Determinants of commercialization of technological innovations in developing economies : a study of Zimbabwe's research institutes.
While preceding studies on innovation management have expressed satisfaction in innovation creation by research institutes worldwide, the commercialization of these technological innovations (TIs) remains a major challenge in most developing economies such as Zimbabwe. Despite the numerous and creditable innovations developed to date, Zimbabwe is yet to benefit from the full commercialization of these research outcomes. The main aim of this thesis was to establish the determinants of commercialization of innovations in Zimbabwe’s research institutes. Guided by the study’s objectives, theoretical constructs were drawn from extant literature on commercialization enabling factors, inter-firm commercialization partnerships and market-based factors, and these were key inputs in designing the study’s framework for both quantitative and qualitative investigation. The study utilized mixed research methods, based on the integrative nature of the study’s research design and philosophy. Multiple data collection sources were used, inclusive of literary analysis, self-administered questionnaires for customers (260), for research institutes’ staff (94) and key informant interviews with both private and public research institutes (6). The study found that successful commercialization of a new product is influenced by perceptions that consumers hold of it, correct application of launch decisions and the level of customer involvement. Although it emerged that Zimbabwe’s technological innovations are perceived to be meeting customer expectations, the study revealed that successful commercialization is being hindered by financial constraints, lack of proper commercialization infrastructure, limited consumer access to new products, poor sectoral support, patents mal-administration, and long time lags between new product development and market introduction, among other hindrances. Using the Principal Component Analysis technique, it emerged that there are numerous essential predictors of successful commercialization including test marketing, feedback use, product accessibility and sectoral support in the form of Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs). The study’s findings have obvious important repercussions for re-shaping public policy. The researcher recommends approaches through which research institutes and policy makers can unlock value in commercializing Zimbabwe’s technological innovations essentially in form of revitalizing the Commercialization Fund, making efficient use of PPPs and improving consumer communications and access to new products. Future studies could focus on developing a framework which developing economies can adopt in creating a platform for PPPs, responsibility or role distribution, management issues as well as “best practices” for running PPPs.