edito-
rial triumvirate, Brian Wynne, is interesting in that he brings his own

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discipline of science and technology studies to the book, in particular his

expertise in the relationship between expert and lay knowledge. Many of
us would argue that science and technology studies has a lot to offer
development studies, and indeed the opposite can be argued too, and this
book represents an important first step in acknowledging the possibilities
of engaging across disciplines in this way.
The book provides an excellent introduction to thinking about partici-
pation, science and society. There is a clear and concise theoretical intro-
duction that leads into a deeper debate about science, risk and regulation.
The book then introduces a series of rich case studies examining issues as
diverse as HIV/AIDS in South Africa, biotechnology regulation in develop-
ing countries, occupational health in India, farmers’ citizens’ juries in
Zimbabwe and radioactive waste management in the UK. A strength of the
book is that the authors include not only academics, but also policymak-
ers, practitioners and activists. The book is very grounded. An almost
inevitable weakness of this is that I feel participation is treated in a nor-
mative, slightly uncritical way. Participation is seen as a fairly universal
good, and in some chapters at least there is a certain sense that the more
participation the better. The book undoubtedly moves far beyond partici-
pation as simply an instrument, or a means to co-opt but one is left with
the feeling that the more critical perspectives on participation (as ‘tyranny’
to paraphrase Cooke and Kothari) are somewhat absent. Nevertheless,
Science and Citizens provides much critical insight alongside its empirical
breadth. It helps us think about not only the implications of participation,
but how it might occur in relation to science, technology and development.
The focus of Science and Citizens is very much on engagement but one
would hope that other lines of enquiry, for example understanding the
ways in which technologies are socially embedded in developing country
contexts and how meaningful innovation can be promoted in developing
country contexts can be energised by this explicit and relatively systematic
treatment of the relationship between science, technology and participa-
tion. I have always had the sense that technology, which has long been
critiqued as potentially inappropriate or too central to the project of devel-
opment is seen as somehow ‘inert’ by development studies. Science and Citi-
zens, however, uncovers the living reality of engagement, politics, processes
and platforms that attempt, at least, to shape debate, development and
decision-making in a range of contexts.
Reviewed by James Smith, University of Edinburgh.

Cooke, B. and Kothari, U. (2001), Participation the New Tyranny? London: Zed

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Biotechnology Policy in Africa, Clark, N.G., Mugabe, J.

and Smith, J. (2007).
Nairobi: African Centre for Technology Studies, 137 pp.,
ISBN 9966-41-148-8.

This book is a compilation of papers by researchers with wide-ranging

hands-on experience in many aspects of science, technology and develop-
ment in Africa and at the global level. The book brings out rich empirical
and theoretical viewpoints and should therefore serve as a good source of
information for researchers/scholars, civil society, policy makers, donors
and many other actors with an interest in both practical and theoretical
aspects of issues in science, technology and development in Africa. Issues
of technology governance, institutions, innovation systems, public engage-
ment and science policy studies are covered to commendable breadth and
depth in the book. In particular, the book clearly brings out some of the
‘contested boundaries’ in development and regulation of technologies as
amply covered in science and technology studies (c.f. Jasanoff 1987).
The aim of the book, according to the authors, is to ‘generate and
provide knowledge and information to improve policy processes in sub-
Saharan Africa (SSA)’; and from the quality of its content, there is good
reason to believe that the book can go a long way in achieving this. All
regions of SSA are covered in the book, except Central Africa. The book
sets the scene by building the story from the basics of biotechnology, its
potential and challenges, the global debates around the issue, as well as
the specific context of SSA with respect to the technology. As the authors
aptly put it, the questions and issues around biotechnology are ‘as much
about decision-making, as they are about the technology’. Their recogni-
tion of the bigger contextual issues overarching the policy processes in the
area of biotechnology in SSA testifies to this and is also reflected in the
importance they play not only on the contemporary global debates on
science, technology and innovation but also on the importance of histori-
cal and future dimensions of current policy endeavours (c.f. Sociology of
Expectations in Science and Technology). The presentation of different
national experiences around biotechnology policy processes and the link-
ages with other sectors of the economy sets the stage for bringing out the
realities that countries are facing, furnishing parallels and comparisons for
the reader. Most importantly, the different experiences are presented in a
way that not only explains the prevailing circumstances but also aims to
predict future responses based on experiences. The challenges for this and
for the entire policy processes are presented and explained.
As with many projects focusing on Africa, this book sets out with mul-
tiple objectives, and in many ways this reflects the interrelationships
between the various issues addressed and their complex intercalations on
the ground. It also reflects the multiple challenges facing the continent
and the quests to step up and address the issues. On the other hand, the

