Introduction: what is innovation?
"Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment and our quality of life than it has ever been before," said President Barack Obama at the Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in April 2009.
Such a view has been echoed countless times by other government leaders, alongside with pledges of investment. In Singapore, one such notable pledge was by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in October 2008, when there was great uncertainty over the financial crisis: “The Government remains fully committed to investing in R&D, in order to develop a key capability that will keep our economy competitive in the long term.”
The billion dollar question is, how does one create profitable science that translates into a stronger economy? Scholars, policy makers and investors have have splilt much ink in the debate, much money has been poured into science and innovation funds, but the workings of innovation remain elusive.
"Sometimes it is easier to characterize a complex phenomenon by clearly pointing out what it is NOT", as Prof Fagerberg noted in the Oxford Handbook of Innovation. We'll follow his approach by outlining what innovation isn't:
- Innovation is not linear. It does not follow a well-defined set of stages. Innovation need not arise because there was a scientific breakthrough. Sometimes, innovation begins because there is a commercial need, and the work begins by reviewing and combining existing knowledge, investing in scientific research when existing knowledge fails to resolve the problem.
- Innovation is not limited to product technology nor production technology. It can be extended to organisational innovation, such as a new business model, improved supply chain turnaround.
- Innovation is also not one-size-fits-all. Research has shown that innovation takes different forms depending on the geography and type of technology.
Innovation can thus be better described as a multi-causal system, where interactions between the players (e.g. firms, universities), under the rules of the game (e.g. patent laws, collaboration norms), result in activities that produce better products and better ways of production.
In this guide, we will be highlighting resources that describe
- What motivates and affects key players such as public agencies involved in policies and intellectual property rights issues, the universities & public research systems, companies & firms, and venture capitalists.
- The general characteristics of innovation systems, both regional and national, and particularly Singapore's.
- Developments in the manufacturing sectors of biomedicals, chemicals, electronics & IT, and nanotechnology.
Innovation studies have grown rapidly over the past two decades. For a general overview of its development, you can consult this working paper by Prof Fagerberg.
How this guide is structured
With rapidly expanding research in the multi-disciplinary field of innovation over the past 20 years , even current researchers would have some trouble keeping track of all the developments. As such, this guide presents only a glimpse of some current issues and provides links to relevant research centres and journals.
The classification of material in this guide is complicated by the multi-disciplinary nature of the research.
As a rule of thumb:
- If you are looking for the effects on a particular player, look under the tab of that class of players (e.g. proximity of university research on innovation of firms is filed under "firms").
- If you are looking for a particular industry or organization within a country, look for the tab of that industry or organization (e.g. scientists in China is under "universities and public research systems", biotechnology industry in USA is under "biomedical manufacturing")
The guide is divided into four main sections:
Links to agencies producing statistics for science, technology and technological innovation.
Singapore's innovation system
A brief description of Singapore's system and links to relevant websites.
Systems of innovation
This introduction to this section contains
- Handbooks on Systems of Innovation
The subsections contain:
(a) Research on national and regional systems of innovation, split into
(b) players within the system
This section covers both the dynamics within industries as well as the sciences and technologies which are the products of the industries.
Three dominant manufacturing sectors of Singapore are covered:
- Nanotechnology is a cross-disciplinary focus that can revolutionise the manufacturing sectors listed above. It has also been regarded by the Economic Development Board of Singapore as an emerging business. Thus, it is covered on its own in a separate section.
Who is this guide for?
The guide is targeted at those interested in
- The economics and policies of innovation strategies
- Recent science and technology developments with industry potential
While many of the materials suggested are written by academics and are empirically rich, they do not require grasp of mathematics, only basic understandings of economics and science and engineering.
The library's books offer good overviews to the uninitiated, who might be daunted by the proliferation of research on innovation. At the same time, the library's electronic databases provide access to academic and trade journals, which offer wide-ranging analyses and up-to-date developments.
How can the materials be accessed?
The books listed can be found at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. These books can be consulted within the library premises, and are not for loan. However, officers from government ministries can request for an Inter-Library Loan through your Ministry's Library. A few of these books can also be found in the lending collection of the Public Libraries; click on the link for each book to check.
The electronic databases offer a range of academic and trade journals. A number of these databases are accessible from home with a digital library account (free registration).
Wondering how to search for the library's print materials? Try these two tips:
By classifying knowledge into different subject areas, the DDC
numbers can help you find books of similar subjects on the shelves. However, many issues in innovation systems are multi-disciplinary; assigning one particular call number to a broad-based book is an art, not an exact science.
Unless otherwise stated, these books are found on Level 7 at the Reference Library@Victoria Street. Books specific to Singapore and Southeast Asia are found on Level 11 (their call number will indicate "RSING").
Here're some DDC subject classifications:
The 100 series covers philosophy and psychology.
The 300 series covers social sciences such as economics and law and education.
The 500 series covers mathematics and sciences.
The 600 series covers technology and health and business.
Check the DDC's website for its full listings.
Start with an NLB book that you've found useful, and call it up on NLB's online catalogue. You'll see "search by subjects" as one of the fields. Click it to see books filed in similar subject headings.
Some subjects that are relevant to policies and management:
Some subjects to consider for biotechnologies
(Note: you can also use the subject terms listed above to search for subjects within our electronic databases.)