Application of Science and Technology for Development
August 23, 2011 — 3:45 p.m.
||Marilyn Pifer, CDRF Global
Cathy Chan-Halbrendt, University of Hawaii
Tammo Steenhuis, Cornell University
||Gary Bittner, USAID Office of Education
The wide range of initiatives represented in this session shed light on the nature of innovation and partnership in development and the vital junction of science, technology and business that keeps an economy competitive. As CDRF Global’s Marilyn Pifer said in the discussion that followed this session’s presentations, “the links between research and business development are not always obvious, particularly to scientists and researchers.”
Similarly, the conditions for nurturing relevant and cutting-edge research are not always present, as noted in the presentations on programs in Albania and Ethiopia by Cathy Chan-Halbrendt from the University of Hawaii and Tammo Steenhuis from Cornell University, respectively. In each of these cases, trust building emerged as a common theme and a critical role in developing a fruitful and respectful relationship between institutions, faculty, and leaders of both of the public and private sectors.
Tammo Steenhuis noted that a moderate level of funding was perhaps more likely to correspond with trust building and program flexibility, particularly in the beginning of a partnership between institutions of higher education. For Steenhuis, higher levels of funding tend to correspond with a more rigid program structure that is not often desirable for a budding institutional relationship still looking to further develop its own goals and structures. Cathy Chan-Halbrendt also noted that trust-building can be challenged by the need to quickly show program results and prove program worth to senior faculty. In the case of Albania, for example, in spite of persistent time and funding constraints, Chan-Halbrendt’s partnership has shown steady, incremental success in developing a culture of quality research in the agricultural sciences.
In work implemented by CDRF Global, Technology Training Offices (TTOs) are established as meeting grounds where science, industry, and government rally around innovation for development. Working in Russia, the Maghreb, and the Middle East, the TTOs promote dialog, business mentoring, and occasional funding for promising innovators. The TTOs also encourage nuanced understandings of the roles that science and technology can play in wider discussions on growth and openness. Marilyn Pifer described the TTOs as “do-tanks,” not “think-tanks,” because they are action-oriented and encourage engagement in productive exchange with industry and public sector leaders.
Key take away points Although these programs are not directly revenue-generating to any large extent, they all share a common conviction that in the long-term, a vibrant, well-supported science and technology research community will lead to sustained development. There is a strong and necessary link between science and technology and development. In developing a fruitful and respectful partnership between institutions, trust is one of the key elements for success.