This new series tracks the progress and priorities of our full-time PhD fellows. Some are new recruits here in Maastricht, others are working abroad while waiting to defend. This time we caught up with Lorena Rivera León, who currently works for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. NB: the next application deadline for our full-time PhD programme is February 2019.
You presented the Global Innovation Index 2018 at our DEIP innovation workshop in Morocco in September 2018. Can you give us a brief summary of the index, especially in relation to Africa?
As a co-author, the main point to stress is the large innovation divide between low- and high-income countries. Within Africa there are very large disparities – countries across the continent are very different – but there are some similarities. For example, there are still many challenges on the innovation input side, such as institutions and infrastructure. However, a lot of efforts have been made in terms of R&D; there are increasing levels of investments in many countries that, relative to their development, need to be acknowledged.
There’s still a gap between how to link R&D with industry, and how to help the private sector use the knowledge created. Then in terms of infrastructures, of human resources, there are many science and engineering graduates, but still much to be done in terms of university quality and the impact of their research. Bottom line: there’s a lot of interesting things going on. It’s very promising what we’re observing.
How did you find the response from this DEIP audience, which includes specialists from across the African continent?
I found it very useful because we want to emphasise one thing in particular: that this report is a tool for countries to build up their innovation metrics and policies, as well as the evidence on how policies have an impact on innovation performance. So in this regard it’s very positive. At WIPO, we continuously work with countries to improve their innovation metrics.
How has your PhD study helped you in your role at WIPO?
When it came to my first contacts with other people working on the Global Innovation Index, everyone already knew UNU-MERIT and what it does, so it was very easy to explain my expertise. In fact two colleagues are also alumni of UNU-MERIT: Dr. Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, co-editor of the report, and Dr. Francesca Guadagno.
For the rest, I urgently want to finish and defend my PhD thesis! My supervisors, Profs. Jacques Mairesse and Robin Cowan, are now putting some pressure on me, so I’m really hoping to defend at the very latest in early 2019. In the meantime, I have a post with WIPO until 2020 – so I will be there at least until then!
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.
UNU / Howard Hudson