The building of agro-biotechnology capabilities in small countries: The cases of Costa Rica, New Zealand and Uruguay
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The building of agro-biotechnology capabilities in small countries: The cases of Costa Rica, New Zealand and Uruguay. Isabel Bortagaray 411 pages Directed by Dr. Susan E. Cozzens This dissertation has studied the role of institutional environments on the building of agro-biotechnological capabilities in small countries, through a comparative case study design. The key question was whether the institutional environments in Costa Rica, New Zealand and Uruguay have evolved in a way that have fostered or hindered the transition towards modern biotechnology at the level of firms and sector. Biotechnology provided a particularly interesting area of study because of the dramatic changes it has undergone since the 1970s and consequently, it facilitated to study the transition from second generation to third generation biotechnology. Innovation studies have trend to focus on pharmaceutical biotechnology. This research however, attempted to understand the dynamics behind biotechnology applied to agriculture, in countries with agricultural-based economies. In this context three small countries were selected: Costa Rica, New Zealand and Uruguay, based on some commonalities in terms of size (population), their reliance on agriculture, and some historical features that inter-connect them. The choice of biotechnology applied to agriculture enabled to study the extent to which the institutional environments have changed and processed change vis a vis fundamental technological development. The institutional environment was defined as composed by institutions (rules of the game), the web of organizations (players of the game), and policies. Technological capabilities were defined as composed by skills, processes and resources. Primary data was collected based on in-depth interviews to research organizations, hybrid research-related organizations, firms, and policy-making agencies in each country. These findings suggest that institutional thickness (number and variety of organizations and institutions), cohesiveness (shared sense of strategic purpose), and coherence between institutions and policies with regard to their goals and means are crucial for strengthening more complex, cumulative, encompassing (different biotechnologies with multiple focuses), and expanding biotechnologies.