Nature News Explores Developing Countries’ Commitment To R&D

Nature News explores how a report published last week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) documents the growing commitment of several developing countries to R&D (Casassus, 12/20).

“In the wake of the financial crisis, science, technology and innovation (STI) will make a vital contribution to a sustainable and lasting recovery and to the longer-term growth prospects of OECD and non-OECD economies,” according to an OECD summary (.pdf) of the report. “STI can open new avenues to meet some of the major challenges facing societies: demographic change, global health issues and climate change” (12/14).

“[I]ncreasingly, countries as diverse as China, South Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam are developing broad-based innovation strategies that encompass existing and new technologies, as well as social innovations,” the OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2010 report noted, according to Nature News (12/20).

The BRIICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa economies – “are making significant investments in environmental technologies, a dynamic area with enormous growth potential and clear practical relevance for global challenges such as climate change, water and food,” the OECD summary adds. “In 2007 the BRIICS countries were already focusing more on renewable energy applications than the global norm, as seen in their higher than average patent applications” (12/14).

Nature News also describes recent commitments by “fast-growing developing countries” to help other developing countries boost science, technology and innovation.  For instance, “South Korea is providing loans and grants to Tanzania to bolster clinical teaching and hospital facilities, while China is helping the African country to develop a state-of-the-art cardiology unit. Meanwhile, India, Brazil and South Africa are collaborating on nanotechnology projects and training researchers together,” Nature News writes.

“This kind of cooperation ‘is hastening the ability of developing countries to innovate, to face global challenges including energy supplies and climate change, and to fight against poverty’,” Mario Cervantes, a senior economist in the OECD’s science and technology division, said according to the news service.

Such “realities, says the report, challenge ‘the notion in developmental theories that [poorer] countries need to ‘exhaust’ their potential for catching up before embarking on their ‘own’ innovation and R&D activities’. As a result, the report notes, more avenues for multilateral research collaboration are opening up,” Nature News writes.

The article also quotes Andre de Campos of the University of Brighton, who notes, the commitment to R&D “is important if [developing countries] want to catch up with the rest of the world economically. … It might not be the same R&D in terms of types of activity or themes as in [developed] countries, but without this capability, they will not achieve their development goals” (12/20).

OECD features country profiles on the science and innovation performance of OECD members as well as Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and the Russian Federation, also featured in the report (12/14).

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