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grand setting also brings out the possibility of some grand statements
being made – for example, ‘the policy processes are only in response to
international policy and law’ (Page v). This downplays the local policy
innovations and the socio-economic imperatives driving some of the
processes or the interface between the external and internal influences.
The book also seems to marginalise the increasingly important and promi-
nent role of cross-national, regional and extra-regional technology devel-
opment and regulation processes in the countries covered. Efforts by
regional economic communities and bodies such as the New Partnership
for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Union, among others,
would in this regard be handy.
In the final chapter, the book takes a close look at how countries can
build ‘public confidence’ in the face of technological opportunities brought
about by modern biotechnology. It is not clarified here what ‘public’
entails, but the inescapable assumption for this section is that it is this lack
of ‘public’ confidence which is one of the bottlenecks for the development
of appropriate policies for ‘maximising the benefits and minimising the
risks of modern biotechnology’. On the other hand, the lack of ‘political
will’ to push processes forward has been bemoaned by many researchers
and policy actors in the continent, and it would be crucial to understand
from both empirical and theoretical perspectives to what extent ‘politi-
cians’ identify themselves as being part of the ‘public’ and how they would
therefore be happy to be part of the proposed ‘broad-based’ platforms.
These and the clearly positivistic and science-led approach proposed in
this final chapter are well worth reading to understand the authors’ per-
spective, especially in the backdrop of socially-constructed and context-led
interventions in the cases presented.
Understandably, not all issues in the highly integrative area of science
and technology, broadly, and biotechnology, specifically, could be covered
in just one volume. This book thus represents an effort to bring together
and illuminate these elusive issues which are emerging from as well as
shaping an ever-changing context. Continuous and more such efforts can
only help in the quest for effective policy decisions.
This book is a must-read for all stakeholders in the science and tech-
nology policy arena.
Reviewed by Julius Mugwagwa, Development Policy and Practice, Open University.

98 TMSD 7 (1) Reviews © Intellect Ltd 2008

International Journal of

International Journal of Technology Management & Sustainable Development | Volume Seven Number One

Volume Seven Number One

ISSN 1474-2748
Technology Management
& Sustainable Development 7.1
Volume 7 Number 1 – 2008

3–17 Assessing a rural innovation system: Low-input rice in Central China
J. David Reece International Journal of
19–38 Determinants of the adoption of technological innovations by logistics

service providers in China
Chieh-Yu Lin
Innovation and entrepreneurship in Brazilian universities
Mariza Almeida
59–70 Knowledge proximity and technological relatedness in offshore oil
and gas and offshore wind technology in the United Kingdom
Zahid A. Memon and Roshan S. Rashdi Management
& Sustainable
71–89 Partenariat public-privé en Tunisie: Les conditions de succès et d’échec
Amira Bouhamed and Jamil Chaabouni

Event Report
91–93 Global student innovators workshop: Opening the way for product

inspiration and sustainability
Caroline Cottrill and Tony Houghton

Book Reviews
Reviews by James Smith and Julius Mugwagwa

intellect Journals | Media & Culture


ISSN 1474-2748

The International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development

9 771474 274006 is published with the cooperation of the Association of Commonwealth Universities