For decades, science, technology, and innovation were exclusive elements for more developed countries. Investment in research and development is still as low as it could get in developing countries. Even with the most talented individuals, research and development are confined within labs with minimal market and public interaction. This cannot be the case anymore as collective local actions are instrumental for global change.
The Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) not only highlight innovation as a goal but also emphasize the value of innovation to achieve other goals. Whether it be education, energy, health, climate change or poverty that we strive to address, science, technology, and innovation will need to be tackled in a participatory and inclusive manner to ensure benefit to the public. Building sustainable economic clusters and social businesses around new technologies are only possible though widely-enabled innovations from the full spectrum of community; including women, youth and indigenous communities. Connecting local technological needs with global opportunities is a common challenge in many countries that requires us all to be more conscious of market dynamics and social inclusiveness. The ability to recognize local technological needs and capabilities is core to create a value proposition that maximizes economic productivity and competitiveness.
Boosting local innovation might be the magical recipe for progressing on sustainable development goals if the ingredients are made available. Less developed countries need support to shape suitable models for innovation within the context of sustainable development. Lessons learned so far indicate that the public sector might not be the key driver for innovation. Businesses, on the other hand, play a substantial role in accelerating innovation as investors and consumers. However, the real catalysts for sustainable innovation are not yet fully empowered. Universities, research institutions, think tanks and NGOs are requested to step into the driver seat to define the needs and connect the dots. These players should be better equipped to understand local development challenges and convert them into innovation opportunities. Civil society organizations and scientists combining both knowledge and community power can advocate for an inclusive and enabling policy and regulatory environment that bolsters and celebrates local innovation.