GII Academic Network New Member Feature: University of Johannesburg

Earlier this year, Portulans Institute welcomed the University of Johannesburg College of Business and Economics to our GII Academic Network.

We caught up with Dr. Erika Kraemer-Mbula, Professor of Economics and Chair of the DSI/NRF/Newton Fund and Trilateral Chair in Transformative Innovation, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Sustainable Development, based at the University of Johannesburg College of Business and Economics, to discuss some of the school’s innovation initiatives and plans for the coming academic year.

Can you tell us about the core focus or mission of your institution’s innovation activities?

The DSI/NRF/Newton Fund Trilateral Research Chair in Transformative Innovation, the 4th Industrial Revolution and Sustainable Development, is hosted at the University of Johannesburg, where it operates as a research center located in the College of Business and Economics. Funded by the South African National Research Foundation and the British Council, the programme is an international research collaboration between the University of Johannesburg, the African Center for Technology Studies (ACTS) in Nairobi, and the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex in the UK. The programme builds on the expertise of three partners to strengthen African scholarship for examining transformative innovation and its policy dimensions, in the context of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and efforts to achieve inclusive and sustainable development. This programme responds to the need for transformation in the broad sense, understood as a drastic shift towards low-carbon, climate resilient, green, and inclusive economies and societies. 

Building the capacity of our students and early career scholars is central to our programme, as we are committed to building the next generation of African thinkers ready to push boundaries, think systemically and lead transformative change.”

Can you describe the role of your institution in your local and regional innovation system? 

One of the Chair’s main objectives is to conduct policy-relevant research. In this regard, several of our projects aim to contribute to local and regional innovation systems.  One project to highlight in this area is our ongoing efforts in building a Community Practice in Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) in South Africa. TIP proposes a new approach to support innovation that addresses societal and environmental challenges. As part of this process of building a community of practice, the Trilateral Chair is engaging with various government departments in its TIP Policy Experimentation Lab, which aims to build long-term capacities for policy experimentation in South Africa. This work is done in partnership with the Department of Science and Innovation in South Africa, and the Centre for Science, Technology, and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII, HSRC), and the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC) 

The Trilateral Chair also engages in regional initiatives, such as a project called “Transforming Climate Innovation Ecosystems through Inclusive Transdisciplinarity (TransCIIT)”. This collaborative project is funded by the British Council and aims to establish strong relations between the full range of Kenya’s climate innovation ecosystem (CIE) actors. The three Trilateral Chair partners (are implementing the project in collaboration with the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology and the Kenya Climate Innovation Center.”

The GII Academic Network engages world-leading universities and their faculty and graduate students in GII research, and dissemination of GII results in the academic community. How do you expect to contribute and benefit from joining our Academic Network?

Being part of the Global Innovation Index Academic Network offers the Trilateral Chair the opportunity to collaborate with leading researchers in the field of innovation and innovation policy, as well as connect with a large network of students and emerging scholars. We look forward to engaging in dialogues that can help us collectively support the types of innovation that can result in more inclusive and sustainable outcomes.”

The University of Johannesburg is a globally recognized institution, with several members of the Chair having received recognitions for their outstanding contributions to the field of innovation. Some to highlight include: in 2021, Prof. Erika Kraemer-Mbula was elected President of the Global Network for Economics of Learning, Innovation, and Competence Building Systems (Globelics), and Prof. Rasmus Lema (Visiting Professor at the Chair) was elected Vice-President of the same network. In 2022, Prof. Jacob Park (Visiting Professor at the Chair), was selected as a Winner of the 2022 Responsible Research in Management Award, co-sponsored by the Academy of Management Fellows Group and the Community for Responsible Research in Business and Management (RRBM). 

We look forward to engaging with the University of Johannesburg, as well as the rest of our Academic Network, on GII research and activities in the coming year.