Box 4: Building Strategic Collaborations
Raising productivity and competitiveness is crucial to sustaining economic growth and enhancing prosperity in a country. The process requires long-lasting commitment from relevant stakeholders to mobilize resources and provide the effort that can lead to the necessary reforms and productive investments across a vast array of areas.
However, stakeholders’ actions—most notably those originating from the public and private sectors—are not always well coordinated and aligned, so that synergies are often not fully realized and the results of the combined efforts are not maximized. Governments frequently develop policies in areas that are important for competitiveness, such as administrative reform, education, and basic research, yet they do so without considering the specific needs of companies. The impact of these policies is thus reduced. At the same time, the business community does not always sufficiently engage in long-term and often risky investments in areas such as research and development, information and communication technologies, or employees’ skills development strategies. If businesses could be engaged in this way, the positive spill-over effects of their investments could result in higher societal gains.
Fortunately, stakeholders are increasingly acknowledging the need to address this disconnect between public- and private-sector actions. The last few years have seen a growing recognition of the vital importance of supporting the definition and implementation of strategic public-private collaborations that go beyond the individual policies and strategies of governments and businesses.
Public-private collaborations have been common in areas such as infrastructure development because the potential gains that these specific governance structures could bring are significant for both the public and private sectors in terms of both the speed and scope of implementing projects and the particular strengths that each party can bring to bear. The private sector can contribute its management expertise and resources, and the public sector can contribute its understanding of public needs and resources. Besides the traditional public-private partnerships found in infrastructure, public-private collaborations are becoming more common in initiatives related to other drivers of competitiveness, such as in innovation and education. In addition to speed, potentially better management, and shared resource commitments, these partnerships allow for a better alignment of government-led measures with the needs of private companies. The development of the European Innovation Partnerships, the European Technology Platforms, the Advanced Manufacturing Program in the United States, and the Leading Technology Institutes in the Netherlands are just a few examples of ongoing public-private collaborations in the field of innovation.
Against this backdrop, the World Economic Forum has embarked on an ambitious project to document, analyze, and disseminate some of the most promising examples of effective and efficient public-private collaboration in competitiveness-related areas. From this analysis, a number of key lessons are starting to emerge with regard to the main barriers and success factors that need to be taken into account when designing and implementing these collaborative approaches. More precisely, in order to broker effective collaborations, stakeholders must be able to count on clear targets and evaluation frameworks, the parties must share objectives and build strong and capable institutions to design and implement the projects, and enabling regulatory environments must be in place.
However, and perhaps even more importantly, strong leadership in both the public and private sectors is essential. Clear vision and effective communication is needed to overcome the main obstacle: lack of trust between the parties. Establishing mechanisms and dialogue fora that support a better understanding and can generate enhanced trust between the parties is thus crucial.