Can we align Science, Technology and Innovation to the Sustainable Development Goals in Low and Middle-Income Country contexts? The quest for meaningful questions.

– Ine Steenmans, Tommaso Ciarli and Joanna Chataway

31 March 2020

Science, technology and innovation (STI) are often invoked as essential to addressing some of the most serious of threats to our world.  A common narrative is optimistic about the contribution that new science and technologies can make; scientific advances and innovative applications are what give us access to cleaner energy supply, new medications, new vaccines to control a virus pandemic, and more accessible public infrastructures.  Consideration of negative externalities or the need to actively steer science and technology in certain directions mostly do not feature.

This is certainly a time when there is global awareness of the multiple, shared challenges that require large scale action within the near term. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide us with a single shared reference point to what 17 of the most pressing issues faced across the world are. Given STI’s history of changing the fundamental structures of society, the potential for positive impact and the need to avoid further environmental and societal harm, it is  unsurprising to find that there is particular interest in asking: how can we steer STI to better align with the SDGs?

The STRINGS project starts from the premise that

By |2020-04-01T09:09:20+01:00March 31st, 2020|Uncategorised|0 Comments

Global solidarity in science and innovation will stop COVID-19 and speed the SDGs

– John Ouma-Mugabe

Professor of Science and Innovation Policy, Graduate School of Technology Management (GSTM), University of Pretoria

27 March 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is exposing the complex organic interrelationships of science, innovation and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). An invisible virus, COVID-19 is a threat to humanity and the world’s economies. It is intricately linked to our delicate social, economic, technological and ecological systems. COVID-19 may have been caused by human activities and their impacts on the environment. In The End of Epidemics: The Looming Threat to Humanity and How to Stop It, Jonathan Quick, notes that deforestation, climate change and rapid urbanization contribute to the emergence of new pathogens that pose global health risks.[1]

COVID-19 may undermine prospects of attaining some of the SDGs. For example, it is already causing disruptions in the transitions to SDG8 (decent work and employment) and SDG9 (fostering industry, innovation and infrastructure). The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimate that the global economy will contract by at least 50%, with GDP growth expected to be 1.5% instead of the 3% that had been projected at the beginning of this year.[2] The decline in

By |2020-03-31T15:19:47+01:00March 27th, 2020|Research|0 Comments

On the Importance of the Science-Policy Interface for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

– Jacob Assa


28 February 2020

The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set a very ambitious vision for what humanity needs to accomplish by the year 2030. With just 10 years left, the United Nations system has declared a Decade of Action, with an urgent call for accelerating efforts towards achieving the SDGs. Fundamental to these efforts is the rethinking of the role of science, finance and policy alike. But beyond progress in each of these areas separately, the interaction between science and policy is critical to tackling global challenges and achieving the SDGs.

This two-year project is an important step towards informing this science-policy dialogue and is funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund of UK Research and Innovation. STRINGS consists of a collaboration between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), research centers and seven leading universities, aiming at mapping the complex relations between research in science, technology and innovation (STI) on the one hand, and the SDGs on the other. This research will be published as a report in 2021, and it will deepen our understanding of the variety of science, research, technology and innovation pathways that may contribute to SDGs.

By |2020-02-28T16:47:22+00:00February 28th, 2020|Research|0 Comments

Breeding or Conservation: Enhancing access to climate-resilient rice seeds in India

– Rasheed Sulaiman V

Centre for Research on Innovation and Science Policy (CRISP), India

22 January 2020

The food security of more than half the world’s population depends on rice production. Most rice production environments are increasingly affected by climate change. Farmers need access to seeds of rice varieties that can tolerate increasing incidents of droughts, floods and salinity. While diverse pathways are needed to address this challenge, most science, technology and innovation (STI) policies frame this as a breeding challenge. It is high time that we prioritise other potential pathways such as in-situ conservation of indigenous rice varieties that can effectively withstand these stresses.

Rice is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in Asia.  In India, rice is grown in almost half the states. Rice farming in India is characterized by increasing incidence of abiotic stresses, such as droughts, floods and salinity, making the enterprise risky and thereby adversely affecting the livelihoods of poor, smallholder farming households.

Farmers need access to seeds of rice varieties that can tolerate droughts, floods and salinity. Though Indian farmers grew more than 100,000 varieties of rice till the 1970’s, many of these traditional landraces disappeared from cultivation when the

By |2020-01-22T11:21:14+00:00January 22nd, 2020|Research|0 Comments

Fostering a multi-dimensional and open approach to Chagas

Valeria Arza* and Agustina Colonna**


18 December 2019

Chagas is an infectious disease mostly present in Latin American countries. Although the Chagas problem involves multiple socio-economic dimensions, we see that most science technology and innovation (STI) policies concentrate on the medical aspect of the disease. Additionally, research is organized in a traditional, rather closed and secretive way of producing scientific knowledge. We suggest that open and collaborative initiatives, through a more integral perspective, could be a promising opportunity to tackle this disease.

Chagas is an infectious disease which affects 6 million people and causes over 14,000 deaths each year worldwide (WHO 2018). Despite these significant numbers, it should not come as a surprise if you have never heard of Chagas. Chagas is mostly found in endemic areas in Latin American countries and is considered one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases by the World Health Organization. It is considered “neglected” because although there are not yet satisfactory solutions to Chagas, it has received little attention by the international scientific and policy community for many years, despite being an important health burden in many low- and middle-income countries.

There are three forms of transmission: vectorial transmission through an insect called

By |2020-01-08T16:30:27+00:00December 18th, 2019|Research|0 Comments

More funding for research, yes, but what kind of research?

– Joanna Chataway, Tommaso Ciarli and Hugo Confraria

15 November 2019

Increased spending on research and innovation is a key component of efforts to help address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their complex interactions. But pumping more money into scientific research does not necessarily mean that research will succeed in addressing the SDGs, even when it is designed to do just that. This observation is at the heart of the new international and multi-partner STRINGS project which is looking at how science, technology and innovation (STI) can be better aligned to addressing the SDGs in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs).

The reasons behind the misalignments between research funding and impact on the ground are multiple. For instance:

  • First, although the SDGs are global, and they need tackling at a number of levels, they also need to be understood in relation to national and regional investments in STI and goals. This synergy is often lacking (Chataway et al, 2019).
  • Second, the SDGs require contextual knowledge and capabilities, whereas national and global agendas often drive STI investments (e.g. science funding in Sub-Saharan Africa).
  • Third, STI capacity and capabilities differ dramatically across geographies and areas, with some of the most significant STI investments being
By |2020-01-08T16:30:52+00:00November 15th, 2019|Research|0 Comments

Mapping research and innovation for sustainability:
enhancing rigour and accountability in the global politics of science and technology

– Andy Stirling

21 October 2019

How can research and innovation best further social progress? How to correct the error of seeing scientific and technological advance as whatever happens to be produced by incumbent interests? How to give as much care to the direction of research and innovation in any given area, as to its pace, benefits or risks? How can societies as a whole do better at steering science and technology in order to foster greater equality, environmental integrity and human in international development?

These are some key questions to be addressed in a distinctive new kind of international collaboration funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and led by the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex and the Department of Science Technology Engineering and Public Policy (STEAPP) at University College London.

Building in part on the ‘pathways approach’ developed by the longstanding Sussex-based STEPS Centre, this ambitious project is undertaken with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The core aim is to help build towards capabilities for greater rigour and accountability in the steering of directions for research and innovation.

This ‘STRINGS’ project (on

By |2019-11-22T08:42:04+00:00October 24th, 2019|Research|0 Comments