New innovation approaches to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts forward a broad and ambitious agenda for global action on sustainable development. The scale and ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals require innovation in development and innovation for development.

To achieve the Goals by 2030, new modalities for development are required, including bringing innovation into the foreground of development projects.

Innovation, understood as new forms of social practice and organization, as well as new or improved technological products and processes, is not only an explicit focus of Goal 9 (build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation) but also a key enabler of most - if not all - of the Goals. For example, science, technology and innovation will play an essential role in achieving Goal 2 (end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture).

The ambitious nature of the 2030 Agenda - aimed at, among others, ending poverty and reducing inequality in all its forms everywhere, to promote inclusive and sustainable consumption and production systems, to provide full and productive employment and decent work for all - will require fundamental changes in the ways in which energy, food, water, housing, welfare, mobility and other goods and services are delivered, distributed and consumed.

Harnessing the positive potential for innovation to address the Sustainable Development Goals will also mean recognizing that some forms of contemporary innovation also contribute to environmental degradation, are disruptive of livelihoods and exacerbate inequalities.

The key questions concern not how to encourage more innovation in more places, but which kinds of innovation need to be encouraged while at the same time discouraging harmful innovation.

This study presents several new and emerging innovation approaches, highlights how they may contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and discusses some of the policy implications in harnessing such approaches.

It provides an overview of particular issues and considerations that need to be taken into account in coming years to maximize the contribution of new innovation approaches to sustainable development.