How investing in science can boost development

Investing up to 3.5 percent of a nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in science, technology and innovation can be “the game changer” for development, according to leading experts.

Science, technology and innovation (STI) can help alleviate poverty, reduce inequalities, increase income and improve health, scientists advising U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on sustainable development said.

“If countries wish to break the poverty cycle and achieve post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, they will have to set up ambitious national minimum target investments for STI,” the 26-member Scientific Advisory Board said.

“While a target of 1 percent of GDP for research and development is perceived high by many governments, countries with strong and effective science, technology and innovation systems invest up to 3.5 percent of their GDP.”

Closing the gap between developed and developing countries depends on first closing the gap on science, technology and innovation, the Board said in papers released in New York.

A better informed and educated society would help establish policies that help long-term well-being over decisions that favour short-term economic and political interests, it said.

Science, technology and innovation can help in solving problems such as access to energy, food and water security, climate change and biodiversity loss, the scientists said.

They recommended specific investment areas including: Alternative energy solutions, water filters that remove pathogens at the point-of-use and nanotechnology for health and agriculture.

World leaders are due to adopt a set of development objectives – known as the Sustainable Development Goals – in September that include ending poverty, reducing child mortality and tackling climate change, to replace the eight expiring U.N. Millennium Development Goals.

This article is published in collaboration with Thomson Reuters Foundation. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Magda Mis is a Thomson Reuters Foundation correspondent, based in London.

Image: Children play in front of a mud house near an unreserved forest in the village of Igbatoro, southwest Nigeria. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

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