Tuesday, October 25, 2011

ISETs a local development engine.

After the 14th of January, it became obvious that among the several socioeconomic priorities, regional development, especially of the interior regions, is the most pressing priority. Nevertheless, identifying priorities is only a necessary step, but far from being a sufficient one! Indeed, devising the appropriate impacts-driven strategies to achieve the desired goals and outcomes, let alone providing the needed funds, is the main challenge.

Today, it is fully admitted that education in general, and technical training in particular, could play a key socioeconomic development role on the national as well as local levels. Luckily, the Tunisian higher educational infrastructure is quite evenly spread all over Tunisia, with one ISET in each governorate. These institutions, once restructured to respond to a wider local mission, could be key socioeconomic leverages for the development of their respective region.

Due to lack of experience, short vision and thus insufficient mission design, the ISETs ended up more like dwarfed engineering schools, rather than technical institutions anchored to their regions and integrated in their different development dynamics. Consequently, this expensive infrastructure, turned into a burden by producing mainly unemployable graduates, rather than responding to the immediate local needs by providing a range of educational and training services. Moreover, ISETs are almost completely decoupled from the university system as well as the vocational one, making of them a last resort for high school graduates.

To fully leverage this valuable infrastructure and make of it a local development asset, it is proposed to widen its mission and couple it intelligently to the rest of the educational and training systems along the lines of successful institutions such as the American Community Colleges.

In order to achieve the above goals, it is necessary to benchmark the ISETs against the Community Colleges while taking into consideration the socioeconomic contexts of the two countries, especially the pressing short and medium terms needs of Tunisia.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Les Implications Long Terme de la Raréfaction de l'Energie Fossile sur le Développement du Nord et du Sud.


Nous nous proposons d'étudier les évolutions possibles des rapports Nord/Sud dans le contexte de l’épuisement des ressources énergétiques fossiles, sans recours aux énergies alternatives. En effet, si la plupart des modèles globaux traitent de problèmes globaux à échelle mondiale, très peu s’intéressent aux différences de niveaux de développement entre les régions. 

Dans cette étude, un modèle dynamique à feedbacks a été utilisé, s’inspirant du modèle ELP de Lofdahl (2002) afin d’étudier les rapports du système Nord/Sud régi par la théorie de la pression latérale (Choucri et North 1975) en s’intéressant plus particulièrement aux effets de la raréfaction des ressources énergétiques fossiles et de la pollution par le CO2. 

La simulation révèle que le modèle basé sur des ressources énergétiques purement fossiles n’est pas viable pour les deux régions à long terme. Le commerce des ressources fossiles se fait essentiellement en faveur du Nord qui est économiquement dominant et qui réussit à maintenir une croissance économique régulière pendant quelques décennies mais qui s’achève à terme par un brusque effondrement causé par l’épuisement des ressources. 

Enfin, la pollution, à travers les dégâts qu’elle cause, ralentit la croissance du Nord mais, par la même occasion, prolonge considérablement la durabilité de son économie lorsqu’elle est associée au commerce. Le Sud, par contre, ne parvient pas à se développer correctement, subissant de plein fouet les effets conjugués de la pollution et de l’épuisement des ressources fossiles.
Figure : Évolution de la pression latérale dans les scénarios pollution et nopollution

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Power to the great people of Tunisia!

All Tunisians have the right to take part in building our new modern Free Tunisia, for Tunisia needs all of its children! As to those listed candidates taking part in the coming election, be them football players or university professors, they better present their convincing positions and projects. In the absence of the latter, it is the duty of all and each Tunisian to collectively and actively BLOCK any candidate who is belittling the coming historic election. Moreover, Tunisia and Tunisians are far greater than any naive manipulation. Power to the great people of Tunisia!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Towards Entrepreneurial Universities: A Triadic Schema.

As Knowledge Societies become the rule rather than the exception, and their National Innovation Systems as their prime development mover, the HE systems as a whole, and the Universities as key players, become the main knowledge producers and transfer apparatus.

The success of Entrepreneurial Universities in its new and larger role in industrial innovation is conditioned by the proper alignment of research and graduate education with socio-economic development.

The above configuration is possible unless a modern vision and a proper strategy is formulated and acted upon to orchestrate all elements and parties in the most efficient manners. This is where a Strategic Triadic Schema plan is proposed.

The proposed strategic plan is a three levels, three components schema. While the strategy doesn’t one-to-one fit Burton R. Clark irreducible five elements minimum, it does respond to the present pressing needs of the Tunisian HES and mainly its Universities. Nevertheless, the above three components are made to include the main sub-elements of the latter minimum. The proposed three components three levels schema is:

C1. Graduate Education and Research Training Quality,
C2. Focused Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Projects,
C3. Research Funding Efficiency and the Entrepreneurial University.

In what follows the objectives and actions for each component will be elucidated along with the addressed minimum elements. This structure will necessarily yield repetitions of the latter elements.

C1: Graduate Education and Research Training Quality:
Tunisia has the ambition to enhance and enforce the Undergraduate Educational system. Thus, our proposition comes to consolidate this pressing undertaking by focusing on Graduate Education and University Research. While these two latter components are the key knowledge producers for any NIS, they are also the main provider of qualified manpower, be it faculty and/or researchers for universities and research centers, or engineers and technicians for the industry. Some of the key issues that need to be addressed in this part are:

i. Teaching and research relationship and quality: delivering excellence
ii. Evaluation and accreditation of programs: towards students/industry satisfaction and international recognition
iii. Strengthening institutional support for faculty while reducing bureaucracy

C2: Focused Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Projects:
While the first point tackles the basic component of the Graduate Higher Educational stratum, this second component comes as a complexifying apparatus allowing Tunisian Universities to network with performing international institutions via its faculty and staff, to have a first hand feel of the on going research activities and the related pedagogical and administrative procedures. This component should encourage the following:

i. Innovative and/or interdisciplinary research projects: high value-added outcomes,
ii. Graduate students co-advising: exchanging successful research practices,
iii. Faculty/students exchange: getting to know the other.

