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6. Discussion and future

The building of an innovation system should be context-specific. However, the main principles, components, and processes of innovation systems should be used as the baseline in the construction process. This baseline should include the actors’ nature, capacity, modes of learning, and resource availability and allocation. The Rwandan NIS is subject to weak relationships, resource scarcity, and limited capacities. These features in the construction of a functional NIS remain among the key challenges to organizing the efficient use of knowledge for innovation and development in Rwanda. To address these challenges, a thorough analysis of (i) the specific tools and instruments that can be used to build relationships and (ii) proper resource mobilization and allocation is of capital importance.

As the results show, in Rwanda, effective policymaking and policy implementation remain challenging. However, enabling policies are considered key preconditions for innovation. Despite the lack of specificities in the NIS framework, other supplementary tools were used in my analysis to examine Rwandan policymaking and how it can contribute to the advancement of innovation in Rwanda, specifically in the agricultural sector. Results show that policymaking in Rwanda is still based on policy learning and policy transfer (discussed in Paper III). Evidence-based policymaking has not yet been achieved. This causes innovation policies and associated public policies to be less responsive to society’s demands, a condition that ultimately does not favour innovation development. These problems with policymaking can also be associated with the low level of interactions between stakeholders. A combination of less responsive policies and a low level of interactions between stakeholders creates an environment that hampers the construction of a functional innovation system.

As suggested by Borrás and Laatsit (2019), Chaminade and Lundvall (2019), and Arnold (2004), the conditions above call for the implementation of robust coordination mechanisms and a high level of engagement and collaboration between actors. I argue that this can be achieved by creating and enhancing avenues of interaction and policy incentives for collaboration between actors.

Since the NIS is context-specific, no single solution will facilitate this.

However, further research can explore different options on how efficient interaction between stakeholders can be established so as to increase the stakeholders’ degree of engagement and collaboration. Moreover, I also claim that a thorough examination of efficient policymaking mechanisms (with an emphasis on evidence-based policymaking) would reduce policy failures and enable the implementation of policies that support innovation development.

This claim can be explored from a perspective of evidence acquisition and use

and strategies for policy implementation and the creation of feedback channels between actors.

In addition to the above-mentioned institutional weaknesses (in terms of policymaking and stakeholders’ relations in Rwanda’s NIS), several capability problems make the building of the NIS and the organization of knowledge uptake a challenging task. As highlighted by Teece, Pisano, and Shuen (2009) and Cohen and Levinthal (1990), dynamic capability and the absorptive capacity of actors are key factors for innovation competency. Thus, the building of an NIS should take these factors into account and capitalize on them. The Rwandan context shows that there is still limited absorptive capacity, mainly in terms of financial and human resources. There is a low level of R&D investment, a lack of qualified researchers, and a limited critical mass of educated communities for technology absorption. This is particularly true in the agricultural sector. I suggest that these factors are critical challenges that should be explored at different levels and from different perspectives.

However, the most pressing issue is our need to understand how education and research systems respond to society’s demands and whether these systems can be improved upon so as to respond to these demands.

In principle, the role of education (primarily provided by universities) and research institutions is expected to be achieved when the universities’ mission and society’s problems are harmonized with each other (Benner, Malmberg, and Schwaag Serger 2021). This can be accomplished by collaboration between the universities and other actors in the NIS. Collaborations can be organized via teaching and research activities. Modes of teaching that allow for interactions between students and the labour market (including industries and the private sector in general) are recommended since they can enhance the students’ exposure to industry and produce graduates that meet the labour market’s demands. Furthermore, I claim that participatory research is one of the best options to choose from if one wishes to produce more responsive and relevant research outputs. Unfortunately, as per the results of this study, the current situation in Rwanda shows that universities are still limited in terms of their ability to address society’s core problems (for example, a lack of industrial technologies and a suitably qualified labour force). Thus, the role of Rwandan universities and research institutions in the development process remains somewhat under-appreciated.

Future research in this area should examine how the contribution that is made by Rwandan universities to the socio-economic development of the country can be improved upon, particularly with regard to the development of the industrial sector. The Triple Helix Model can be a potential framework to

explore the relationship between universities and industry. Etzkowitz (2013) and Arocena, Göransson, and Sutz (2015) propose the concepts of

‘entrepreneurial university’ and ‘developmental university’ to understand the role that universities play in the development of society. These concepts emphasize the third mission of universities, which is ‘technology transfer’ and

‘society engagement’. They argue that if universities can accomplish their third mission, then they can be drivers for sustainable and inclusive development.

They suggest different options for how universities can be positioned within the dynamics of social development dynamics in a manner that transcends their teaching role. These concepts can also be exploited in the context of Rwanda, considering how universities operate, how they define their missions, and how these missions are accomplished. This approach can be the best way to unpack the role that knowledge institutions perform in the NIS framework. At present, the NIS framework only prescribes activities and actions of universities as knowledge institutions without providing clear guidance on how these activities and actions can be performed.

Concerning stakeholders’ interactions, resource endowment, and knowledge transfer and use, we realize that value chains can be used to establish pathways for interactions between actors for technology/knowledge transfer and the coordination of the efficient use of resources in the agricultural sector. Lema, Rabellotti, and Gehl Sampath (2018), Jurowetzki, Lema, and Lundvall (2018), Fagerberg, Lundvall, and Srholec (2018), and Janssen and Swinnen (2019) argue that the co-evolution of value chains and innovation systems can enhance the use of knowledge for economic growth. Particularly in developing countries with weak institutions and relations, this can establish trajectories for innovation and improve the sustainability of innovation systems. In the present study, the results show that value chain actors in the two value chains that were studied are in place, but the level of their interactions with each other with regard to knowledge production, transfer, and use remain low due to a lack of avenues for interaction, a lack of harmonization of interest, policy conflicts, and a lack of trust. However, existing initiatives show that value chains can be enhanced and contribute to building an efficient agricultural innovation system in Rwanda. Nevertheless, this suggestion needs to be explored from different perspectives, particularly with respect to mechanisms that can enhance synergies between actors and improve value chain governance.