Systematic View of Innovation: Role of Universities in National Innovation System of Sri Lanka

R.N. Weerasinghe, A.K.W. Jayewardane, A.L. Deshani


In latter part of the 1980s, the systematic view of innovation at the national level has attracted much attention. This systematic view has become a popular research theme all around the world at present. Freeman (1987) and Nelson (1993) are important contributors to the perspective of National Innovation System (NIS). The concept is mainly focused on the inter-relationship and inter-dependencies among the major actors of NIS. The S&T Research Institutions, the Universities and the Firms representing industries are considered as the main three contributors of NIS. The inter-relationships and interactions among those actors are crucial for triggering innovation towards the socio-economic development of a country as a whole. This study aims to identify the role of Universities of Sri Lanka in NIS, to determine the existence of networking relationships with other main actors of NIS, to identify problems encountered by the University sector in terms of their presence or absence in NIS and to suggest required policy implications needed for strengthening the university sector as an effective player in NIS of Sri Lanka. The survey methodology was employed in the study and the entire population was to collect the data from the university sector mainly representing deans of the faculties and heads of the departments. Data was collected through a self-designed questionnaire after testing its reliability and ensuring validity. Supplementary to the survey and in-depth interviews were conducted with seven vice-chancellors to collect qualitative data and justify findings of the survey. 104 survey questionnaires were successfully collected from the whole population. Social Network Analysis (SNA) was employed to determine the strength of the networking relationship among the Universities, the S&T Research Institutions, and the Firms representing industries. Further, collected data were presented through descriptive and summary statistics. Qualitative data collected through interviews were analyzed through content analysis to draw a conclusion. The study revealed that there is a positive trend in the higher education sector towards performing an effective role in the future though there are minimum innovative activities and performance recorded at present.
Keywords: Innovation, Role of Universities, Networking, National Innovation System

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