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Rising to the challenge: science, technology and innovation for the benefit of all


Rapidly ageing populations, the impacts of climate change, the ongoing slowdown in productivity growth – trends like these give rise to “grand societal challenges” that increasingly shape the conduct of science, technology and innovation (STI) and societal and policy expectations of their contributions. If well-managed and used in conjunction with social innovation and policy reforms, scientific and technological advances can alleviate many of the grand societal challenges. Along these lines, governments are seeking to redirect technological change towards more economically, socially and environmentally beneficial technologies. This shift has given impetus to a new era of “mission-oriented” STI policy, with governments looking to work more closely with the business sector and civil society to steer the direction of science and technology towards ambitious, socially relevant goals. Such partnerships are important given the private sector is by far the largest investor in STI.

Read: OECD Science, Technology and Innovation Outlook 2018

However, current trends in public research and development (R&D) spending may not be commensurate with the corresponding ambition and challenges delineated in mission-oriented policies. Since 2010, government’s direct funding of R&D expenditures in the OECD as a whole and in almost all Group of Seven countries have stagnated or decreased, not only in real value and relative to gross domestic product, but also as a share of total government expenditures.