While the Quality part of the project will most certainly concentrate on the adaptation of good practices, this face-to-face collaboration will allow all parties to acknowledge the specificity of each system and thus maximize the success and transfer of best practices. Moreover, in this networked knowledge world, this step will most certainly uncover potentials otherwise unsuspected.

C3: Research Funding Efficiency and the Entrepreneurial University:
The “third-mission” of universities, in addition to teaching and research, is economic development. The precise shape this mission might take influences greatly its outcome. In order to maximize the benefits of such a mission the Entrepreneurial University should be innovative, cost effective and creative transfer agent. This new paradigm will succeed unless the following elements are addressed:

i. Reshaping governance: adapting proved practices,
ii. Moving towards more autonomy: planning a gradual strategy,
iii. Efficient and diversified funding: adapting good practices while maximizing returns.

Appropriate funding along with a diversified base is a necessary condition for the survival of universities and their success. Thought the Tunisian HES has achieved some success, it is still catching-up as to the most recent and suitable practices especially in view of the unemployment of university degree holders. Therefore, this part will play a major role in shaping the overall Innovation-led sustainable national/regional growth strategy.

Burton R., Clark, "Creating Entrepreneurial Universities: Organizational Pathways of Transformation (Issues in Higher Education),"
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, October 1, 2001.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Integrated Capabilities Accumulation: A Gerschenkronian Catching-up Strategy.

Since the industrial revolution, developing countries have been trying to catch-up with frontiers countries. Today we can identify three main waves of successful catch-up experiences: The pre, the before-and-after, and the post Second World War (SWW) waves. Indeed, Germany and the United States have been the first to catch-up with the UK, and then during the decades before and after the SWW, Japan converged to the elite group of developed countries, to be followed by the “Asian tigers” post SWW catch-up wave.

Many authors and scholars have been and are still attempting to provide a general framework for the understanding of the catch-up process while basing their analysis mainly on the importance of the creation and application of knowledge, the needed institutional transformations, and the congruent policies devised to facilitate such development. Thorstein Veblen and Alexander Gerschenkron were the initiators of this debate and contributed to it through their work on the European catch-up prior to the First World War (FWW).

It is interesting to note that the fathers of cutch-up had two contrasting attitudes as to its feasibility, and thus proposed quite different means for achieving it! Veblen argued that catch-up could be achieved relatively easily through the availability of funds, the adequate supply of educated workforce, and skilled workmanship. However, Gerschenkron admitted that catching-up was a difficult endeavor and required targeting promising technologies, devising novel institutional adjustments, and engaging the government.

Nowadays, the process of catch up is getting even more complex and does proceed at a faster pace to keep up with the variety and speed of the newly produced knowledge and its accelerating pace of exploitation. In addition, economic globalization and the spread of communication technologies are making catching-up an ever challenging journey. Therefore, developing countries are called to adapt to their advantage successful templates as a necessary strategy to fulfill their convergence objectives on one hand, and unavoidably devise specific novel and efficient instruments, not (sufficiently) available to the frontier countries, on the other hand, in order to maximize their chances of convergence. This later point is the key challenge facing catch p countries.

In this paper we propose such a novel instrument that we call “Integrated Capabilities Accumulation” catch up strategy. This stratagem is designed along the lines of Gerschenkron’s analysis. Indeed, this Gerschenkronian catch up strategy is meant to enhance the operation and thus the learning capabilities of the National Innovation System by tightly coordinating and managing a targeted pilot innovation chain. This undertaking should aim at the transfer and then the mastery of a strategic dynamic “Low Cost” technology, from knowledge transmission via training and know how transfer via licensing, to skilled employment creation via the establishment of small and medium high tech firms specialized in the targeted industry and its wide service sector.

The targeted technology that will be used to illustrate our proposal is space technology. Indeed, small satellites are being put into orbit and successfully exploited with dramatically Low Costs. Therefore, by planning and executing the design, integration, test, launch, and exploitation, of a micro satellite in an integrated fashion, i.e., from knowledge transfer to spin offs creation, one is able of accumulating the necessary capabilities to design, plan and successfully implement such complex cutch up project.

In addition to its low cost and minimal risk, such a project is a means of training high skilled engineers and scientists, along with experienced S&T managers, capable of creating their own spin offs and thus assuring employments for higher education graduates in high return high tech small and medium firms.

Keywords: Technological catch up, Gerschenkronian strategy, learning capabilities, “Low Cost” technology.


Juma, C. and Clark, N. (2002). “Technological catch-up: opportunities and challenges for developing countries,” SUPRA occasional paper, research center for the social sciences, University of Edinburgh.

Cimoli, M. et al. (2008). “The Future of Industrial Policies in the New Millennium: Toward a Knowledge-Centered Development Agenda” LEM Working Papers Series, No. 2008/19.

Fagerberg, J. (2005). “Knowledge in Space: What Hope for the poor Parts of the Globe?” Proceedings of Advancing Knowledge and Knowledge Economy, EC, OECD and NSF-US Conference, Washington.

O'Brien, P. K. (1998). Industrialization: critical perspectives on the world economy. Walter de Gruyter.

Baskaran, A. (2001). “Competence building in complex systems in the developing countries: the case of satellite building in India.” Technovation 21, 109-121.