Knowledge for Development

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Innovation: applying knowledge in development

May 7, 2013

Prof. Calestous Juma, Harvard University and Prof. Yee-Cheong Lee, UNESCO, reflect on the progress made since the UN Millennium Project's Task Force report on science, technology and innovation (ST&I) was published.

In 2005, the Task Force released the report Innovation: applying knowledge in development. It outlined a number of ways in which ST&I could be used to realize the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The authors claim that the report has played a key catalytic role in raising global awareness of the importance of ST&I in development.

Prior to this, ST&I for economic development was considered to be relevant only to industrialized countries, and often discouraged in developing countries, neither was it a priority for the UN, as it was identified as 'Target 18 of Goal 8 - the very last target of the very last goal'. However, much has changed and the innovation systems approach, which included infrastructure, more advanced technical training and entrepreneurship was presented as a framework for thought and action. While the concept of ST&I for development has gained momentum, the authors are of the view that much more still needs to be done by developing countries to ensure that ST&I achieves greater impact on alleviating hunger, poverty, illiteracy and ill health, political and social upheavals.