The objective of research in this theme is to contribute to a rethinking of economic development from the perspectives of the globalising learning economy and sustainable development. This is mainly done by studying and comparing different kinds of innovation systems at different levels of development in order to understand how learning and innovation capabilities are shaped.
The IKE group has done research about innovation systems for more than 30 years now. During this process it has become clear that the innovation system approach has close connections to development theory. Hirschman's focus on linkages and Myrdal's discussion of positive and negative cumulative processes are obvious examples. However, until recently IKE's research has concentrated on learning and innovation in small high-income countries. The research in this theme is thus a rather new orientation in the activities of the IKE group.
From a development policy point of view promoting sectoral, local, regional, and national systems of innovation and competence building may be seen as a fruitful response to challenges and conflicts emanating from globalisation. The aim is to develop a better understanding of how the changing role of knowledge and learning, as well as the increasing international interdependence, affect innovation systems in the South.
Most of the people involved in this theme are participating in different activities aiming at building new research capabilities in the South in the field of innovation and economic development. This has been done through participation in various development projects, such as the SUDESCA (Sustainable Development in Central America), DUCED-I&UA (Danish University Consortium on Environment & Development – Industry & Urban Areas; now U-Nexus) and the GLOBELICS, network. These projects bring together scholars from both the South and the North who apply the concept of systems of innovation and competence building to the field of development thinking. Especially, they promote rethinking development in this direction within the less developed countries.
Today, within the framework of GLOBELICS, several regional initiatives have been developed, such as ASIAlics, LATINAMERICALics, and AFRICALics. Five major emerging economies, i.e. Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa, are the focus of a new major project, the BRICS project.