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Towards innovative societies

By Ioan Voicu - posted Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Innovation has become one of the most frequently quoted catch words in global dialogue. It deals with new modalities of converting existing knowledge into ideas that can change the world. The younger generation is in the avant-garde of this process.

In his message for International Youth Day celebrated recently, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the annual event was an opportunity to push for the participation of the world's 1.2 billion young people in all areas of society, as they can bring fresh, innovative thinking to longstanding development concerns.

The G8 Group of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, the United States, Canada and Russia is also a strong advocate of innovation. At its summit in June this year, the grouping reasserted that innovation is one of the crucial drivers of economic growth.


In 2006, the G8 ministers of education affirmed their commitment to shape innovative societies through the provision of solid education and training, and investment in research and skill development.

These ideas were further considered in depth in Trieste, Italy, in May this year, by the G8-Unesco World Forum under the title “Education, Research and Innovation: New Partnership for Sustainable Development”.

By advancing the objective of innovative societies, the G8 and Unesco are expected to help bridge the digital, scientific and development divide between rich and poor countries.

The role of universities is crucial as they are at the very heart of the knowledge society. The push towards continuous innovation requires that education and research be closely connected with the knowledge transfer process.

The basic assumption is that an innovative global society can be achieved by developing and integrating national education and research, and by investing fully in human resource development.

Existing educational systems in many countries are still disconnected from research and innovation. Many obstacles reduce normal educational exchanges at the global level.


Through their joint efforts, the G8 and Unesco have the potential to exert a significant leadership role in this matter. The vital objective is to generate abundant knowledge to solve critical human needs. Achieving this goal demands meaningful reforms.

There is a need for high quality basic education, literacy and gender equality across the globe, especially among the world's poorest nations. It is necessary to build and sustain human and institutional capacity for science, technology and innovation, especially among the world's most scientifically and technologically impoverished nations.

There is a need to protect and promote indigenous knowledge, most notably as invaluable contributions to advancing public health, biodiversity and sustainable development. Knowledge must be treated as a public asset and made accessible to all because it is a powerful tool for eradicating poverty, misunderstanding and suspicion.

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First published in the Bangkok Post on August 12, 2007.

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About the Author

Dr Ioan Voicu is a Visiting Professor at Assumption University in Bangkok

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