Bangkok, 18th May, 2016 (WAM) — Innovation policy must move beyond its traditional focus on economic competitiveness to include social justice and environmental protection if the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development are to be met, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said in its new report, Harnessing Science, Technology and Innovation for Inclusive and Sustainable Development in the Asia Pacific, launched today during the 72nd ESCAP Commission session.

The Report, which serves as the theme study for the annual high-level policy session held in Bangkok from May 15-19, highlights that the Asia-Pacific region is home to some of the most innovative countries in the world, as well as to some of the most technologically deprived.

The Report shows that some countries in the region lead the world in innovative business environments, socially inclusive government initiatives, and complex scientific research. A number of countries also rank among the best in terms of research spending as a share of GDP, with the region accounting for almost 43 per cent of global research and development expenditure. In 2013 alone, Asian developing countries spent more than $650 billion on research and development.

However, the Report also points out that these impressive gains have been confined to a relatively small number of countries. For example, 95 percent of the region’s researchers are located in just five countries.

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary, emphasized that business as usual is not an option for the region if science, technology and innovation (STI) is to be used as an effective means of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“There is ample scope for regional STI collaboration in Asia and the Pacific. The challenge for the Asia-Pacific region is to develop concrete STI opportunities to help bridge the gaps that remain, to enable countries at all levels of development to take advantage of available technologies and to develop a robust regional culture of innovation,” said Dr. Akhtar.

Noting that to be supportive of sustainable development, STI policies and strategies need to be inclusive, open and collaborative, Dr. Akhtar underlined that: “Being inclusive in how we innovate, and developing innovations that are accessible and affordable to people living in poverty, will be critical to ensure that no one is left behind.”

The Report calls for action on regional STI collaboration to provide a resilient and productivity-driven foundation for successful pursuit of the SDGs. It also provides a comprehensive overview of how a range of STI policy recommendations can support countries in harnessing STI for sustainable development.