Science, Technology and Innovation is central to Social and Economic Progress

9 March 2010
Attendee at a STEPS Centre roundtable by Julia Day10 March 2010 - Julia Day

The centrality of science, technology and innovation to social and economic progress is being highlighted around the world his week as the theme of this year's Commonwealth Week. At the Institute of Development Studies, a major project from the ESRC STEPS Centre is focusing on new ways of linking science and innovation to development for a more sustainable, equitable and resilient future.

A new manifesto

Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto aims to pinpoint what kind of actions are needed in today's highly globalised, interconnected and yet privatised world to make science and technology work for the world's poor and marginalised peoples.

Standard policies link innovation, science and technology to development in ways that are not always the most sustainable and equitable solutions for the people they seek to help. As a result, they often fail to address the challenges of an uncertain, dynamic and rapidly-changing world. The New Manifesto project is seeking to highlight alternative pathways to progress and the policies which would enable these pathways to flourish.

The project grew out of a wish to revisit the radical Sussex Manifesto report that academics from IDS and SPRU Science and Technology Policy Research wrote for the United Nations in 1970. Forty years on, the STEPS Centre - whose members are drawn from the same two institutions - are canvassing global opinion and working with one of the authors of the original, Professor Geoff Oldham, to bring cutting-edge ideas and some Southern perspectives to current policy.

Why science, technology and society?

Commonwealth Secretary-General HE Kamalesh Sharma explains why 'science, technology and society' was the chosen theme of this year's annual celebration: ‘New ideas and inventions sometimes challenge established values and ways. Questions arise about whether a new technology, for instance, takes a step too far in terms of civil liberties, or if it has other social consequences.'

'In finding a way forward, each of us as Commonwealth citizens in democratic societies needs to be informed, to understand, and to exchange opinion about the possibilities of science and technology. The discussion needs to be held as much in universities, laboratories and government offices, as in homes, schools, and in the media. Society will benefit fully where all people, including the vulnerable and those on the margins, are involved in public discussion and its outcomes.'

Cutting-edge ideas and Southern perspectives

The STEPS Centre New Manifesto project has been attempting to spark just these kind of conversations and idea exchanges in similar environments. To this end, roundtable events discussing potential recommendations with academics, students, business people, government officials and civil society and donor organisations have been held around the world, including in India, China, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Argentina, Columbia, France, the Netherlands and the UK.

The project has attempted to capture the rich variety of opinion expressed at the events through video interviews, podcasts and other multimedia material that is all available to view on the project website.

Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto will be launched at an event at the Royal Society in London on 15 June. If you are interested to attend or find out more, please get in touch by emailing

Julia Day is Communications Manager of the ESRC STEPS Centre

Photo credit: Manifesto roundtable, Julia Day, STEPS Centre