The Natural Edge Project The Natural Advantage of Nations Whole System Design Factor 5 Cents and Sustainability Higher Education and Sustainable Development




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The Natural Advantage of Nations (Vol. I): Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century

 
 

Section 3: Achieving a Natural Advantage of Nations

Chapter 13: National Systems of Innovation Paul M. Weaver
1 Practice makes perfect
2 Innovation systems are part of today's development paradigm
2.1 The challenge to innovation systems
3 The Dutch National Sustainable Technology Development programme
4 The Netherlands context
4.1 Recent developments
5 Lessons from the Dutch and other programmes
6 Concluding remarks
7 Reference List from the Book
Sample of Resources to Support Chapter 13
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Background on National Systems of Innovation

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Harnessing National Systems of Innovation to Meet the Challenge of Sustainable Development

 

Harnessing national systems of innovation is key to achieving sustainable development. The Netherlands has emerged as an early leader in applying its national innovation capacity to focus on the challenge of a sustainable future. When the editors learned of the work of the Dutch Sustainable Technology Development programme through project mentor Philip Sutton, we were greatly encouraged as the work is truly ground-breaking. After making contact with one of the key authors of the publication based on the research, Paul Weaver, we invited Paul to consider writing a piece for this publication drawing on his experience to provide guidance for nations seeking to focus their national innovation towards achieving a sustainable future.

Paul Weaver, Director of the Research Centre for Eco-Efficiency

and Enterprise; the work reported is in part based on the research

project Adaptive Integration of Research and Policy for Sustainable

Development (AIRP-SD), which was financed within the EU Improving

Human Potential programme by the Strategic Analysis of Specific

Political Issues (STRATA) activity.

The line of argument that we have taken leads us to conclude that there is a need for all nations to adapt their national systems of innovation to meet the challenges and opportunities of sustainable development. In sum, the key to national competitiveness lies in national innovative capacity, which in turn is strengthened and reinforced dynamically and recursively as it responds to and influences society's needs. A priority need as we enter the 21st century is for future development to be sustainable and for future products, processes and services to be produced with much higher eco-efficiency. The future prosperity and well-being of citizens worldwide depends on this, as does the wealth and prospects for individual nations.

Just as labour productivity improvement has been the guiding theme of past grow thoriented development, resource productivity improvement will be the dominant theme that drives and coordinates innovation in the 21st century, which increasingly will be concerned with the qualitative aspects of how economic output and wealth are produced. The pressure of a growing world population and a growing world economy as citizens everywhere seek to secure a decent standard of living on a planet with limited resources and limited capacity to absorb and process wastes ensures that this will be the case.

In turn, the high levels of eco-efficiency and resource productivity improvement that will be needed in the coming decades - improvements of an order of magnitude at least - will require 'systems level' changes in the way that needs are met, jobs are created, income is earned and export sales are generated. In their turn, these will depend upon changes in the institutions that support development and that provide the contextual framework for innovation and decision-making. Given the lead times involved in achieving resource productivity improvements of this magnitude, work on strategic long-term restructuring of our economies and societies needs to be underway already if the sustainability challenge is to be met. As indicated in earlier chapters, the state has a significant role to play here, as it is best positioned to co-ordinate long-term economic and industrial strategies and policies.

 

Background on National Systems of Innovation

The OECD National Innovation Systems Project. The objectives of the OECD NIS project are set out in the following statement: "For policy makers, an understanding of innovation systems can help to identify leverage points for enhancing innovative performance and overall competitiveness. The concept of national innovation systems directs the attention of policy makers to possible systemic failures that can accompany the more generally recognised market failures in the development of technology. The lack of interaction between the actors in the system, mismatches between basic research in the public sector and more applied research in industry, malfunctioning of technology transfer institutions, and information and absorptive deficiencies on the part of industry may all limit innovation and the diffusion of knowledge. In search of improved interactions, governments can provide the foundations for effective partnering among the elements in the system".

