Scientific knowledge workshop recommendations

The objective of this expert mission was to provide a comprehensive overview of the role of the public sector in establishing R&D policies as well as of modern trends/approaches linking scientific research with industrial applications.

The strengths and weaknesses of the Lebanese research and innovation system have been known for a long time and have been highlighted in various documents such as Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) for Lebanon prepared in cooperation between the National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS) and UNESCO.

On the positive side, Lebanon is traditionally recognized for its human capital and the entrepreneurship skills of its citizens. With 54 percent gross enrollment rate in tertiary education, the country by far exceeds the 26 and 23 percent rate registered respectively for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and for middle-income countries in general.

However, Lebanon has faced significant migration and brain drain: although the country invests heavily in human capital, many of its best-trained people migrate abroad. Financial capital is not lacking in Lebanon, but not enough dedicated to research, innovation and entrepreneurship. The share of Lebanon’s GDP devoted to R&D remains one of the lowest in the world. At this stage, only a relatively small proportion of firms have a department specialized in R&D.

As a consequence, Lebanon underperforms as an innovator relative to its GDP per capita. In the global innovation index rankings (2014), Lebanon comes at the 77th rank out of 143 countries despite a high ranking (23) in income. The meeting organized by the Industrial Research Institute started by a presentation of rationale, trends and outlook for science, technology and innovation policies, illustrated by the example of the French innovation system and policies. Detailed presentations were made on the acceleration of academic technology transfer through the maturation process between the proof of concept and the prototype, and on the
doctoral studies in France. Each presentation was followed by discussions on what could be transposed to Lebanon and how, given the specificities of this country.

On the second day, representatives of local industries and academia presented their experiences respectively in product development and industrially applied research. They gave examples of good practice in knowledge transfer and public private partnerships, and explained the problems they face because of legal, economical or cultural barriers.

The exchanges which occurred during the meeting showed a broad consensus among participants on the state and the challenges of the Lebanese research and innovation system, as well on most of the following recommendations which can be implemented at the government level or by research stakeholders (universities). These recommendations concern various aspects of public policy: human resources, public research, knowledge transfer, R&D and business innovation. Following them will have a cost and take time, but they have proven effective where they have been implemented.

• Human resources:

- Place more emphasis in universities on teaching activities likely to make students become more innovative and entrepreneurial.

- In order to match academic curricula and the needs of industry, maintain an information system to monitor changes in labour demand and education capacities; establish a skills or qualification framework to support recruitment and enable mobility.
• Public research:

- Encourage more competitive allocation of public funding to universities and public institutes, for research projects oriented on national priorities.

• Knowledge transfer:

- Establish in universities Offices of Technology Transfer (OTTs) dedicated to identifying research which has potential commercial interest and strategies for how to exploit it. The OTTs will also assist the research teams in preparing the research contracts. Professionalise and offer adequate incentives to the institutions and staff in charge of commercialisation: these are market activities that require stakeholders to have the relevant qualifications and experience and to
do their best to respond to the market.

- Develop in universities communication activities directed towards the potential industrial partners, in order to promote the research performed in universities and the opportunities of technology transfer.

- Offer more incentives to universities so that researchers will turn towards commercialisation rather than confine themselves solely to scientific publications. This means including transfer indicators in researchers’ career files.

- Develop public-private partnerships through staff mobility with a scheme similar to the French CIFRE (Conventions Industrielles de Formation par la Recherche), which allow doctoral students to be hired by companies to prepare their PhDs in house, with a close academic supervision.

• R&D and business innovation:

- Implement tax incentives like research tax credit, in order to encourage Lebanese companies to invest in R&D and international firms to locate R&D centers in Lebanon

© Copyright 2012 The Centre for Innovation and Technology (CIT) . All rights reserved.

This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union.
The contents of this publication is the sole responsability of CIT / IRI and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.