Second Committee Event Considers Role of Inclusive Innovation in SDGs
Photo by IISD/ENB | Pamela Chasek
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UNCTAD and UNDESA organized the UNGA event, which focused on how inclusive innovation can support SDG achievement.

The co-author of ‘Frugal Innovation’ explained how the concept of frugal innovation builds on the idea of using abundant resources in a certain area (such as ingenuity, traditional knowledge, empathy, resilience and biodiversity) to design solutions for scarcity (water, energy and capital).

A representative from SAP stressed that diversity and inclusion form a powerful growth engine.

12 October 2017: Representatives of governments, UN agencies and the private sector discussed how inclusive innovation can support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) during a side event of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Second Committee (Economic and Financial). Participants considered how governments can support inclusive innovation for national development strategies and harness information and communication technologies (ICTs) for participatory governance and more efficient public service delivery.

This side event took place on 12 October 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Department of Economic Affairs (DESA) organized the event.

Ruijun Wang, Ministry of Science and Technology of China, said China is implementing new forms of innovation, which include grassroots innovation by societal groups that have been previously ignored. He noted that both countries and the UN need to adapt their policies on science, technology and innovation (STI) to new technological trends and developments.

Shamika N. Sirimanne, UNCTAD, said the percentage of human resources dedicated to research is 30% lower in developing countries than in high-income countries, and stressed the need to develop approaches to innovation that build on the ideas of and for people at the bottom of the pyramid. She gave examples of forms of innovation that could contribute to this aim, including: frugal innovation, such as removing nonessential features from a durable good, like a car or phone, in order to sell the good at a price affordable for developing countries; grassroots innovation, which broadens the base of innovation by including more societal groups; and digitally-enabled open collaboration, which represents a paradigm shift in knowledge production that builds on open and free data. Sirimanne stressed STI policies as essential to promote financial inclusion.

Vaughn Turekian, Senior Board Director, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and Co-Chair of the UN STI Forum, said the Forum highlighted the need for scientists and innovators to engage with local communities and design low-cost solutions to their needs.

Yokasta Guzmán Santos, General Director, General Directorate of Public Procurement, the Dominican Republic, emphasized the benefits of sustainable public procurement, including its role in helping to achieve the SDGs and generating trust. She further described ways in which e-procurement can contribute to reducing barriers for entry.

Frugal innovation builds on the idea of using abundant resources in a certain area to design solutions for scarcity.

Navi Radjou, co-author of ‘Frugal Innovation’ and author of ‘Conscious Society,’ explained how the concept of frugal innovation builds on the idea of using abundant resources in a certain area (such as ingenuity, traditional knowledge, empathy, resilience and biodiversity) to design solutions for scarcity (water, energy and capital). He shared examples of how local inventors use resource limitations in developing countries to spur innovation. He emphasized the idea of doing more with less as central to frugality.

Paul Bunje, Chief Scientist, XPRIZE Foundation, observed that there has been a thousand-fold decrease in the cost of opening a technology business over the past decade. He highlighted the role of prizes and open competitions in democratizing innovation, including through leveraging both capital and markets at an unprecedented scale. He invited participants to embrace the power of exponentials.

Janet Klein, SAP, said inclusive cultures are six times more innovative and two times more likely to over-achieve financial targets. Within this context, she said SAP is committed to diversity and inclusion on four levels: cultural and identity inclusion; cross-generational inclusion; differently-abled people inclusion; and gender equality. She stressed that diversity and inclusion form a powerful growth engine.

In the ensuing discussion, participants addressed issues related to, inter alia: technology transfer to developing countries; Microsoft’s recently-announced new artificial intelligence (AI) for Earth initiative; access to relevant information and communications; and building youth’s skills in technology.[Event Concept Note] [Second Committee Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]


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