Innovation take off through industrial technical centers in Maghreb countries: A missing link in NSI or new opportunity?
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While catch up theory assumes that innovation takes place in a linear models and that path dependant trajectories characterizes the innovation process, "innovation take off" rests on the premises that innovation systems need strong policy impulses from government for innovation to effectively take place. Innovation take off is the prerequisite for innovation systems to be operating in a conventional manner. In many Developing countries, like Maghreb countries (Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco), innovation systems construction takes place in a very specific environment characterized by privatization of public concerns, the rise of a strong SMEs sector but with very little experience in the fields of R&D and innovation, and a relatively weak industrial sector in terms of industrial performances, suffering high obsolescence both in terms of human resources and equipment. While the approach in terms of innovation systems is real and attracts a great deal of attention from policy makers, the drive to use Industrial Technical Centre (ITC) as the quickest way to system construction and innovation take off is getting stronger and stronger and rests on the firm belief of policy makers that this is more adapted to the situations of their economies. In most Maghreb countries, essentially French speaking, policies are being worked out to establish ITCs in key strategic sectors: textile, garments, mechanical, electrical, food industries etc. Our contribution addresses the fundamental question of innovation take off in late industrializing countries such as Maghreb countries, both in terms of policies and in terms of conceptual framework. It raises also the issue of the relevance of ITCs as means to trigger off innovation in some late innovating countries. It focuses specifically on the Algerian case using a field study which mobilized about fifteen major industrial innovating firms both public and private concerns, two industrial technical centers and twenty support institutions including ministries, universities, training institutions, valorizing institutions, and industrial associations.