Have UN-SDG any Impacts on R&D around the World? 

Research and Development “R&D” has direct and indirect feedbacks and impacts on the global implementation, and also the successful achievements, of UN-SDG. One can expect that the UN-SDG can be achieved, and thereby implemented, as an Added-Value components to “R&D” Programs and Projects in cases where  they are clearly specified and defined by funding organisations and institutes. This in turn will generate stronger, active and vital engagement of universities, academies, researchers and education programs in the promotion and implementation of UN-SDG.  In particular shaping higher education, R&D for appropriate and timely promotion and implementation of the UN-SDG on local and regional scales with special focus on society and population needs. Also, with consideration to three pillars of sustainability (economic, social and environment issues) and building on the available natural resources in different regions. These are of course in addition to dedicated programs and projects where “R&D” directly deals with sustainability and sustainable developments in general. 

Currently, there are no exact, detailed and coordinated global assessment policies/strategies on when, how and where the UN-SDG are to be achieved, though there are fragmented data on such issues in limited counties and regions. However, some information can be indirectly extracted from the global view of R&D, so as to examine strengths and weaknesses in following-up and assessing the perfomance by sectors, products, technologies, markets, regions and countries.

Research and development (R&D) is defined as the process of creating new products, processes and technologies that can be used and marketed for mankind’s benefit in the future. What regards sustainability, the interests and needs of future generations have to be taken in considerations. As the R&D processes and their costs vary from industry to industry, from country to country and from year to year, we can expect wide-range of variations in effectiveness, performance and time-scales of relevance for UN-SDG.

R&D investment in Asian countries (e.g. Japan, India and South Korea) including China is currently accounting for more than 40% of all global R&D investments, the North American investments now less than 30% and European R&D only slightly more than 20%. The rest of the world (Russia, Africa, South America and the Middle East countries) account for a combined 8.8% of the global R&D investments with combined average growth of only about 1.5% per year. Much of the R&D growth in any country around the world is driven by that country’s economic growth.

There are substantial changes that are being seen in industrial R&D makeup. Life science R&D, for example, has been the largest sector in the industrial technology arena. However, the automotive arena is expected to grow their R&D programs due to strong technology shifts from internal combustion to electric propulsion systems, manual to automated driving systems and increasingly integrated electronic systems. Other changes include the rapid and mostly unexpected implementation of self-driving cars; the emergence of electric cars, which could supplant a significant portion of fossil fuel-powered vehicles in a relatively short period; and the availability of large amounts of fossil fuels at low prices not experienced in more than 20 years. Fast forward to today, unlike what was known before, there’s an oil glut on the world market, gas prices are where they were 25 years ago and the U.S. has considered exporting crude oil from its shale oil reserves. Saudi Arabia and other traditional oil exporting countries will be faced with serious economic difficulties because of low gas prices.

Solar-powered technologies continue to be a relatively small sector of the overall energy industry that is populated by comparatively smaller technology companies. Most of these small energy companies, with strong future market forecasts, expect to increase their R&D spending in 2016. Solar cells, power converters and associated hardware continue to improve in overall effiencies, while dropping lightly in overall prices. In the Automotive industry, lithium-ion batteries are improving which in combination with computers can bring about new trends in automotive markets. Solar-panel system, also for small industries and other consumer uses, can shape additional new trends. 

Except in the automotive arena, the U.S. industries gained more technological advantage than they lost in many other areas. This includes advanced materials, commercial aerospace, communications, computing/IT, energy, environmental, instrumentation, life science, military/defense, and pharmaceutical/ biotech. 

What regards R&D, academia has become the go-to organization for performing advanced basic research and even applied research when government or industrial organizations are looking for cost-effective ways to perform a development program. For many years now, academia has performed the majority of basic research as industrial organizations have reduced their involvement in basic research. The U.S. university and college systems continue to lead other countries in research, technology and innovation. For example, of the top 10 universities in the world, eight are in the U.S. (Harvard, Stanford, MIT, UC-Berkeley, Princeton, CalTech, Columbia and the Univ. of Chicago) and two are in the U.K. (Cambridge and Oxford). Of the top 20 universities in the world, 16 are in the U.S., with Switzerland’s ETH and Univ. College London being the non-U.S.-based standouts—the other top U.S. universities include Yale, UCLA, Cornell, UC- San Diego, Univ. of Washington, Univ. of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins and UC-San Francisco. This ranking system is run by the Center for World Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong Univ., China. However, five of the top 10 in the Economic Intelligence Unit’s 2015 Global Talent Index are in Europe—Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. The same countries as were in the top 10 for the 2011 version of the Index. The U.S. was number one in both versions of the Index. The Nordic region of Europe is noteworthy as it has four of the top countries in the talent index. The Nordic region as a whole has high government spending, as a percentage of GDP which is maintained throughout all stages of education, right through to universities, which explains why it has outperformed so many prominent rivals in the developed world in the overall index. The linguistic and technical skills of the Nordic countries’ working population are also particularly strong.

What concerns R&D staff, the researchers surveyed indicated that money is likely the most important component for maintaining and attracting researchers. Tied closely to creating a strong research staff is the creation of an innovation culture within the R&D organization.

R&D has been, still and will remain imperative for understanding and making the “best” of “our” lives on planet “earth”. Here comes three questions: first, how to assess the outcome and “how best is best”; second, which lives and which are those included in “our”; third, what are the impacts on “earth” and would the earth provide all the necessary ingredients at all times.  The attached file demonstrates that R&D around the world is still driven with less investments towards solving the threats facing the majority of world population. The focus as far as the majority of the world population is concerned is still geared towards one of the three main sustainability pillars which is “Economy”. The “environment” and “social” issues of the majority of the world population have to remain of much less priority.

https://www.iriweb.org/sites/default/files/2016GlobalR%26DFundingForecast_2.pdf

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