Science and Innovation for Global Inclusiveness

The landscape for economic development has changed significantly over the past decade. Once considered a preserve for richer countries, innovation has played an important role in supporting the growth of emerging economies, notably in Asia but also elsewhere. The adaptation of advanced technology to local conditions, and the modernisation of local industry through integration into global value chains, have been important drivers of development. As a result, innovation is now well recognised as an important factor for countries to stimulate or accelerate their development, complementing investments in education and infrastructure and an institutional setting that allows markets to function properly. What is more, contextual factors, such as geographic conditions, and genetic or cultural specificities, can limit the effectiveness of imported ready-made international solutions. Such local innovation is not only technological. New business models and new ways of delivering goods and services are also important. 

Moreover, making use of technology and innovations to address societal challenges, whether in health or other sectors, often requires local innovation. Certain countries have made significant progress in promoting “inclusive innovation”, technological and non-technological, aimed at lifting people out of poverty by making available to them products adapted to their living conditions and by integrating them in economic circuits. Specific innovations have been developed for addressing health issues in conditions of poverty and weak infrastructure (e.g. lack of reliable transport systems or energy sources), sometimes with the support of private foundations. 

The ongoing discussion in the United Nations around the “Sustainable Development Goals” is giving innovation a prominent place, with mentioning in several instances in connection with inclusiveness, industrialisation and sustainable development. Science and innovation policies need to be factored into development strategies at the national level and in international co-operation. That includes ensuring that innovation is part of policies on development co-operation, and supporting developing countries in the strengthening of their scientific infrastructure and policy capabilities. Development co-operation is often centred on urgent issues (such as natural disasters, population displacement, health and food crises, as well as budgetary support, among other actions): it needs also to include a greater focus on science and innovation as these provide prerequisites for sustainable long-term development. 

Developed countries and successful emerging economies could share their policy experience with less advanced economies to address STI policy questions, such as: how to build a strong higher education system with a research component? How to encourage businesses, formal and informal, to innovate? How to scale up successful innovative ventures? What STI governance structures are most useful? This requires reflection as to how innovation policy can be implemented in the context of development challenges and what types of adaptation to this context need to be implemented. Developed countries could also benefit from some of the experiences of emerging economies, which are building their science and innovation systems from scratch and which may find new and efficient ways of addressing problems also faced by their developed-country counterparts. .

Facilitating international co-operation, including policy co-ordination, in areas such as the development of research agendas, access to scientific information and the international mobility of researchers, is part of the CSTP mandate. Several OECD recommendations from the 1980s and 1990s laid out the fundamental principles for international cooperation in science and technology. With specific regard to global societal challenges, the 2004 Declaration on International Science and Technology Co-operation for Sustainable Development is particularly relevant. Strengthening the governance of international co-operation in STI to address global challenges is critical, as is strengthening existing mechanisms for international co-operation that involves developing and emerging economies (for instance in terms of priority setting, funding and spending, knowledge sharing and intellectual property, outreach and capacity building).