Prof. José Luis Encarnação: Innovations for socio-economic development in the emerging economies

Economic and social progress in emerging countries depends on the development of innovations in information technology as well as graphic data processing and the associated graphically interactive surfaces. As an innovation consultant for various multi-nationals and governments, I have examined this question in great depth for several years, exploring how we can support and speed up this development. Needless to say, this also serves the interests of the economy.


What is meant by progress through innovation? If we invest money in order to acquire new skills, then we conduct research. If it is invested in developing or opening up businesses on the basis of these acquired skills and new areas of knowledge, then we are promoting innovations. These busi­­nesses in turn generate funds which are necessary for new research activities. This represents a process which ultimately drives the socio-economic de­­vel­opment of each country forward. It is important to overcome the no­­torious “Valley of Death” – where many research ef­­forts never find their way into being applied and utilized.

So-called “innovation platforms” have been developed with the aim of sustaining the innovation development process. For this reason it is a matter of involving the private sector (universities and institutions, appropriate agencies and associations, users, industry, financial institutions, amongst other establishments) early on to ensure that the final outcomes result in application and commercialisation. Suc­­cessful implementation is the only possible way. This “innovation platform” differs from other models such as industrial parks, where it comes down to promoting the establishment of innovative companies, or living labs, where the user should be well anchored into the development stage early on, or even the so-called Innovation Villages in which the public and private sector are to be brought together on a regional level.

For “innovation platforms”, stakeholders that play a crucial role in the defined topic of innovation, agree on the framework for the relevant innovation process. They agree on hardware and software as well as standards, interfaces and methods that are to be applied in order to ensure that the desired in­­tegration capability and interoperability are both achieved in the end result of the innovation process. Both areas (technical and legal) of speci­fications, agreements and contracts then come together as a whole to form the basis for a public-private partnership which will implement and finance the “innovation platform”.

To begin with, the “innovation platforms” provide new im­­petus, relating to an application or a topic, for the imple­mentation, commercialisation and specific application of certain research results which are incorporated into different projects. They must then be placed on a larger scale in order to help tackle greater challenges such as the future energy supply, climate change, health care, amongst many other things. The solutions introduced should also contribute to economic growth, re­­ducing poverty and, as a result, the socio-economic development of the regions concerned. This all occurs via a network of “innovation platforms”. They form a matrix comprising elements for solving the “grand challenges” (energy, climate, health, etc.) across different platforms (e.g. information technologies) and regions.

For this reason, we have to consider the digital revolution which we are all currently experiencing and which is changing our living and working to a considerable extent. How will it affect the added value globally? Will the emerg­ing economies be able to perhaps even skip some of the de­­velopment stages? These changes are influenced and shaped by mo­­bility, the Internet and modern tech­­nologies as well as terminal equipment (smart phones, smart tablets, etc.) which are used more and more widely. They achieve a high saturation level on a global scale, even in the developing regions. Even today, we are at the stage where people who are unable to read or are subject to poverty, can still use these technologies and devices. In this instance, one starting point could be in helping people or in creating and implementing new socio-economic development opportunities for them.

During this process of change, a system where humans only users and consumers evolves into a new system where humans can engage in the value-added process. The people can then “participate” in this process: they may even become producers themselves. This is made possible by that fact that the entire value-added process is becoming more and more digitalised. The Internet is also developing further into an “Internet of (digital) processes”. Today this is known as “mobile em­powerment”.

New forms of technological and technical services networks will spring up in line with current political and private social networks. Such technological and technical services networks will then merge together for certain topics, technologies and applications, which will ultimately result in new forms and structures for the industry and economy. Subsequently, industry and eco­nomy will seek out and use new forms of “outsourcing” via this “Internet of processes and technological and technical services networks”. Such networks will also apparent around the world. This new value-added system will also use different forms of cloud computing and this vision of a new (digital) value-added system re­­presents a major opportunity for speeding-up the socio-­economic development of emerging economies. How­ever, it also brings about many challenges and changes for our own industry and economy. But they must face this in line with the evolutionary process and detect adequate solu­­tions. Many so-called multinationals are also willing to be a strategic player in this evolutionary process.

A great deal of people can actively co-operate in such a value-added system by offering and delivering certain services and special solutions to problems via the Inter­net. The whole thing is integrated and managed via a plat­form. Vertical applications that are based on mobile empowerment play an increasingly important role, par­­ticularly for emerging economies. Examples of such applications include:

– Mobile medical care with pharmaceuticals and medical services
– Mobile food supply through intelligent use of food transports
– Supporting infrastructure for mobile private transport outside of urban areas
– Mobile training establishments that offer certain con­tent and services
– Mobile entertainment such as digital cinema “on demand”
– Mobile supply and support of sport infrastructures
– etc., etc., etc.

Three components are nec­es­sary to strategically develop, carry out and implement this “mobile empowerment”: the “innovation platforms” described herein, the development and training of necessary human resources and a combination and integration of all required stake­holders (collaboratory).

The ideas and concepts presented here have been developed and attempted in many different ways within the framework of industrial cooperation, particularly with South Africa. The EU supports many projects as part of the EU-Africa programmes, which test out, evaluate and further develop these ideas or those alike in the form of pilot projects and use-cases. The results are very promising. One best-practice example of such a system (collaboratory) is the German Indian Partner­ship for IT-Systems GRIP-IT (
?id=1073). This partner­­ship is maintained by the Na­­tional Academy of Sci­ence and Engineering (Deut­sche Akademie der Technik­wis­senschaften, acatech).

It is therefore expected that these new future opportunities for participation will also allow the emerging economies, with its industrial and economic structures, that are become more and more based on IT networks, to find new openings and courses of actions for socio-economic development.

This article is an authorised reprint of an essay with the same title published by the Beckurts-Stiftung in Munich, volume “Beckurts-­Symposium 2013 ( M. Popp, Ed.)”.
ISBN 978-3-00-047469-9


In 1987 Prof. Encarnação founded the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD in Darmstadt and was the director of this institution until his retirement in 2006. He was a professor for computer science at the Technische Universität Darmstadt from 1975 where he became head of the Interactive Graphics Systems Group (GRIS). José Luis Encarnação has been Professor emeritus of the Technische Universität Darmstadt since 1 October 2009.