UNCTAD updates its methodology for assessing science, technology and innovation policies to better balance economic, social and environmental factors.
UNCTAD presented on 15 May its new framework for assessing whether a nation’s science, technology and innovation (STI) policies are in line with its development objectives.
During the past two decades, the organization has conducted dozens of STI policy reviews, helping governments strengthen innovation and competitiveness in their countries.
The focus has been predominantly economic, but with the advent of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNCTAD became determined to include more social and environmental dimensions, said Shamika Sirimanne, who heads the organization’s division on technology and logistics and directs the reviews.
“We now see innovation as a process of transformative change, anchored in the SDG agenda,” Ms. Sirimanne told governments gathered at the twenty-second session of The Commission on Science and Technology for Development, held from 13 to 17 at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
“It’s not just the economics. We’re now looking at the other two pillars,” she said, adding that increased productivity and growth could come at the expense environmental protection and social inclusion.
A network of experts
While conducting the STI policy reviews and follow-up capacity-building programmes, UNCTAD calls on academics, policymakers, civil society representatives and development professionals.
The group of experts has grown as the review work has expanded. And to help UNCTAD put in practice its new framework, the organization plans to widen the network.
“We are mainly economists. So we have to bring in experts from other disciplines,” Ms. Sirimanne said, announcing the creation of STIxNET, a United Nations network of experts on STI policies.
The STIxNET website will go live soon, she said, creating a “connection point” for member states going through the review process.
“If you want special advice or expertise, you can reach out through this network,” she said.
The website will also house discussion forums, blogs and information about events in the STI policy world.
Some experts already part of the network were on hand, including Adrian Ely, senior lecturer at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom.
“The new framework offers a flexible, modular form of STI policy review that allows United Nations member states to benefit from independent, evidence-based expert advice,” Mr. Ely said.
He said a broader and more participatory approach to defining societal challenges, to mapping innovation systems, appraising policies and formulating proposals for action, provides countries with the tools and process to transform their STI systems in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Commission on Science and Technology for Development is a subsidiary body of the United Nations Economic and Social Council and provides the UN General Assembly with advice on how science and technology impact sustainable development.
UNCTAD is responsible for the substantive servicing of the commission.