Innovation and the Fight against Poverty, Hunger and Disease

Rabat, 06-07 December 2007

Poverty, Hunger and Disease are scourges on the human race. In addition to moral imperatives to improve the quality of life for our species, and help realize human potential more generally, these problems contribute substantially to risks such as environmental degradation, political instability, and the spread of new epidemics.

They are problems which have received much attention over the years, of course. Many specific programmes of innovation, for example, in agricultural technology and control/eradication of particular diseases, are aimed at addressing particular elements of these problems. There have also been efforts to orientate technology development more generally so as to play a role here, ranging, for example, from the philosophy of “appropriate technology” to the instruments for technology transfer. While the problems often have deep-seated social and political roots, there is little doubt that technological innovation can contribute to their alleviation and, hopefully, their solution. This may require changes beyond those directly confronting innovation policy – for example, anti-corruption and conflict resolution initiatives may be critical for the success of many other policies in certain regions. However, to the extent that innovation is a key to progress, then innovation policy plays a critical role in mobilizing, shaping, and assessing innovation efforts directly or even indirectly addressing these three scourges.

Innovation policy necessarily involves policy in the more industrially advanced regions of the world, where the problems are typically least severe, but also in poorer developing regions – some of which may have relatively good performance, whilst others are in desperate straits. Innovation policy will need to encompass a wide range of traditionally discrete policy areas – parts of agricultural and innovation policies, education policies, environmental policies, health and welfare policies, intellectual property policies, research and science policies, and the like. It is important to understand how polices in the EU – including trade and aid policies – relate to the innovation policy agendas in developing regions themselves.

This innovation policy workshop is designed to address these issues, in the context of innovation-oriented action in the EU and other industrially advanced regions. It will also take into account the various paths that the co-evolution of innovation policies and measures to address the three major problems are taking in different world regions.

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