SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Reframing UN Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Reviews

SPRU research has shaped a new United Nations Framework which will help countries to design policies that support their progress towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On 15 May 2019, the Framework – subtitled ‘Harnessing innovation for sustainable development– was presented at the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) by Dr Adrian Ely (Senior Lecturer, SPRU), who drafted the document alongside Prof Johan Schot (former Director of SPRU, now at Utrecht University), and other members of an international team.

The Framework outlines a new approach for the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy Review programme, which is undertaken by UNCTAD (the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development). The Reviews use analytical and policy learning processes to provide countries with a clearer understanding of their innovation systems, enabling them to identify their strategic development priorities.

To meet the SDGs, innovation needs to contribute to fundamental changes in the ways in which energy, healthcare, mobility, food and education are provided. The Framework introduces the concepts of ‘directionality’ in innovation pathways and ‘transformative innovation policy,’ both of which emanate from research at SPRU.

Dr Ely said:

“The new framework advocates broad participation around policy making, including in processes of agenda-setting, technology assessment and foresight. It is a very positive sign that the discussions at the UNCSTD are recognising these issues and vital if science, technology and innovation are to contribute to addressing the SDGs.”

Countries are encouraged to explore new innovation approaches – including social, pro-poor and grassroots innovation, informal sector activity and trends towards digitalisation – and use the participatory, co-design aspects of STI Policy Reviews to foster learning, enhance networks and mobilise actors towards change. The framework also addresses how countries can monitor and evaluate the implementation of their STI policies, allowing them to map their trajectory towards the SDGs’ 2030 horizon.

SPRU’s contribution to this work builds on an established history of collaboration with UNCTAD, including Dr Ely’s role as academic lead on their 2017 report, ‘New innovation approaches to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.