Professor Raphie Kaplinsky


6th December 2018 at 13:00pm


Mithras House, University of Brighton


The gains from sustained economic growth have been unevenly spread, and many countries are confronted by substantial and growing levels of social and economic exclusion, accompanied by a degrading environment. The outcomes of existing growth pathways need to be holistically understood in terms of their economic, social and environmental character. Individual indicators such as employment and the share of manufacturing in gross domestic product (GDP) provide only a partial glimpse of the challenges to be overcome to promote more inclusive growth pathways.
More inclusive patterns of innovation offer the prospect of facilitating the move to more sustainable and equitable growth pathways. Inclusive innovation has three major characteristics. It can: involve the production of products appropriate to the needs and incomes of the marginalised; provide for a greater degree of involvement of marginalised people and communities in processes of production; and involve the participation of the marginalised in the process of innovation itself. Innovations can be new to the enterprise, the country, the sector or the world. From the perspective of the rate and trajectory of growth and development, the degree of absolute novelty is not the most important concern – the contribution of technological progress is that it provides an advance on what has occurred in the past, and that this advance is realistically within the competence-horizon of the innovating stakeholder.
We are currently witnessing the diffusion of a series of disruptive technologies. This report argues that these disruptive technologies are embedded in a wider historical evolution of socio-techno- economic paradigms. The existing dominant paradigm is a global extension of the principles of mass production, in which production and consumption are geographically separated, scale economies are pervasive, capital investments are scale- and skill-intensive, and negative environmental externalities are widespread. Systemic exclusion across a number of dimensions is intrinsic to this growth paradigm. The central argument of this report is that the dominant paradigm, characterised by systemic exclusion, is in crisis. However, we are witnessing the possible emergence of a new paradigm – one that offers the potential for more sustainable and inclusive growth pathways. This involves the widespread diffusion of smaller-scale, less capital-intensive and more environmentally benign technologies that facilitate distributed and inclusive patterns of production, and produce products more appropriate to the needs of the global poor, who represent an increasingly large consumer market. While new disruptive technologies such as ICT and Artificial Intelligence are key facilitators of this potential transition, reaping the benefits of their potential is subject to social and political agency. The Report provides six cases showing the potential which the new paradigm offers for a more inclusive and sustainable trajectory
Two overarching conclusions arise from this analysis. The first is that the widespread diffusion of inclusive innovations reflects power relations and needs to be addressed as an issue of political economy rather than in terms of narrowly defined economic or innovation policies. The second is that inclusive growth requires a “Big Push” strategic vision of the sort proposed by Rosenstein-Rodan in 1943. He argued that only a large scale investment programme across a number of sectors would create the externalities to accelerate growth and absorb surplus labour from the agricultural sector in labour-surplus economies.


Raphie Kaplinsky was a Professorial Fellow at CENTRIM between 1998 and 2005. He is currently an Honorary Professorial Fellow at SPRU and an Emeritus Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University. He has a variety of research interests around development trajectories (including inclusive innovation), industrial and innovation policy and globalisation (particularly with regard to Global Value Chains). He is currently writing a book on the crisis in the current socio-technical-economic paradigm and the prospects for a more sustainable future.