Success stories from different parts of the world in terms of innovative and sustainable ways of advancing the economic growth of countries and regions are often related to the implementation of an effectively working quad-helix relationship among academia, industry (both private and non-private sectors), the government (public sector), and civil society organizations (CSOs), hereinafter-described as sectors, addressing the principles of Public-Private Partnership (PPP or 3P). The cumulative integrity of all the sectors result in innovation, which in turn serve as an important element in acquiring knowledge, in enhancing the sustainable and a potent economic growth, global completive power, and social welfare. The quad-helix model works best when each one of the four sectors mutually interact and play its role in the best way possible considering the needs of the other three thereby, cross-fertilizing the overall work they do in the creation and practical application of knowledge in an innovative environment. Subscribing to the quad-helix model, not being limited to, provides a framework to structure the contributions of the main actors in the society in enabling the research and practice motor for the sustainable development of a country or a region. The model represents on how to develop quadrilateral relations that can work together in enhancing synergetic functions of knowledge creation (e.g. via producing value added technologies), dissemination (e.g. transfer of research outputs from university to industry, practical knowledge from industry to university etc.) and utilization thereby benefiting all the four sectors and beyond. For instance, it will help universities in Tigrai to lead an enhanced innovation and contribute to the creation of knowledge-based society and thereby a prosperous and climate-resilient green economy. Such transformation requires a well-functioning interaction among the four helices (four pillars of development) to unleash regional and national economic growth through scientific and technological innovations.
The quad-helix visualizes a collective and mutual exchange of knowledge in a given nation and/or region by the synergetic action of the sub-systems (i.e. helices), such as via government-university (e.g. research grant), university-business (e.g. incubator), government-business (e.g. business start-up grants) etc. The role of the helices in a knowledge-based economy and society is multiplex and is shortly presented as follows.
Academia: This refers to higher institutions (universities) and is considered as the source of highly effective and skilled human capital (for example: teachers, scientists/researchers, academic entrepreneurs etc.) who serve as inputs to the remaining three parties (sectors) and beyond. It serves as a center for Research & Development (R & D), education, supplying technical products and services, knowledge transfer, set up spin-off enterprises etc.
Industry: Industries take the lead in product and service development, providing smart solutions, platforms, know-how, and focus on the economic capital such as entrepreneurship venturing, machines, products, technology, money etc.
Government: This component of the helices is attributed for overseeing the contractual relationships capable of guaranteeing interactions and stable relationships of exchange with universities, civil society organizations, and economic sectors (industries, firms, etc.) engaged in producing new knowledge and technological innovation. It is of crucial importance because it formulates the ‘will and strategic vision’, where the country or region is heading towards the future. It is also responsible for defining, organizing as well as administering the general conditions of the country/region, as well as ‘political and legal capitals’ (for example: ideas, laws, plans, policies, politicians, etc.).
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs): This component of the quad-helix serves as a bridge between the society and the state, as an increasingly important agent for promoting good governance like transparency, effectiveness, openness, responsiveness and accountability. It combines different forms of capitals, namely culture-based public (social capital) enlisting assets such as tradition, values, etc., media-based public (for example: television, internet, newspapers, etc.) containing ‘capital of information’ (for example: news, communication, social networks) and civil societies. Media helps to enhance the diffusion of knowledge created, to share experiences and skills, and ultimately playing a vital role in helping to bring sustainable socio-economic and environmental development in the region and beyond. The civil society plays an important role in the co-production of public services, building social capital, and assuring digital inclusion, society initiatives, demands for goods and services etc.
The natural resource management (environment) is considered as crucial basis for sustainable development and provides a nation or region with a ‘natural capital’ and essence of sustainability. This component which will be taken care of by all the four sectors of the helix is as equally important as the other components for emerging economies like Ethiopia, where polices are strategically designed to include the climate-resilient green economy concepts.
The evolution in the mutual interaction and synergistic cooperation of the above-mentioned four helices result in a sustainable, climate resilient green and knowledge-driven economy backed by the introduction of innovation-inspired concepts such as science parks, techno polis, and at a more advanced stages to innopolis (smart cities with exceptionally comfortable conditions for living, working and high level of social services with advanced infrastructure, advanced business concepts, and are hubs for high-tech technologies).