Science, technology and innovation policy

Conference on Innovation for Inclusive Development


Cape Town, South Africa
21 November 2012

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Tackling high rates of social exclusion and poverty are important challenges for many developing and emerging countries’ development strategies. However, substantial inequalities, high rates of poverty and social exclusion in many emerging and developing countries in spite of successful innovation experiences are a testimony to the fact that built-up innovation capacities is not necessarily inclusive. Many developing countries have successfully developed “islands of excellence” (e.g. lead universities or large modern firms) while the vast majority of firms and individuals lack even basic innovation capabilities, this feeds into wage inequalities. However, at the same time innovative products targeted at, or produced by, low- and middle-income groups should be pursued to address inequalities.

The OECD Project on Innovation for Inclusive Development, in cooperation with the OECD Programme on Higher Education and Research for Development (IHERD), seeks to address the policy challenges associated with innovation and inclusive development and convened a dialogue with policy makers and researchers from around the world in South Africa on 21 November 2012. The conference was also a first step towards creating a network of interested stakeholders for exchanging experience and jointly engaging in research on the 2013-2014 OECD Project on Knowledge and Innovation for Inclusive Development.

The conference brought together stakeholders from South Africa, developing and developed countries as well as representatives from international organisations, NGOs, foundations and the private sector. Discussions focused on the various policy challenges, providing feedback on potential steps for future project work. They were based on an OECD report which investigates two key issues: i) how different income groups can benefit more from innovation, and ii) how these groups can themselves play a greater role in the innovation process. Attention was given to the role of innovation in both growth and social development. The conference also aimed to provide policy makers with insights about practices and perspectives from both developing and emerging and developed economies. It provided particular emphasis on the South African policy experience.

The agenda covered the following three priority areas for discussion: 

1. Innovation with its influence on inequalities focusing on the strongly unequal production structures of many low- and middle-income countries characterised by substantial productivity and innovation performance gaps across businesses;

2. Innovation as a solution focusing on the contributions of innovations such as information and communication technologies but also grassroots innovation;

3. Policy needs and future research matters related to innovation and inclusive development.


The event was held back-to-back with the MEIDE conference, which was organised jointly by CeSTII (Center for Science, Technology & Innovation Indicators) of the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa and UNU-MERIT (United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research and Training Centre on Innovation and Technology). The MEIDE conference brings together every year researchers from around the world to discuss the importance of innovation for development. It took place on 22 and 23 November 2012. 



Conference agenda and presentations

Speakers' biographies

Conference discussion report:
Innovation and Inclusive Development

(revised February 2013)


Further reading:

Innovation for development:
A discussion of the issues and an
overview of the work of the OECD
Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry


Innovation and Inclusive Development conference discussion report 




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