Many complex systems exhibit graph-‐like properties and can be viewed as a series of nodes and edges: a network. Network analysis is often a suitable means to understand the nature of interactions within such complex systems and can offer insights not readily apparent without such measures.
Biotechnology is an industry heavily reliant on networks in order to obtain funding and intellectual property, to reduce costs, and to fit into a value chain typically reserved for multibillion-‐dollar companies. This has lead to a plethora of research on inter-‐ and intra-‐firm biotechnology networks. However, this had never been done in the South African context.
This study aimed to achieve three main objectives: to showcase frustrations found within the South African biotechnology industry under the National Innovation Systems framework, to generate a network visualisation of biotechnology firms operating in the country and relevant network statistics, and to compare the South African network with international networks using advanced quantitative measures. Through in-‐depth, open discussions, the use of previously published quantitative statistics and a novel approach of retrospectively recreating published networks, all three goals were achieved.
Frustrations experienced by the private sector centred on a severe and chronic lack of funding, distrust among industry stakeholders, and the lack of credibility in the governmental and academic industry participants. The South African network was found to have a poor small world character, rendering the transfer of information throughout the industry difficult. Additionally, it was found that both governmental and public research organisations could play a greater role in promoting information exchange.
Compared to some international networks, South African biotechnology firms form poor networks between themselves and between international players. Although some statistical comparisons suggested that the South African network could enhance innovation outputs of the sector, a misaligned attitude and belief system of the individuals throughout the sector limits the network structure’s potential.