Science should aid poor not war, says STEPS report

Boys at a well, West Africa. Image by Peeter Visimaa

Scientific and technological advances are failing to address challenges facing the developing world such as climate change, disease and poverty, warn researchers from the University of Sussex and the Institute of Development Studies.

We live in an era of rapid scientific advance yet poverty is deepening, the environment is in crisis and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals has stalled, say the researchers, in a new report published today (Tues 15 June 2010).

The warnings comes in Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto by the STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability).

Its publication marks the 40th anniversary of the 'Sussex Manifesto', written for the United Nations by researchers from the STEPS Centre's home institutions of the Institute of Development Studies and the University of Sussex SPRU Science and Technology Policy Research.

Global annual spending on research and development exceeds a trillion dollars, with military as the single largest expenditure. Yet every day more than a billion people go hungry, 4,000 children die from waterborne diseases and a thousand women die in pregnancy and childbirth, say the STEPS Centre researchers.

Science, technology and innovation are crucial in combating poverty and environmental catastrophe, but a shift away from private profit and military aims towards more diverse and fairly distributed forms of innovation geared towards greater social justice, is urgently needed, they add.

University of Sussex researcher and Co-director of the STEPS Centre, Professor Andy Stirling, says: "Meeting the interlinked global challenges of poverty reduction, social justice and environmental sustainability is the great moral and political imperative of our age."

As the UK government announces a new watchdog to ensure value for money from the £7.8 billion it spends on aid (DFID budget 2010/11), the Manifesto offers a series of practical recommendations to deliver more effective, transparent and accountable policies that help empower those most in need.  They include:


  • Establish national groups that allow diverse stakeholders - including social movements representing marginalised interests - to scrutinise investments in science, technology and innovation and report to parliaments.
  • Establish an international 'Global Innovation Commission' under a United Nations umbrella to facilitate open, transparent political debate about major technology investments with global or trans-boundary implications, north-south technology transfers and aid geared to science, technology and innovation.
  • Require public and private bodies investing in science, technology and innovation to increase transparent reporting which focuses on poverty alleviation, social justice and environmental sustainability.
  • Increase investment in scientific capacity-building that trains 'bridging professionals' who connect research and development activity with business, social entrepreneurs and users.
  • Enhance incentives for private sector investment in innovation geared towards poverty alleviation, social justice and environmental sustainability, such as advance purchase agreements, technology prizes and tax breaks.

Professor Stirling adds: "Our vision is a world where science and technology work more directly for social justice, poverty alleviation and the environment. We want the benefits of innovation to be widely shared, not captured by narrow, powerful interests.

"This means reorganising innovation in ways that involve diverse people and groups - going beyond the technical elites to harness the energy and ingenuity of users, workers, consumers, citizens, activists, farmers and small businesses."

Notes for Editors


 The STEPS Centre is collaboration between the Institute of Development Studies and SPRU Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Sussex with a network of partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the UK's largest organization for funding research on economic and social issues.  Its aim is to develop a new approach to understanding, action and communication on sustainability and development.

Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto is available to download online from 15 June at along with an enhanced multimedia version. Hard copies of the Manifesto and a CD of the Multimedia Manifesto are available upon request.

Available for interview STEPS director Professor Melissa Leach, STEPS co-director Professor Andy Stirling Manifesto and Manifesto project convenor Dr Adrian Ely.

Images and video available on request .

Background publications, multimedia, wiki-timeline, history at  

Find out more at and follow updates from STEPS on Twitter (@stepscentre).

For further information, contact Julia Day, STEPS Centre communications manager Office: +44 (0)1273 915671 / Mobile: +44 (0)7974 209148 / Email:

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune, Jacqui Bealing and Daniëlle Treanor. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:

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Last updated: Wednesday, 16 June 2010