Balancing multiple mandates: a case study of public research institutes in South Africa
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The role of public research institutes (PRIs) in innovation and development is typically researched as a linked couplet with universities, but there is little empirical research on PRIs specifically. The article investigates how PRIs in late-developing countries balance multiple mandates, shaped by disciplinary fields and historical trajectories, drawing on comparative case studies of five PRIs in South Africa. PRIs succeeded in articulating new and ambitious strategic policies but most struggled to give effect to expanded mandates. The article compares their interactive capabilities by examining the internal and external interface structures and incentive mechanisms created to support and promote interaction with other knowledge producers and users and highlights misalignments at the macro level. National policy will need to promote the development of stronger interactive capabilities if PRIs are to balance their mandate to link to global knowledge flows, grow economic competitiveness, and address complex problems arising from high levels of poverty and inequality.