What do your MEIDE papers focus on?
Prof. Shyama V. Ramani: “I’m responsible for two papers and in both I have created a theoretical framework. One is about the commercialisation of genetically modified seeds, taking the example of biotech cotton, because it is still a matter of debate. Our take is that is we can reduce any damage to the ecology caused by adoption of the new technology if the farmers are accompanied better. This means that the public extension service has to do a better job. Second thing is that the public sector, which is now in eclipse in terms of knowledge in biotechnology and creating innovations in biotechnology, has to catch up.
“The other paper is on sanitation and its impact on child diarrhoea. In India for example, apparently every day, more than 1000 children are dying of diarrhea. Now what we find is that it’s not just by providing toilets that we’ll bring down the incidence of diarrhoea, it’s also the infrastructure, the draining system, the hygiene behaviour, the garbage that’s unattended to. To reduce the incidence of diarrhoea, we need to have a strategy which takes into account not only toilets, but the other complementary capabilities and assets. Simply building toilets won’t do.”
Prof. Pierre Mohnen: “There are two papers that I’m going to present… One paper is with two French colleagues: Georges Bresson and Jean-Michel Etienne and in this paper we actually use macro data to test the idea of inclusive innovation because this conference this year is focusing on inclusive innovation. Now inclusive innovation can mean various things: it can mean innovation for the poor, pro-poor innovation. It can mean frugal innovation. It can be innovation done by the poor or for the poor. Or it could refer to this trade-off between increasing the size of the cake, which is growth and making the distribution of the cake more equal. What we are showing is that we have data from OECD countries and we have data from non-OECD countries. To give some examples, we have data from the main OECD countries: France, Belgium, Germany and so on. And from non-OECD countries we have data from Madagascar, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Panama and so on. What we find is that innovation has led in all countries to higher economic growth. That’s the first result. The second result is that innovation – R&D in particular – does not necessarily lead to a more equal distribution of income. Actually it leads to a lower equality in the distribution of income in non-OECD countries, and it leads to a higher equality in the distribution of income in OECD countries.
“The second paper is with Helena Schweiger and Wiebke Bartz, from Slovenia and Germany respectively, and in this paper we take data from the BEEPS innovation survey, which is a survey done by the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. With these micro data we are going to estimate a model that makes the link between R&D, innovation output in the form of new products and new processes, and productivity. And then we are going to compare the effect of product innovation and management innovation, and then we find that management innovation has less of an effect on productivity than product or process innovation.”
What are India’s main economic and social problems? Why are we here?
Prof. Shyama V. Ramani: “We are here because India… contains more poor people than other countries. About 40% of the Indian population is currently below the poverty line, yet India is growing fast. So there is a feeling that we cannot keep on growing without reducing the income disparities. And it’s not just about income; it’s about ensuring more opportunities for the poor to come up through providing access to food, to healthcare, to water and sanitation.”
Prof. Pierre Mohnen: “India belongs to the low and middle income countries, so it’s not among the poorest countries, but also not among the rich countries. It’s a country that is still in the development stage and a country where there is also high income inequality. So you have very poor people and you have some rich people. There are some places in the south of India that are very developed, almost like Western countries, and you have other parts of India that are very poor.
“We are here because we are interested in the issue of innovation and development, innovation and productivity, and to what extent innovation can help countries like India to get out of their underdevelopment, or let’s say their less development stage, to catch up with the richer countries.”
How can innovation in general, and the MEIDE conference in particular, help address these challenges?
Prof. Shyama V. Ramani: “Innovation and even technological innovation can impact the lives of the poor in a major way. We can have a hi-tech innovation like genetically modified seeds, or a low-tech innovation like a low-cost toilet, that really makes an impact on the poor.
“The MEIDE conference is really important because it is bringing together different actors in the innovation system, starting from agencies like the World Bank and the Gates Foundation down to social entrepreneurs and academics and public agencies. It is creating conversation corridors. We are exchanging ideas and understanding what the other party is doing and also what the academic community is contributing in terms of insight to policy design.”
Prof. Pierre Mohnen: “Many studies have found that innovation leads to economic growth… On the basis of country data [my conference paper shows] that innovation has indeed in both OECD and non-OECD countries led to higher growth. It leads to higher growth either because it comes up with new products or with new methods of producing old products, or it can take the form of organisational innovation or marketing innovation. In this way by coming up with new products, more choices, higher variety and more specialisation, it can increase productivity.
“MEIDE was created eight years ago and the idea… was to make links with people from countries all over the world, including poor countries, to create a network of scholars who are interested in the issue of innovation, and to see what we can learn from the experience in developing countries and what people in developing countries that have their own innovation surveys or their own statistical data, what kind of information they get out of their data, and what they can learn from the experience that we have with our data. That was the initial idea of the MEIDE conference.”