4.6 Innovation support
Some companies still retain a full range of activities, from R & D to design, production to marketing. Increasingly, however, companies specialise in what they see as their core activities, building partnerships to integrate capabilities that they need but do not have. Those companies which depend strongly on science and high levels of technological innovation often have strong relations with universities, some investing millions in departments in return for first refusal on any commercial possibilities. Companies in some countries also still rely on governments and funding from regional bodies to invest in R & D, certainly in defence related industry, but in other targeted sectors as well.
In the UK, for example, the Department of Trade and Industry still offers a number of support programmes designed to help companies identify and develop new technologies. Schemes cover a wide range of areas, including computers and information technology, energy systems, new materials, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and so on. Some are linked to Research Council programmes, focusing on more fundamental R & D aspects, but more are designed to operate at the pre-competitive/near-market phase, providing support for technology transfer or perhaps direct development support to help new technologies establish themselves commercially. Many African countries also have support programmes. For example, in South Africa there is the Technology Innovation Agency which is tasked with ensuring research and knowledge is moved from universities and research institutes into technology based industries. South Africa also has the National Research Foundation which promotes research activity through funding and human capacity development activities.
The European Commission also operates a very wide range of innovation support and technology transfer schemes and programmes. The EU has anwith a search tool that allows easy identification of research projects in different EU countries.
There are also a number of international agencies, such as the United Nations, some of whose programmes provide support for technological development of various types, sometimes as part of aid packages for less developed countries. And of course there are many international bodies who analyse technological issues and promote specific strategies at the international level e.g. the OECD (the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development).
At the other end of the spectrum there are local and regional innovation support and technology development schemes – many of them being funded under the various EC regional development programmes including to African countries or by the African Union or the African Development Bank.