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Paul Romer

Significant advances in economics are now showing that new designs, new ideas and innovations are very important to achieving lasting economic growth. One of the chief architects of this 'New Growth Theory', Stanford economics Professor Paul Romer, shows that economic growth doesn't arise solely from accumulating more capital. His demonstrates that it also arises from new and better ideas expressed as technological progress. New growth theorists make technological progress internal to their economic growth models, including the explicit modelling of R&D and technological changes in production. The policy implications for new growth theory are discussed in a range of books, including Blueston, B. and Harrison, B. (1999) Growing Prosperity: The Battle for Growth with Equity in the 21st Century, Houghton Mifflin.

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Harnessing National Systems of Innovation to Meet the Challenge of Sustainable Development

 

Sustainable Technology Development

Key Reference: Weaver, P., Jansen, L., Van Grootveld, G., Van Spiegel, E., and Vergragt, P. (2000) Sustainable Technology Development, Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf Publishing.

 

This book presents a review and evaluation of the Dutch National Inter-Ministerial Programme for Sustainable Technology Development (STD), which has recently completed its five-year term and is now partway through a follow-up dissemination phase.

 

Phillip Sutton, Director of Green Innovations Inc., writes of the importance of this work and the book published on it: "Three years ago when the book Sustainable Technology Development first came out I thought it was one of the most important works to come out on the environmental sustainability debate. I bought 10 copies of the book in the hope of increasing the chance of it being read in Australia . Now, three years later, I've just reread the book from cover to cover and I still think it's one of the most significant books in the last 10 years. Why is the book so significant? It uses a very powerful methodology for generating innovations that are driven by the need to actually achieve ecological sustainability. It starts with a 'no-flinching' analysis of just how big a change would be needed to achieve ecological sustainability. This was assessed for a range of issues and the result in all cases is that the changes need to be very big (ranging for Factor 20 - Factor 50 improvements). We really should know this in our guts, but it's very rare for government-sponsored projects to face this reality. Rather than giving up at the point where they discovered that nothing less than wholesale technology reinvention was going to work, the project went on to figure out how the necessary efficiency gains could be accomplished. As case studies, the project looked at issues of nutrition (food supply), water management, chemicals supply and alternative engine/fuel systems for cars. The methodology also dealt with how to create the commitment and momentum to ensure that innovation programs were followed through to results. The STD program was a key influence leading to the development of the Dutch 4th National Environment Plan that looks specifically at system change to achieve ecological sustainability."

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Key Reference: Whitelegg, K. (2002) 'National Research Activities and Sustainable Development: A Survey and Assessment of National Research Initiatives in Support of Sustainable Development', Synthesis Report of the European Science and Technology Observatory, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Seville , Spain .

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References from the Book

1 Funtowicz, S., Ravetz, J. and O'Connor, M. (1998) 'Challenges in the Use of Science for Sustainable Development', International Journal of Sustainable Development, Inderscience, vol 1, no 1.

 

2 Weaver, P. (2002a) Defining Science for Sustainable Development, Deliverable 2, AIRP-SD Project, ECSTRATA Program, also as an Interim Paper, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield, UK; Weaver, P. (2002b) Evaluating Science for Sustainable Development, Deliverable 3, AIRP-SD Project, EC-STRATA Program, also as an Interim Paper, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield, UK; Weaver, P. (2003) 'Defining and Evaluating Sustainability Science', paper prepared for the Easy-Eco Conference, Vienna, May.

 

3 CLTM (Dutch Committee on Long-term Environmental Policy) (1990) The Environment: Concepts for the 21st Century, CLTM, Zeist, Netherlands, Kerkebosch; Weaver, P., Jansen, J., van Grootveld, G., van Spiegel, E. and Vergragt, P. (2000) Sustainable Technology Development, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield, UK.

 

4 Funtowitz, S. and Ravetz, J. (2002) 'Environmental Policy under Conditions of Complexity', Post-Normal Science, EC-JRC/ISIS, Ispra, Italy/RMC Ltd, London .

