Manifesto: Luc Soete


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Luc Soete spoke on the old and new Manifestos, globalisation, population, innovation and research at the Manifesto Roundtable in the Hague, 24 November 2009.

The Roundtable was hosted by the 3TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology -

Luc Soete is professor of international economic relations at Maastricht University and director of UNU-MERIT.

To find out more about the Roundtables, visit

Published in: Technology, Economy & Finance
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Manifesto: Luc Soete

  1. 1. The new Sussex Manifesto: some provocative comments
  2. 2. The old Sussex Manifesto <ul><li>Knew both Manifesto well and its authors. Actually I probably have the largest number of co-publications of anybody here with several of them; </li></ul><ul><li>Have always been highly critical of the Manifesto as Martin and Geoff will remember; </li></ul><ul><li>The Sussex Manifesto has been very influential; it was part of Sussex strong position at that time in international development policy circles, boith OECD and UN. </li></ul><ul><li>In many ways, the Sussex Manifesto also formed the basis for the “self-reliance” strategy in Tanzania, and with respect to technology formed the basis of import substitution strategies in Latin America and the belief in the need for technological independence of the new, “third world” nations (For a strong critique of that notion of technological indpeendency see Soete, 1979 published in Seers, 1981). </li></ul><ul><li>So, my first comment: it might have been better to get first, 40-year after the facts, a diagnosis – a self-evaluation study – not only of the positive policy impact but also of the negative policy damage the Manifesto produced, if only not to fall in the same trap... I assume that`policy researchers are keen to learn! </li></ul>
  3. 3. The new Sussex Manifesto <ul><li>Different words but similar meanings or similar words and very different meanings? From “Science and technology to developing countries” to “innovation, sustainability, development”, the political nature of innovation, and the new 3 D’s: “direction, distribution and diversity”, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>All this makes very little sense to me: mixing all sorts of things and using vague and unclear topics: we talk today, I guess at SPRU, IDS, and at UNU-MERIT about innovation for sustainable development . </li></ul><ul><li>Central background of the shift in thinking in our area is the one from S&T and industrial R&D towards innovation, sometimes carried out without even research, broadly more more user-led, with old (desig, engineering) STS activities playing a more prominent role and taking place in non-traditional, new decentralized places (Mike Gibbon’s mode 2, see also for an overview of this literature Chris Freeman and my own overview article in RP, 2009). </li></ul><ul><li>What has radically changed over the last 40 years: globalisation (also of knowledge and contrary to Sussex Manifesto assumptions) and the physical unsustainbility of global development at present technology levels. Those two issues are related and question actually anotgher famous SPRU and Sussex initiative, its critique on the Club of Rome ( Malthus with a computer ). </li></ul>
  4. 4. On G lobalisation: a historical return to normal? <ul><li>What remains striking from ahistorical perspective is how the two largest countries in the world: China and India, saw their share of world population and their share of world GDP more or less continuously fall over the period 1820 till 1973. Actually, I would hypothesize that in 1973, the imbalance between the world’s concentration of GDP and the world’s concentration of population was the highest the industrialized world ever winessed. </li></ul><ul><li>The recent rapid industrialisation of China and India appears though non-sustainable. It leads not just to global financial imbalances but also to other resource constraints, and under present technologies greenhouse effects. At the same time, fast economic growth in India and China appears a social necessity </li></ul><ul><li>The advent of the ICT revolution in the 90’s has radically challenged the national-territorial bias in research and policy making. T he cluster of ICT represents from a global perspective a historically unique process of technological, organisational and above all social transformation in terms of speed and world-wide impact. A level playing field in aspirations : in consumption, income and quality of life (see my recent Malthus’revenge ). </li></ul>
  5. 5. G-5 share of population and GDP
  6. 6. But unsustainable at global level
  7. 7. A new emerging innovation development paradigm? <ul><li>Traditionally innovation has been driven by professional use demand directed towards the tip of the income pyramid: the long tail of product quality, </li></ul><ul><li>In a global setting, this has offered growth expansion opportunities to global firms thanks to rising income inequality in developed and emerging economies. </li></ul><ul><li>Present crisis is indirectly also the illustration of the unsustainable growth nature of this innovation process: the sudden “fall out” of (high income) demand in developed countries appears also an illustration of the conspicuous nature of much of this consumer demand; </li></ul><ul><li>Search on the part of the business community in the absence of Keynesian global redistribution policies for “long tails” growth elsewhere… remember Ford’s T-model: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Growth at middle income levels, youngsters, elderly, green consumers, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Growth at low income levels: bottom of the income pyramid innovations (Prahalad), local grassroots innovations (Anil Gupta). </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Research insights from the South <ul><li>Developing markets raise some of the most motivating research/innovation challenges </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Autonomy, unwired to high quality infrastructure (energy, water, roads, terrestrial communication); </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Low education hence necessity of simplicity in use; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Less maintenance/repair facilities, so an intrinsic need for long term sustainability; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Extreme income inequalities with strong needs in urban slums and poor rural villages, but little current purchasing power and high living risks, hence low willingness to invest or borrow money in the long term. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>These features appear also and increasingly of particular value to consumers in developed countries: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Autonomy of high quality infrastructure as “freedom of movement”; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Shift in the democratization of innovation: from the needs of sophisticated, bèta users to the needs of (digital) illiterates; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Need for zero maintenance and ecological sustainable: cradle to cradle </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Relevance of new financial products such as micro-credit and micro-insurance in poor urban areas </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. UN advice <ul><li>We are ourselves of course a UNU agency so part of the UN family... </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult to give ourselves advice and many of the things I just set out here we actually try to do: the FINISH project on micro-insurance in sanitation in India; the DFID Research Into Use project; the access to medicine project; etc. </li></ul><ul><li>But if I would be forced to coem up with a sepcific recommendation for the UN, I would suggest to replace in the names of all existing organisations and agencies, the words and concepts of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Science and Technology with Innovation; and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Development with Sustainable Development </li></ul></ul><ul><li>At this moment activities carried out in those agencies doesn’t really cover any more the central issues at stake as argued here. </li></ul><ul><li>... and by the way maybe the people at Sussex and STEPS should do the same thing: IDS as ISDS, SPRU as IPRU and STEP as SIEP! </li></ul>