THE EDITOR, Sir:
The term 'knowledge-based economy' was coined by the OECD and defined as an economy which is "directly based on the production, distribution and use of knowledge information".
The world has changed tremendously over the past 20 years, and now is the time for Jamaica to adapt to the changing global environment. Only countries which produce value-added products and invest heavily in research and development (R&D) management will be successful in the 21st century.
Therefore, Jamaica should chart a new course for development. Jamaica is poised to become the knowledge hub of the Caribbean because of its strategic geographical location. However, in order for this goal to materialise, more attention must be paid to R&D, and innovation. Spending on R&D will create new products and markets and sophisticated technology which will enhance productivity.
Furthermore, a country's expenditure on R&D indicates its innovative capacity. Additionally, investments made in R&D will increase the number of patents produced locally. (The creation of patents is often used by international agencies to determine future growth prospects). For example, in terms of patents by population, South Korea ranks second in the world, and for patents by GDP, it is in first place.
Jamaica should create an economic incentive regime in order to encourage multinational corporations to create their centres for R&D management in Jamaica. This will give the nation a competitive advantage and increase the exportation of high-end products.
The Government should partner with the private sector to create more research centres and science parks, which will stimulate technology transfer between their associated research centres and businesses. These parks will not only attract businesses; they will also provide them with intermediary services and assistance to tenant firms - including entrepreneurial networking.
The creation of these facilities will also lead to positive spin-off effects. Universities should be urged to design a curriculum which is aligned to the requirements of firms located within these vicinities. Conversely, cluster development will strengthen the innovation capacity of companies and institutions in Jamaica.
Legislation should be enacted to ensure the creation of high-technology business districts. The benefits of this include: the development and strengthening of R&D capabilities and the creation of competitive advantage in specific technology sectors.
Jamaica will also be able to create a niche in the global system, thereby strengthening linkages within the region and the global economy. In order to improve the innovation capacity of SMEs, centres of innovation should be created to provide SMEs with technology consultancy which will enhance their competitiveness.
Jamaica has been playing catch-up for too long.