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Latin America’s future as a region of innovation will be far from secure if investment in research and development (R&D) continues at current low levels.

©UK Government Service

The new OECD/WTO database on trade in value-added is not just about changing the numbers, but policymakers’ approaches too. It gives trade fresh importance, and a place high on the agenda of the UK’s G8 presidency. 

©OCDE

Knowledge is growth

The growing awareness that knowledge-based capital (KBC) is driving economic growth is prevalent in today’s global marketplace. KBC includes a broad range of intangible assets, like research, data, software and design skills, which capture or express human ingenuity. The creation and application of knowledge is especially critical to the ability of firms and organisations to develop in a competitive global economy and to create high-wage employment.

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The OECD has transformed itself into a policy pathleader on a whole range of public policies–national, regional and local–with the avowed aim of promoting human progress. But is the new OECD a child or a prisoner of its past?

Science and technology play a central role in our society. They are part of everybody’s life, they help to tackle the grand challenges of humankind and they create innovation and jobs and improve quality of life. Science and technology are part of our culture, and in essence define us as a species that “wants to know”–hence why we are called Homo sapiens. But do we really give science its proper value when it comes to taking political decisions?

©Blogads

In 2002 Henry Copeland, chief of Blogads and Pressflex.com, wrote about how blogs, largely unknown at the time, would change web writing and publishing forever. He was right. Then in 2008 in these pages, he told us to bet on Twitter several months before it took off (the OECD opened its first accounts in April 2009). So where is the information world taking us now? Henry provides some fresh thoughts.

©REUTERS/Amr Dalsh

The media is changing, but must assume a leading role in the unfolding narrative of the information world. That includes building trust and involving new voices in the discussion.

©REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud

Did you know that the organisation that brought you the Higgs Boson (“god particle”) also brought you the world wide web? Robert Cailliau, one of its founders, and James Gillies, a first-hand witness, retrace the story.

©Tim Wimborne/Reuters

People create policy, but underpinning their work, and in some ways hidden from view, is a well-developed, smart information and communications infrastructure. It is a fundamental driver of progress.

Did you know that, according to the UN Global Pulse, more data was created in 2011 than in the whole of human history, or at least, since the invention of the alphabet?

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Making strides in scientific innovation is no longer an initiative of just a few select high-income countries. Research and innovation have become increasingly democratised; indeed, Asia’s emerging economies are now gaining prominence as world hubs of scientific research. While the United States remains at the top in terms of the volume of scientific publications produced and collaborations made, these countries are eager to develop their own innovation capabilities, and strengthen their research and academic partnerships.

©Charles Platiau/Reuters

Getting information and communications “right” has always been a necessary condition for delivering sound policy advice; today, there are many more possibilities to generate and to share evidence-based policy insights, but there are also many more competing messages and messengers. Here are two examples.

©Govt. of Israel

Two years after Israel joined the OECD, Sharon Kedmi, Director General at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, is leading a delegation to an important OECD Employment Labour and Social Affairs Committee meeting on 26 October. He spoke with the OECD Observer.

Assets you cannot touch lie behind successful innovations. What are they and how can policy make a difference?

Fifty-three years after the first satellite was launched on 4 October 1957, space-faring nations have moved from forming a very exclusive club of technologically advanced countries to a large group of states from every continent with a wide diversity of capabilities.

Innovation in organisation and management will be needed if sectors are to adjust to new, oil-challenged realities. Supply chains will evolve as a result, notably in transport.

Japan is widely regarded as a leading innovator on the environment. We asked Japan’s Parliamentary Secretary of the Environment, Nobumori Otani, who was in Paris in early May, for his insights.

Innovation is not just about new gadgets, but also about using old technologies in new and improved ways. Sails are a case in point, as SkySails GmbH & Co. KG explains.

“The Red Arrow”, a poem by Paul Durcan, an Irish poet, opens with the line “In the history of transport–is there any other?” Anyone looking at innovation in transport would do well to consider this line. Is history really the history of transport, more than, say, the history of wars and kings, as some would have it? It is a tempting proposition.

Anyone who doubts that policy can spur innovation should look at the Kyoto Protocol. After it was adopted in 1997, the number of patents for certain technologies used to mitigate climate change climbed worldwide. In fact, just six years later, the number of patents on wind technologies had grown more than five-fold, and those on solar photovoltaic and hydro/marine technologies had more than doubled. The number of new patents for other climate change mitigation technologies, such as carbon capture, biofuels and geothermal energy also rose, though at a rate that was not much faster than the increase for patents in general over the same period.

If the transport sector is to make deep cuts in carbon emissions, the carbonintensity of travel must be reduced. For that, policy analysis has to be based on how world markets actually function, and that means understanding what consumers look for when deciding to buy a vehicle, and what drives manufacturers’ decisions too.

On 7 April 2010, a light aircraft with an unusually wide wingspan took off from a small airfield in the Swiss canton of Vaud. During its one-and-a-half hour flight it reached an altitude of 1,200 metres and went through its paces of turns, approaches and landing. Unlike in the legend of Icarus, the sun did not melt this plane’s wings, but actually powered them. This was one of the world’s first solar-powered flights, and the OECD Observer caught up with one of the creators and pilots of the Solar Impulse HBSIA aircraft, Bertrand Piccard.

The tax system can be a powerful policy instrument for spurring innovation. Here is how.

Managing local ecosystems can help create jobs and spur sustainable economic growth.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q3 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Sept 2017 annual
Trade: +4.3% exp, +4.3% imp, Q3 2017
Unemployment: 5.7% Sept 2017
Last update: 14 Nov 2017

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