Open AIR is a unique collaborative network of researchers spread across more than 20 African countries, Canada, and elsewhere in the world, answering two overarching questions:
How can open, collaborative innovation help knowledge-based businesses scale up and seize the new opportunities of a global knowledge economy?
Which knowledge governance policies will best ensure that the social and economic benefits of innovation are shared inclusively?
Open AIR’s primary goal is to uncover new insights about the balance between control over, and access to, knowledge. We aim to solve a problem at the heart of intellectual property (IP) and innovation policy: how to reconcile tensions between appropriation and access, excluding and sharing, and competing and collaborating. Our research is showing how knowledge-based businesses can capitalise on open collaborative innovation strategies.
Open AIR’s landmark foresight study, Knowledge and Innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the Future, identified plausible scenarios for the future of knowledge and innovation. This showed areas that are local priorities, especially for marginalised communities, and formed the basis of our current research. From this research, Open AIR has five thematic research clusters:
Following our 2018 review, we added another question to our research:
How can open, collaborative innovation help scale the impacts of next-generation technologies to promote gender equality, youth employment, and other aspects of inclusion?
In order to promote scalable African innovation that is inclusive, policymakers and practitioners have identified to us that they need new research on the intersections between innovation and two specific subtopics:
While these are not the only challenges to be addressed, we decided to add both topics after our 2018 review in order to respond to the real-time priorities of African policymakers, and indeed many stakeholders across the global innovation system.
Through our research, Open AIR is bringing insights and perspectives to the rest of the world, learning from what is happening and what works in Africa. Through mutually beneficial research partnerships, Open AIR is recognising Africa’s role in the global knowledge economy. Our research has created a unique interdisciplinary community of established and emerging African researchers. Our joint activities have improved research quality and capacity and have added credible, independent, and distinctly African voices to global policy debates. We are also leveraging our social capital and connections to bring this research to key decision-makers from international organisations, national governments, and civil society associations.