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Program Description

The Forum was organized around four constellations of issues:

A special session devoted to “Gender Case Studies in STI Capacity Building” highlighted the linkage between the gender agenda and the development agenda.

Session 1 -- Reducing poverty and achieving the MDGs: the role of STI capacity building
Intransigent conditions of poverty and the challenge of meeting the Millennium Development Goals have led developing countries to look to science and technology for solutions for promoting renewable energy, including bio-fuels, developing rain water harvesting systems, delivering potable water to rural villages, boosting agricultural productivity and food storage capacity, and improving basic health care.

With the help of players such as the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations, alongside philanthropic arms of businesses, the research capacities and innovative technologies found in wealthy countries and multinational firms are being applied to the problems of the developing world. With this push, building STI capacity within developing countries becomes even more critical in order to adapt, diffuse, and use these technological solutions based on local conditions and knowledge.

This session presented case studies that illustrate how different countries or localities addressed these issues in the course of building STI capacity to reduce poverty and achieve the MDGs.  The case studies addressed the following issues:

  • Building the capacity to find, adapt, and use appropriate technologies
  • Delivery systems for getting solutions into the hands of the poor
  • Developing national R&D capacity to solve local problems
  • The role of indigenous knowledge 
  • South-south models of cooperation for poverty reduction

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Session 2 -- Adding value to natural resource exports through STI capacity building
To become more prosperous, countries must find ways to reduce the ranks of the rural and urban poor and not merely develop technologies that make life more tolerable for them.  Reducing the ranks of the poor will inevitably entail creating more productive, higher paying jobs alongside subsistence agriculture, developing new higher value added exports (whether or not the industry is considered high-tech), and establishing supply chain linkages between local firms and transnational exporters.

In economies dominated by natural resource-based sectors, increasing the productivity of these sectors is the first step to greater wealth and job creation. STI capacity, if used appropriately, helps firms meet quality standards, increase output, and improve products, whether in horticulture, food production and processing, or extraction industries such as oil and gas.

Experience demonstrates that STI capacity building – including through improving the quality of science, vocational, and technical education at all levels as well as inducing members of the Diaspora to return home with their knowledge of markets, customer needs, quality control techniques, and technologies in order to start businesses in their home land -- is a critical tool for accomplishing these objectives.

Case studies presented in this session addressed the following issues:

  • Building private sector capacity to acquire and utilize existing technology to produce high quality goods and services
  • Training unskilled farmers and workers to meet exacting quality standards  and to utilize modern technology
  • Finding a niche in global export markets and moving forward in the face of intense global competition
  • Utilizing the Diaspora as a resource for market access, technological knowledge, and understanding about introducing modern technologies and production methods into traditional economic structures

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Session 3 -- Latecomer strategies for catching up -- linkage, leverage, learning, and STI capacity building
Many developing countries have recently been successful at catching up to the leaders in various high tech and low tech sectors. Even more developing countries have failed in this endeavor. How do enterprises “catch up” to the technological leaders?  How do they learn?  More importantly, how do they learn to learn and learn to innovate? And what, if anything, can governments do to support and stimulate this learning process?

This session will attempt to provide some answers to these questions, based on lessons of experience from developing countries that have recently been successful at catching up to the leaders in various high tech and low tech sectors. It will look at how countries have employed innovative public-private partnerships to support the technology catch-up process and foster local innovation, explore the role of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and R&D in the technology upgrading process. 

Case studies presented in this session addressed the following issues:

  • The role of public-private partnerships to support enterprise technology upgrading and skill development and to help enterprises become competent, skilled innovators
  • Using FDI to promote supply chain linkages, technological spillovers, and technological learning
  • Turning brain drain into technology gains
  • The role of universities and public research institutes
  • The balance between producing new knowledge and using existing knowledge

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Session 4 -- The role of R&D in the development process
Why should developing countries build research and development (R&D) capacity?  What is the purpose?  One objective is to enable research institutes in developing countries to participate in global R&D projects aimed at developing country issues, such as developing new vaccines for tropical diseases or new drought resistant crop varieties.  Another objective is to develop the indigenous capacity to solve local problems.

India, China, Brazil, and South Africa are frequently cited as examples of developing countries that have recently succeeded in achieving world class status in building R&D capacity.  Korea and Singapore are cited as examples of earlier success stories.  The NEPAD S&T Action Plan provides a compelling rationale for emphasizing this aspect of S&T capacity building in Africa. However, for governments, the goal of supporting purposeful and sustainable R&D capacity has proven challenging when not tied to private sector growth and demand for R&D.

This session focused its discussion on the proposals for building R&D capacity in developing countries. It answered the following questions:

  • When should countries focus on building their R&D capacity and what sort of R&D capacity should they strive to build?
  • How can the growing R&D capacity in rapidly industrializing countries be harnessed for solving critical problems in the developing world?
  • What is the current role of various developing countries in emerging international R&D networks?
  • How can developing countries optimize their participation in these networks so as to enhance its positive impact on their STI capacity and their prospects for international competitiveness?

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Special Focus Panel: The Role of Gender in STI Capacity Building
This panel will explore gender-related aspects of STI capacity building. The panel attempted to addressed the following questions:
  • How important is the role of gender in STI capacity building?
  • Did men and women in developing countries have equal access to education and training during the “catch-up” process? If not, are there ways to mitigate this differential access?
  • What gender related obstacles, if any, hindered the adoption of technically superior solutions?

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