Science and technology for what development? | innovations | The Innovation Research Network

The correlation between Science, Technology and Development has been the subject of numerous works carried out by international bodies, the various stakeholders and academics on issues related to globalization, poverty, climate change or political and political instability. social. For example, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, highlighted the importance of science, technology and innovation (STI) as a key area of ​​action for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs: eradicating hunger and poverty, supporting sustainable agriculture and renewable energy, promoting sustainable development and education, consciously managing and preserving natural resources and ecosystems, combating social inequalities, etc.). The links between Science, Technology and Development are multiple: science and technology are supposed to accelerate economic development; economic development in turn contributes to the strengthening of scientific and technical potential, the basis for the emergence and dissemination of all types of technological, commercial, organizational innovations… technology and development through a multidisciplinary approach.

The first axis can be considered under the prism ofinnovation and of the innovation capabilities. Already in the 1960s, economists, particularly Latin Americans, had established a direct relationship between economic development and technological innovation by emphasizing the fact that economic growth is based on the accumulation of scientific knowledge. and the ability through knowledge to solve practical problems. In the problem of developing countries or economies in transition, interactions between stakeholders (researchers, engineers, regulators, etc.) are often non-existent, few or inappropriate. Information asymmetry leads to weak knowledge flows among innovation system actors and universities, and Research & Development (R&D) laboratories remain far removed from production systems. The academic and productive spheres remain weakly integrated with each other. The lack of integration between research centers and the production system is fatal. The exponential increase in numbers in universities produces an effect of crowding out research activities in favor of teaching activities. The capacity for innovation is ultimately limited by the difficulties of the actors to interconnect. The learning processes are nevertheless rich and can be observed by the amount of energy spent by the actors to solve problems, but also by the ability of the actors to master new knowledge. Innovation here comes from a set of efforts and trajectories of use of local knowledge and the ability to integrate knowledge conveyed by direct foreign investment or by repatriated labour.

The second axis can be considered from the angle ofinclusiveness and of the indigenous knowledge. Informality, which is very present in developing economies, but also gender or traditional knowledge issues must be included in development objectives and scientific knowledge. Informal institutions, norms and routines linked to the balance between collective and individual research, learning processes with the know who or the social ability to cooperate and communicate and the know how or the ability to do something at a practical level (experience) are particularly important and different depending on the contexts considered. The idea is the domestication of knowledge, its rehabilitation and local reappropriation, often within the framework of informal technological production. This readjustment is assessed, measured, according to traditional, ancestral knowledge, mixing culture and tradition and a thirst for new knowledge. Tacit and traditional knowledge is representative of developing or transition economies. R&D activities remain not formally articulated in the company’s strategy. Similarly, learning is not apprehended in the sole form of learning by imitation, insofar as problem solving is only a combination of imitation techniques and the creation of new paths substituting factors. defaulters. From this perspective, the question of gender also arises: the place of women in scientific communities, their legitimacy, their credibility, in the service of the economic development of developing countries.

Another axis concerns the science, technology and the inequalities generated. Science and technology undeniably reinforce inequalities insofar as technological change accentuates the gaps in income distribution between countries. Technical progress exerts strong pressure on wage inequalities and employment, directly via cost competition or job losses with product imports, and indirectly, with labor productivity and competition North /South. We are talking about economic inequalities, but also social ones. These block the ability of countries to develop due to their limited access to different sources of learning (access to higher education, quality of education, importance of the health system, etc.). Inequalities induced by scientific and technical progress are reinforced in a context of unequal treatment of minorities and poor local governance: corruption problems undermine the construction of social capital and automatically limit local capacities. Reducing poverty and improving income distribution remain linked to the ability of poor countries to control the use, dissemination and creation of knowledge. The question of inequalities is essential for science policies. Moreover, these problems are rooted in the socio-economic contexts of these countries. Finally, the rentier economy and clientelism that are quite significant in some countries do not favor the creation of scientific knowledge, as does the behavior of poorly trained elites often associated with the personal ambitions of leaders.

Another axis forms around the science and of the technology for sustainable development. In 1987, the Brundtland report defined sustainable development as ” development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs “. The creation of knowledge and scientific knowledge must indisputably respond to sustainable development issues. In this, it is recommended the constitution of “green societies”, sustainable innovation systems, sustainable agriculture or services, biodiversity, circular economy through the application of science. How to protect the environment thanks to new knowledge? What transformations should be made in order to improve the living conditions of populations? Science and technology are called upon to respond to all of these challenges, alongside the increasing needs of a growing world population. Knowing that available energy and raw material resources are dwindling, that prices are soaring and that global warming is no longer debatable, the role of science in the search for solutions becomes essential.

Finally, the last axis concerns the relationship between science, technology and diversity of degrees of development of productive forces from different countries. While it may seem superfluous to return to the different conceptualizations made around a “developing country”, a “less advanced country”, an “emerging country” or even a “middle-income country” , it is important to take into account in these definitions the experiences of the various countries which show that those who move forward and strengthen their economies are those who invest in the development of their scientific and technical capacities. These capacities give rise to various processes of innovation according to the particular contexts (and the insertion of these countries in international geopolitics) of Africa, Latin America or Asia. The technological gap or ditch between countries, regions or continents can be highlighted by similar local scientific experiences. The technological and scientific bases are, in many respects, heterogeneous but sometimes reinforced by the same culture, religion, geographical proximity or even by political alliances.

Almost all scientific research is carried out in industrialized countries. The capacity for resilience of developing or transition countries must enable them to capitalize on their own accumulated scientific and technical knowledge in order to better control the trajectory of their… future.

About the author

Vanessa Casadella is a teacher-researcher authorized to direct research in economics at the Picardie Jules Verne University, IUT de l’Oise. Co-director of a research laboratory, she works in innovation economics on innovation policies and innovation systems in developing economies. She is vice-president of the Innovation Research Network (RRI) and editor-in-chief of the journal Science, Technology, Development (London, ISTE/Wiley).

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