Commercialization of higher education institutions’ research within the National System of Innovation

DOI: 10.1080/20421338.2017.1338387
Author(s): Wanjiru GachieDiscipline of Computer Science Education, South Africa, Desmond Wesley GovenderDiscipline of Computer Science Education, South Africa


The commercialization of higher education institutions’ (HEIs’) research within the South African National System of Innovation (NSI) has received prominence in the post-apartheid era. Intra-African NSI dialogue to draw out context-specific and generic country experiences that could inform policy developments, and initiate and accelerate strengthening of research commercialization is important. However, there is a lack of data for a comprehensive and informed overview of the role of HEIs in commercialization of research and the main challenges they face. This paper intends to propose a more comprehensive platform for promoting, building, and managing commercialization of research. This mixed-method research confirmed that South African HEIs combine education, research and community engagement, but their base needs to be strengthened for research commercialization to occur. Findings identified that HEIs’ commercialization of research is constrained by lack of commercialization skills and low numbers of qualified staff, brain drain, aging of faculty, absence of intellectual property (IP) policy measures, and focus on lecturing rather than research-focused mandates. Proposed strategies to improve research commercialization should include development and implementation of fair IP policies and guidelines, bolstering of human and organizational capabilities at HEIs and research institutes, and strengthening periodic reviewing by the National Intellectual Property Management Office.

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