Innovation in Resource-Based Technology Clusters: Investigating the Lateral Migration Thesis

by LORENTZEN, J. , 2006
Research Report, Employment Growth & Development Initiative, Human Sciences Research Council

Lorenzten considers opportunities for industrial diversification stimulated in resource based industries. This paper contributed to a joint programme of the Human Sciences Research Council and Mintek to explore innovation aimed at addressing the requirements of a country’s resource industries. This know-how can then migrate laterally to other industrial uses. The resource-based technology clusters programme of the Human Sciences Research Council and Mintek proposed that this could be an important way for minerals economies to diversify, industrialise and export. Lorentzen reviews the theoretical literature, discusses South Africa’s earlier attempts to conceptualise ‘lateral migration’, and assesses the key tenets of technological learning, the role of foreign technology, linkages and interactions, and industrial policy that inform the analysis. He then provides six case studies on how technology in resource-based industries can migrate into alternative uses. The case studies are: the development of a sugar-based plastic in Brazil; biodegradable plastics from maize starch in South Africa; bioleaching and bioremediation in Peru; hydraulic technologies in South Africa’s mining sector; humic substance research in South Africa; and specialised sorting machinery in Costa Rica.