 

5 Indeed, uncertainty is not just a feature of complex systems, it is the defining feature that distinguishes complex systems from those that are simple or just complicated. A simple system can be captured in theory and practice by a deterministic, linear causal analysis. Complicated systems require more variables for explanation or for control than can be neatly managed in its theory. With complexity, we are dealing with phenomena of a different sort. In a complex system, elements and subsystems are defined by their relation within hierarchies of inclusion and function. A complicated system can be modelled reliably despite the large number of elements and relationships involved. A complex system, by contrast, is characterized by multiple potential equilibria and cannot be accurately or reliably modelled. Systems that are complex are not merely complicated, by their very nature they imply deep uncertainties and a plurality of legitimate perspectives.

 

6 Funtowitz, S. and Ravetz, J. (2002) 'Environmental Policy under Conditions of Complexity', Post-Normal Science, EC-JRC/ISIS, Ispra, Italy/RMC Ltd, London .

 

7 Weaver, P. (1994) Bridging Gaps Among Scientific Disciplines, CP-94-8, IIASA, Austria .

 

8 Myers, N. (1990) 'Facing up to the Lack of Interface', in Sustainable Development, Science and Policy, Proceedings of the Bergen Conference, 8-12 May, Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities, pp513-522.

 

9 Walters, C. (1986) Adaptive Management of Renewable Resources, Macmillan, New York; Holling, C. (1978) Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management, John Wiley & Sons, London.

 

10 Thus, Holling, C. (1989) 'Integrating Science for Sustainable Development', in Sustainable Development, Science and Policy, Proceedings of the Bergen Conference, 8-12 May, Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities, pp359-370, argue that in this case, 'the observed and anticipated changes in carbon dioxide concentration alone are so unambiguous, so great and worldwide that we dare not continue as we are. We cannot predict confidently what impacts will flow from these changes, but we cannot continue to play out such a huge experiment on the whole planet'.

 

11 Ibid.

 

12 Myers, N. (1990) 'Facing up to the Lack of Interface', in Sustainable Development, Science and Policy, Proceedings of the Bergen Conference, 8-12 May, Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities, pp513-522.

 

13 Weterings, R. and Opschoor, J. (1992) The Eco-Capacity as a Challenge to Technology Development, Advisory Council on Nature and the Environment (RMNO) Report No 74 A, Rijswijk , Netherlands .

 

14 Weaver, P., Jansen, J., van Grootveld, G., van Spiegel, E. and Vergragt, P. (2000) Sustainable Technology Development, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield , UK .

 

15 Ibid.

 

16 The aim of EET is to create a synthesis between economic growth and a sustainable environment by fostering the development and application of new technologies and related knowledge/know-how. The EET programme has five research themes, four related to technological strategies for decoupling economic growth and environmental stress and one oriented towards the technological restructuring of a pivotal economic sector. The four strategy-based themes are: sustainable products (eco-design and dematerialization), sustainable services (shifts from a product-oriented to a serviceoriented economy), renewable energy and renewable materials. The pivotal sector is sustainable transport.

 

17 NIDO is oriented towards achieving performance 'leaps' towards sustainability through finding effective ways of innovation and transformation. NIDO sets up experiments in system renewal based upon building inclusive multi-actor/multi-stakeholder innovation networks. HABIFORM is aimed at more sustainable space-use through a strategy of multifunctional space-use. On the basis of the concepts and approaches developed within the HABIFORM programme, space management in the Netherlands should lead to more cost effective, efficient, ecologically-sustainable and livable outcomes (Whitelegg, K., Weber, M. and Leone, F. (2002) 'National Research Activities and Sustainable Development', Research Report EUR 20389 EN, Vienna, Sevilla: ARC/JRC-IPTS).

 

18 Weaver, P. and Jansen, J. (2002) National Research Activities and Sustainable Development: A Survey and Assessment of National Research Initiatives in Support of Sustainable Development - Country Report for the Netherlands, Report of the European Science and Technology Observatory, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), Seville, Spain.

 

19 Jansen, J. Bosch, G. and Weaver, P. (2003) 'Research and Technology Development Programs: From the Very Start to the Very Finish', In Final Report of the AIRP-SD Project, EC-STRATA Program, Vienna, June.

 

 

20 Funtowicz, S., Guimaraes-Pereira, A., Lonza-Ricci, L. and Wolf, O. (2003) Recommendations for Sustainability-Oriented European Research Programs, Deliverable 6, AIRP-SD Project, EC-STRATA Program.