Making Technological Innovation Work for Sustainable Development

39 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2015

See all articles by Laura Diaz Anadon

Laura Diaz Anadon

Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) ; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Gabriel Chan

University of Minnesota - Minneapolis - Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Alicia Harley

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Kira Matus

University College London - Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP)

Suerie Moon

Harvard University - Harvard Global Health Institute

Sharmila Murthy

Suffolk University Law School

William C. Clark

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: December 22, 2015

Abstract

Sustainable development requires harnessing technological innovation to improve human well-being in current and future generations. However, poor, marginalized, and unborn populations too often lack the economic or political power to shape innovation processes to meet their needs. Issues arise at all stages of innovation, from invention of a technology through its selection, production, adaptation, adoption, and retirement. Three insights should inform efforts to intervene in innovation systems for sustainable development. First, innovation is not a linear process but rather a complex adaptive system involving many actors and institutions operating simultaneously from local to global levels; interventions must take this complexity into account. Second, there has been significant experimentation in mobilizing technology for sustainable development in the health, energy, and agriculture sectors, among others, but learning from past experience requires structured cross-sectoral comparisons and recognition of the socio-technical nature of innovation. Third, the current constellation of rules, norms, and incentives shaping innovation is not always aligned towards sustainable development. Past experience demonstrates that it is possible to reform these institutions, and the imperative of harnessing innovation for sustainable development makes it necessary to do so. Many actors have the power to re-orient innovation systems towards sustainable development through research, advocacy, training, convening, policymaking, and financing. We offer three proposals to begin: mobilizing global financing to invest in inventing suitable and affordable technologies to meet sustainable development objectives; developing measures to engage marginalized populations systematically through all stages of the innovation process; and establishing channels for regularized learning across domains of practice.

Keywords: sustainable development, technology, innovation systems, complex adaptive systems, knowledge systems

Suggested Citation

Diaz Anadon, Laura and Chan, Gabriel and Harley, Alicia and Matus, Kira and Moon, Suerie and Murthy, Sharmila and Clark, William C., Making Technological Innovation Work for Sustainable Development (December 22, 2015). HKS Working Paper No. 15-079. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2707328 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2707328

Laura Diaz Anadon (Contact Author)

Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) ( email )

79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Gabriel Chan

University of Minnesota - Minneapolis - Humphrey School of Public Affairs ( email )

130 Humphrey School, 301 19th Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States
612-626-8910 (Phone)
612-625-3513 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.hhh.umn.edu/

Alicia Harley

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/centers/mrcbg/programs/sustsci/people/research-fellows/current-fellows/al

Kira Matus

University College London - Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) ( email )

London, W1T 6EY
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/steapp/people/matus

Suerie Moon

Harvard University - Harvard Global Health Institute ( email )

104 Mt. Auburn Street, 3rd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Sharmila Murthy

Suffolk University Law School ( email )

120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States

William C. Clark

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-3981 (Phone)
617-495-8963 (Fax)

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
89
rank
270,056
Abstract Views
589
PlumX Metrics