The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for strengthening the research and innovation ecosystem in Indonesia. An ecosystem that includes the government, academics, think tanks, and the private sector prioritises research in areas such as public health, medicine, the use of big data, and economics.
In early 2020, KSI collaborated with the Center for Innovation Policy and Governance (CIPG) to prepare a concept note of Indonesia’s knowledge and innovation ecosystem. The concept states that if Indonesia is to have a knowledge-based economy by 2045, it what it needs is to improve/reform the knowledge and innovation ecosystem.
“This needs to be realised in order to avoid the ‘middle-income trap’. Indonesia’s economic growth can no longer rely on the comparative advantage of resources, but instead [need to] start moving towards growth that is driven by productivity and innovation on an ongoing basis through the mastery of science and technology,” said Dewi Fortuna Anwar, senior researcher and Research Professor of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in her opening presentation in an online discussion entitled ‘Policy Discussion: COVID-19 Prevention Based on Knowledge and Innovation’ held by Knowledge Sector Initiative (KSI) in collaboration with Katadata on Monday, 22 June 2020.
Thus, the Covid-19 pandemic is a form of “wake up call” that Indonesia is in need of knowledge and innovation to enrich policy and serve as the basis of public policymaking. In its implementation, the knowledge and innovation ecosystem require a state capacity to mobilise all its elements. The capacity of this country is reflected in its institutional capacity and civil service capacity, whose performance is evident from the efficiency and effectiveness of the process and governance.
“We have tried to apply the triple helix in the Research and Innovation Consortium on COVID-19 to connect the research world with industry and government,” said Minister of Research and Technology/Head of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) Bambang Brodjonegoro.
The Research and Innovation Consortium consists of research institutions under the Ministry of Research and Technology such as the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, universities, the Ministry of Health’s Research and Development Bureau, and involves the private sector and state-owned enterprises (SOEs). This consortium focuses on helping to prevent, detect COVID-19 rapidly through innovative research such as vaccines, supplements, treatment, and health technology.
Minister Bambang said the COVID-19 pandemic proved that the research and innovation ecosystem, which during normal times was difficult to move, turned out to be running well when conditions are critical. All elements collaborate with maximum ability to produce pandemic response solutions. He cited the innovation of test kits and ventilators designed by research institutions that can be produced by state-owned enterprises and pharmaceutical companies. Whereas before, no company in Indonesia would produce and preferred to import ventilators.
For this reason, Minister Bambang hopes that the research and innovation ecosystem can continue to run well after the pandemic is over. The Indonesian government will continue to encourage the private sector to be directly involved in research and development (R&D) to produce more innovations suited to the needs of the society. The way to do this is by providing tax incentives to companies that conduct research and development to produce innovation.
During a pandemic, the knowledge and innovation ecosystem should not only be related to health and the economy, but also to public services. The Minister of State Apparatus Utilisation and Bureaucracy Reform Tjahjo Kumolo said that innovations pursued by the State Civil Apparatus (ASN) is aimed to create a responsive, adaptive, and IT-based bureaucracy. This is done by producing evidence and data-based public service policies.
“For this reason, synergy, and coordination between government agencies and between R&D institutions of the central and regional governments are needed in order to transfer data and avoid overlapping data,” said Minister Tjahjo.
Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said the role of leadership is crucial in the knowledge and innovation ecosystem in government agencies. One such role can be shown through the policy of including indicators of innovation as part of work assessment, both organisationally and individually. Every work unit in a government agency, said Tjahjo, must be able to innovation, no matter how small.
Responding to government policies related to the innovation and knowledge ecosystem, Dewi Fortuna Anwar of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said that Indonesia already has the elements to realise the ecosystem. These include the regulatory framework, incentive or funding mechanisms, institutional arrangements, governance and accountability frameworks, and human resource development.
“If the five elements can work, it will lead to commercialisation of research results, business process improvement from research results, public policymaking, governance models, and comprehensive changes in society based on evidence from research results,” said Professor Dewi.
Meanwhile, senior researcher at the Center for Innovation Policy and Governance (CIPG) Yanuar Nugroho said the development of an innovation and knowledge ecosystem is an absolute prerequisite for realising a developed country. The state needs to be present and need to orchestrate to ensure that this ecosystem runs well because the challenge of development is not only technology, but the greater challenge is the human resources.
“It is important to realise a flexible and capable ASN in making quick and appropriate decisions to save the public. The knowledge and innovation ecosystem must be internalised among civil servants,” Yanuar said.
Australian Chargé d’Affaires for Indonesia Allaster Cox also attended and gave opening remarks at this Policy Discussion. He said the Australian Government is committed to working with Indonesia in overcoming COVID-19 through development cooperation program. The Australian Government, through KSI, is partnering with local think tanks and funding new research that can be used as a basis for measures taken by the Government of Indonesia.
“By June, KSI partners have produced 115 policy papers relating to COVID-19 on a variety of topics ranging from health and poverty impacts to economic recovery to gender equality and social inclusion,” said Allaster Cox.
These studies provide real-time information to policymakers at the central and subnational levels so they can assist in developing responses to help affected communities. In the long term, Allaster believes access to high-quality research and commercial innovation will be an important part of Indonesia’s economic recovery.
This online discussion was held with the aim of strengthening the knowledge and innovation ecosystem in Indonesia. The Knowledge Sector Initiative with the Ministry of Research and Technology, the Ministry of Administrative Reform and Bureaucratic Reform, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, the Center for Innovation Policy and Governance, and Katadata strive to overcome obstacles to the knowledge and innovation ecosystem in an effective way.**