Background to the Globelics Academy

During the 1990s, technological development, especially in ICT, biotech, new materials and transport, interacted with regulatory efforts towards liberalisation and deregulation of international trade, investment and finance to produce an unprecedented scale and speed of change in the structure and composition of economic activities. These are the changes, which are conventionally referred to as “economic globalisation”. The other side has been the rapid growth in knowledge-based economic activities; especially those based on information and communication technologies. Accordingly, citizens in the countries in the North gradually find themselves inhabiting an “information”, “knowledge” or “learning” society.
However, whichever name is assigned to this society, it has its negative side: there is a not only persistent but in many respects growing “information”, “knowledge” or “learning” divide. The persistency of these divides alone indicates that efforts to overcome them are fraught with challenges. This proposed Globelics Academy and the network behind it represent efforts toward understanding the underlying dynamics and toward overcoming these divides.

The 1980s and 1990s witnessed very mixed experiences with structural adjustment programmes as well as large-scale collapses of financial systems in both nation states and larger regions. This has lead to a growing awareness among academics, practitioners, international development organisations and policy-makers alike, that crucial institutional, structural and social insights are likely to be missing in the mainstream development policy equation. What is needed appears to be a heterodox recipe building on deep insights into development processes, which are more often than not highly localised. Standard-recipes, applied indiscriminately to economies across the globe, economies that differ hugely in their historical trajectories, structural position, and immediate development prospects, do not appear to be sufficient.

Innovation in its various shapes and forms increasingly presents itself as an imperative to nations, regions, firms, and individuals alike. It follows that, in academic terms, better analytical understandings of the roles of innovation in contemporary economic dynamics are called for. In terms of development policy, such better understandings can inform efforts to devise policy instruments, which can institute virtuous circles of learning, innovation and competence building.

Local pockets of scientific excellence in studies of learning, innovation and competence building systems have been built over the last decades, mainly but not exclusively in developed countries. The scholars engaged in building ‘globelics’ and their institutions, are at the forefront of the field. They share the characteristic of viewing economic development as a systemic process, active at many separate institutional levels from the global level over the national down to dynamics within individual firms and the skills and competencies of their employees. The approaches encourage spatially and temporally sensitive analyses of the constitution of global and local economic systems and the relationship between different systems and different systemic levels (international-national, national-national, national-local, etc.).

Many of the researchers and institutions from across the globe, involved in Globelics, have long been engaged in informal researcher networks and many have in the past collaborated or are currently collaborating on joint comparative research projects on innovation, knowledge and economic dynamics. Some countries have already established local, regional or national networks for innovation studies while others have not.

The Globelics Academy will facilitate the strengthening of existing networks locally, encourage and inspire the creation and new ones, and, perhaps most importantly, allow for existing networks to be brought better in touch with each other in a more formalised setting. Especially, it will make sure that the accumulated knowledge is transferred to next generation of scholars.