The event, organized by UNCTAD's Division on Technology and Logistics, brought several experts on STI policy together with other interested parties to discuss the design and implementation of national STI policies. Experts presented lessons learned for ensuring increased effectiveness in the design and implementation of STI policies in developing countries. Participants shared their national experiences in STI policy.
The discussion drew on UNCTAD's experience in conducting country STI policy reviews, as well as on the national experiences of Ghana and other developing countries.
Anne Miroux, Director of the Division on Technology and Logistics, explained the methodology behind UNCTAD's STI policy reviews of developing countries. Angel González Sanz, Chief of the Policy Review Section, outlined the elements that promoted successful policy outcomes, and the key challenges faced in designing and implementing STI policies in developing countries. Dr. George Essegbey of Ghana's Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (CSIR-STEPRI) spoke about the lessons from his country's experience with its STI policy review, and about the implementation of STI policies and programmes. Dr Jean-Eric Aubert, an independent expert on STI policy, provided his perspective on the types of STI strategies pursued by different groups of countries, and the challenges that they were facing.
Among these challenges, experts identified the need for real high-level political support with a focus on longer-term development rather than on short-term deliverables; coordination across government ministries and with industry, research institutes and universities; achieving buy-in from diverse stakeholders that support innovation; addressing weaknesses in wider "framework conditions" that go beyond narrowly defined explicit STI policies; overcoming a traditional, narrow focus on science and technology that does not bind these to innovation; and making policy in the absence of adequate indicators to judge policy impact. The widely differing contexts among various groups of countries, and the imperative of adjusting policies over time to maintain progress, were additional complexities that policymakers had to face. One strategy was to start with pilot projects, and then to gradually scale up those that proved successful.
Several elements were identified as important for promoting success in the process of undertaking and producing country STI policy reviews. High-level commitment in the country coupled with clear purpose of mind on the part of national policymakers was considered to be crucial. The timing of the exercise was critical too, with unpredictable changes in circumstances - such as changes in key personnel following elections - sometimes proving determinant. Finding ways to address the inadequacies typically encountered with innovation indicators was often an issue. Collaboration with other agencies could promote success by bringing in additional financing and/or expertise. However, a lack of support through development programmes that largely neglected STI policy could prove to be a debilitating factor.
The experience in Ghana was illustrative, where a recent UNCTAD-supported policy review process had helped to build support for STI policy action and had led to concrete actions aimed at STI development. These had included the creation of the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, the design of a national STI policy, the integration of STI policy into the national development plan, and the creation of an STI programme to support the implementation of STI policies. However, much still remained to be done. Progress was not simple or automatic, but required persistent commitment and high-level support.
Several countries shared their experiences, highlighting the fact that STI policy reviews can be followed by action. In two developing-country cases, policymakers had designed programmes to support STI development, following STI policy reviews with support from UNCTAD. Another country reported difficulty in reaching the stage of designing an implementation programme and achieving real progress. In general, there was a consensus that successful implementation required strong political will.