Apr 11 2012
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World Bank Workshop in Beirut "Innovation Policy: Components and Operations"
On April 4-5, the World Bank Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Financial and Private Sector Development (FPD) unit held a two-day workshop titled "Innovation Policy: Components and Operations". The activity brought together World Bank Group staff and their government counterparts involved in innovation related activities to enhance their knowledge and skills on the fundamentals of innovation policy. Representatives from the Ministry of Economy and Trade, Ministry of Finance, the Prime Minister's Office, the Central Bank, Kafalat (the SME guarantee agency), the National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Investment Development Authority (IDAL), and the private sector attended the workshop.
The Country Director, Mr. Hedi Larbi, opened the workshop by pointing to the importance of the innovation topic to growth and development especially to the Lebanese economy. Mr. Larbi referenced the recently released Bank report 'Using Lebanon's Large Capital Inflows to Foster Sustainable Long-Term Growth', which projected the growth payoff of promoting research, innovation and adaptation, and enforcement of property rights at 0.8 percentage point of GDP per year. He explained that promoting innovation in the private sector should be comprehensive and linked to job creation; meaning that support should not only target startups but also existing enterprises that have potential for growth. The Country Director's speech was followed by remarks from the FPD Sector Manager, Mr. Simon Bell, who discussed the impediments to private sector growth in MENA due to weak intra and international trade linkages (outside of hydrocarbon exports), sluggish Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) (except for hydrocarbons and real estate), and monopolized markets (low levels of competition). In addition, he underlined the region's poor product and export diversification as well as its exports' lack of technological input. Mr. Bell referred to the Government of Lebanon's recent request to launch an innovation finance project as a novel and unique endeavor for it will be the first of its kind in the MENA region, which is in dire need for quality and high value added jobs.
Following the opening remarks, the workshop hosted seven panel discussions that covered different components of the innovation ecosystem in addition to a panel on the experience of the World Bank in innovation support projects in both Latin America and East and Central Asia. Specifically, the panelists discussed the following topics:
- Building an innovation ecosystem: Mr. Bob Hudgson, WB consultant, set the stage by giving an overview of the building components and the dynamics of an innovation ecosystem. He also tackled the roles of institutions, firms, infrastructure, financing, tacit and codified knowledge, vertical and horizontal linkages, clusters, and the crucial role of culture in nurturing entrepreneurship and taking risk. Mr. Hudgson emphasized the importance of the enabling business environment and role of culture and networks in facilitating the transfer of knowledge and technologies.
- The role of mentorship in harnessing entrepreneurship: Mr. Nicolas Rouhana, Executive Director Berytech and Mr. Nick Littlefield, Mowgli Mentor discussed the role of mentorship in building stronger ventures and higher potential startups. Mr. Rouhana underlined the partnership that Berytech has with TechWadi, the Silicon Valley Arab Diaspora network, and its value in linking local entrepreneurs and startups with the right mentors. Mr. Littlefield explained the Mowgli's mentorship model and the activities that both Berytech and Mowgli sponsor on this level.
- Innovative Bank support to innovation: Ms. Esperanza Lasagabaster, WB Innovation Technology and Entrepreneurship ITE Group, and Mr. Yevgeny N. Kuznetsov, Migration Policy Institute (MPI), presented World Bank Innovation support projects in both Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and East and Central Asia (ECA) regions and their relevance to Lebanon Innovation Support project under preparation. The panelists discussed projects from 5 different countries: Chile, Mexico, Armenia, Colombia, and India and summarized the best practices as well as the failures of some of the projects' components.
- Technology upgrading and transfer: Mr. Alfred Watkins, WB Consultant, Mr. Nour Khreis, Mayslward Gaming Company, and Dr. Miled Sebaaly, Global Learning, discussed innovation on the firm level; utilizing existing knowledge versus creating new knowledge; knowledge transfer; the value of human capital and the availability of skills and expertise as well as modern and innovative management styles. Mr. Khreis and Dr. Sebaaly shared their experience as serial entrepreneurs and the hurdles they had to overcome in assembling teams, accessing financing, and maintaining services and products with global competence.
- The role of accelerators, incubators, and bootcamps: Ms. Nina Curely, Editor of Wamda, and Mr. Fadi Bizri, Co-founder of Seeqnce, discussed the emerging role of accelerators in the MENA region and the different models followed, the activities both Wamda and Seeqnce undertake, and their views on the potentials and weaknesses of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Mr. Bizri pointed out to the weak deal flow in his target sector (Web and Mobile applications) and the outreach strategy that Seeqnce had to implement to recruit more entrepreneurs into their program. Ms. Curely presented a recent research conducted in Jordan that showed that out of 105 entrepreneurs polled, 27% were women, 68% aged 30 or below, and 33.3% of ventures were in ICT.
© Press Release 2012
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