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Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s National Innovation
System Diagnosis and STI Strategy Development


22-23 October 2013

Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Organized by
Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (APCTT)
of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
New Delhi, India
and
Science & Technology Policy Institute (STEPI)
Seoul, Republic of Korea

in cooperation with and hosted by
Department of Technology & Innovation (DTI),
Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST)
Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Supported by
Ministry of Science & Technology, Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, Republic of Korea
APCTT-ESCAP and United Nations Development Programme

Brief Report
Co-organizers
Department of Technology and Innovation, Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Government of Lao People’s Democratic Republic; and
Science and Technology Policy Institute (STEPI), Republic of Korea.

Background
During the field study-visit to Lao People’s Democratic Republic in March 2013, the team from APCTT-ESCAP and the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STEPI) met various National Innovation System (NIS) stakeholders to have a good understanding of their major programmes, activities, their linkages and partnerships with ministries/national institutions and other matters concerning science, technology and innovation. These meetings were held with senior officials and experts at the Department of Technology Innovation of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Mines and Energy, Ministry of Planning and Development, Ministry of Education and Sports, Agriculture and Forest Research Institute, National University of Laos, Dao-Heaung Group, the state-owned telecom service provider ETL, Nam Thuem 2 Power Company, Pharmaceutical Factory No. 2 and the Lao National Chamber of Commerce. Insights accrued during these meetings were augmented with a desk study on the national generic socio-economic situation and a questionnaire survey of individual science, technology and innovation (STI) stakeholders in Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Findings from the field meetings, survey and desk study were analysed to identify strengths and weaknesses of and opportunities in the country to develop an NIS that could be addressed through the development of appropriate strategies by the national government.

Objectives

  • Present the preliminary finds of the study to obtain feedback from the STI stakeholders; and
  • Update the study and prepare a report for the consideration of the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Government of Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Major Outputs
The workshop was inaugurated by the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The Minister emphasized that his government would deploy STI as a driving force to uplift the country from the status of least developed country through modernization and industrialization by the year 2020. The country is currently focusing on development of legislation for implementing activities under its strategy to develop science and technology by 2020 and achieve the vision 2030. The government is also formulating various laws to harmonize with that of regional and international laws, especially to integrate its national economy with the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015. The Minister identified the following challenges to be addressed by his government: competent human resources in various areas; infrastructure and facilities for production, trade and services; and competitiveness in business. He also stated that the development of NIS was a national priority to achieve the socio-economic development and thus the findings and assessment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s NIS and the suggestions that emerge from the national workshop would be useful to the national government.

During the first technical session on “NIS Overview”, APCTT-ESCAP shared information about its various initiatives and activities carried out under the NIS programme area of the Centre and elaborated on the key elements and their interplay in achieving various objectives of NIS. Different framework conditions and approaches in a country make it impossible to benchmark its NSI with successes of other national innovation systems. The role of a government is to create structural capacity to supplement the weak capacities and interests of science and industry.

In its presentation, STEPI pointed out that simple missions and practical solutions would trigger transformation to complicated systems through collective and adoptive policies. In this context an overview of STI development in the Republic of Korea was presented. STI-based development began in the 1960s with conditions poorer than present day Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The Republic of Korea focused on exports to the United States, but also built its STI infrastructure. In the 1970s, advanced industries were not an option because technology and skilled human resources were absent. In response, the government created research institutes to provide technology capacity in target heavy and chemical industries. Experts were brought over from the United States, but they were not interested in industrial research. The government then created incentives through contract research to target industrial goals. In the 1980s, technology was not easy to acquire from abroad, which created greater risk to high technology dependent sectors. Consortia were created to mitigate risk and prioritize R&D. Within 10 years, the ratio of research funding provided by government and industry reversed so that the industry became the dominant source. In the 1990s, when the industry was dependent on imported components, the government invested in technology extension programmes for local supply chains. These strategies led to achievements in the field of electronics through products such as DRAM, displays and mobile phones. This experience allowed the Republic of Korea to aim for the forefront of S&T, which requires it to handle innovation and other complex issues.

The second session focused on linkages and partnerships of key actors of Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s NIS. At this session, experts from MOST, Ministry of Education and Sports and Ministry of Industry and Commerce presented their respective programmes and initiatives. The expert from the Ministry of Education and Sports specifically presented the background of the Research Institute for Educational Sciences (RIES), established in 1986. The Centre began as the Compilation Division of the Educational Committee of the Lao Patriot Front Central Committee in 1960. Its four centres cover Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Educational Technology, and Research and Promotion Centre for Foreign Languages. Its divisions include pre-primary, educational evaluation, publication and management, and administration. Its mission includes developing curricula, training teachers, assessing student learning, and conducting research in education and disseminating educational information. RIES is also reframing its policy to meet the new demands of present economy.

During the third technical session, STEPI presented the approach it adopted in diagnosing and strategy development. It also presented the Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s socio-economic context, survey results and key findings of the policy review. A preliminary synthesis of the diagnosis and strategic direction was also presented for discussion.

The expert from Nepal shared the status and challenges of STI-based development. He also dwelled on STI implementation strategies and key findings of the STI diagnosis carried out by the APCTT-ESCAP-STEPI team. The experts from Bangladesh presented the STI goals, the existing infrastructure and challenges. These presentations were made at the fourth technical session followed by the fifth session, which focused on the presentation of questionnaire results, its analysis and the priority setting through the analytical hierarchy process (AHP).

See Annex I for the programme and presentations.

Participants
Seven resource persons from APCTT, STEPI, Nepal and Bangladesh, five national resource persons and about 25 national STI stakeholders from government ministries, R&D institutions, universities and industries participated in this workshop.

See Annex II for the list of participants.