Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a honor for me today to present the report of the regional meeting on "The role of innovation in creating a dynamic and competitive economy", which was organized by the UN Economic Commission for Europe, in collaboration with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, within the framework of the 65th session of the UNECE.
The current period, which is characterized by difficult processes, which take place in the world, including the financial and economic problems, determines our dynamic activity to meet the challenges of sustainable development of our countries, through the prism of science, technology and innovation.
It is therefore very appropriate that these issues were identified as crucial for the advancement of the vision of economic growth contained in the Rio+20 outcome document, and that the 2013 Annual Ministerial Review of ECOSOC focuses on how to harness the power of science, technology and innovation and the potential of culture for promoting sustainable development and the achievement of the MDGs.
ECOSOC’s focus on innovation can help to make innovation a policy priority, at a time when the international community is shaping the post-2015 development agenda. As acknowledged in the outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference, “The Future We Want”, technology transfer is key to enabling developing countries to meet these challenges. Because Europe is a major source of technology, UNECE is uniquely placed to help transfer knowledge and experience to developing and transition economies.
At its 65th Annual Session in April 2013, the Economic Commission for Europe held a panel on these issues, with thought leaders from the business sector, the academic community and governments. Our panellists agreed that innovation for the purposes of creating a dynamic and competitive economy must be put to the service of green and inclusive growth.
Let me summarize some important points that were made during the discussion.
First: Innovation should be conceived in broad terms, encompassing technological and non-technological aspects. We are talking about business-model innovation, eco-innovation, demand- and user-driven innovation, innovation in services and design, and public-sector innovation.
Second: Innovation policy needs to be designed as an integrated, horizontal, strategic priority cutting across all relevant areas with leadership from the highest level. Innovation policy should be seen as a horizontal undertaking that leans on education and science policy but also on small and medium enterprises and industrial policy.
Third: The concept of the “circular economy” was mentioned during the discussion, meaning new ways of consuming and producing, which reduce waste as much as possible through innovative product design, use of renewable materials and energy, replacing products with services, and recycling.
Fourth: Creating a business culture, including through business education was highlighted as factorfacilitating innovation in a broad range of national settings. Several participants emphasized the importance of developing a favourable eco-system for supporting innovative small and medium enterprises and startups.
Fifth: Innovation requires also removing legal and financial barriers, by improving, inter alia, access to financing for innovative companies. The role of government in financing innovation and the appropriate mechanisms for risk sharing between the public and the private sectors were discussed.
Public-private partnerships can facilitate the mobilization of financing to develop the infrastructure and public services required to support resource efficient, innovative and competitive economies. The collaboration between the public and the private sectors underpins most policy instruments aiming to promote innovation. UNECE’s work in this area is of great value for the region and beyond.
Sixth: Innovation has high importance in the face of the current economic and financial crisis as a way to improve production, and as a way to do more with less at a time of limited budgets. Intelligent transport systems are a good example. They increase the carrying capacity of existing transport infrastructures and therefore reduce the need for investment in expanding networks. UNECE is leading innovation in transport, where the global standards elaborated by UNECE contribute to smarter transportation networks, smarter traffic management and thus leading to a more sustainable economy. Some old traditional sectors, like forestry, can also renew themselves through innovative solutions and lead the way towards the green economy.
Speaking about importance of the issues under consideration, I would like to note that knowledge sharing on innovation depends on the existence of appropriate monitoring and assessment mechanisms that can provide a good foundation for policy design. Existing studies – including the UNECE’s own national Innovation Performance Reviews –show that there are vast differences in the capacity of countries to generate, absorb and spread, thus creating a significant scope for policy learning.
During the panel discussion, several proposals to strengthen the role of UNECE on innovation were made, in particular regarding issues such as the creation of mechanisms to facilitate cross-border policy learning and the exchange of good practices on eco-innovation, the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises and the links between standard-setting and innovation.
In conclusion, let me emphasize the importance of global, regional and subregional initiatives that acknowledge the contribution of science, technology and innovation to meet development goals. Facilitating technology access, adaptation and diffusion and improving innovation capabilities should be integral components of the development agenda, which is better served by the existence of institutional mechanisms for knowledge-sharing. Working with other regional commissions and ECOSOC, UNECE is ready to join this global effort and share its policy experiences, platforms and tools to promote innovation as a way to meet economic, environmental and social challenges.
Thank you for your attention.