Innovation, University Research and Information Infrastructure – making sound investments in information infrastructure
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Innovation determines the prosperity of nations. By equipping people with the skills to innovate, to embrace new and better ways of doing things, business and industry thrives, productivity increases and the nation benefits from a more prosperous and educated workforce. Collaborating and making connections are now integral to the innovation process, as information and ideas may come from anyone, anywhere, making innovation more pervasive, more open. Universities are key agents of a nation's innovation capability, as primary creators and disseminators of new knowledge, through research and teaching. They play a key role in the preservation and diffusion of knowledge through publishing, presentations, consultancies and the like. Increasingly nations seek to not only strengthen the key agencies of innovation, but also the links between them. "Innovation is built on stocks of knowledge and capability, and the information flows of innovation capital around these." (Venturous Australia, 2008: p.18). If universities are the heart of the innovation system then information infrastructure is the lifeblood. It is through information infrastructure that knowledge is created, manipulated, interpreted, disseminated and preserved: through its libraries, information repositories, communication and collaboration tools, advanced computers, networks and its information specialists. This is recognized in many national and regional innovation strategies as agencies of government invest not only in their universities, but in a range of facilities. But are we investing in the right ways in the right places if we wish to drive innovation through investment in information infrastructure? What is best done at a local university level? What is best done at a regional level? What is best done at a national level? What is best done through international collaboration? The global information landscape is rapidly evolving. Innovation, by definition, means change is a constant. Yet this does not absolve us, as university information professionals, from ensuring that our universities invest wisely in developing their information infrastructure, that they exploit regional, national and international opportunities in the most effective and efficient ways. We must begin by understanding the vision and motivation of three of the key agents of innovation: the researcher, the university and the national government. When mapped against research information infrastructure services it is possible to determine a level of research information infrastructure service that any researcher should expect, that every university should deliver. These services are "pre-competitive" from a university perspective. They underpin the vision and motivations of the nation, the university and the researcher, driving competitive advantage for the nation as a whole, not privileging any university specifically. These are best delivered through national investment and national or international collaboration, in the most cost effective manner. There is a complex middle ground, where the inter-dependent motivations of the agents and the tensions between the short and long term make decision-making complex. Lastly there are services which provide distinct competitive advantage to a university. It is these that will yield the greatest investment benefit in the medium term. This paper seeks to assist universities to make informed investment decisions in their own information infrastructure and provide some observations on the ways in which universities may wish to shape regional or national information infrastructure policy.
EUNIS 2010 Congress Book of Abstracts
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Information Systems not elsewhere classified
Research, Science and Technology Policy