Countries in the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) are falling behind potential on many metrics of innovation performance. R&D spending remains below 1 per cent of GDP, almost entirely publicly funded, and SPECA countries rely extensively on natural resources, agriculture, and remittance flows for economic growth. To ensure the shift to a more sustainable economic growth, a transition to higher value-added sectors and economic diversification is needed, and innovation must take centre stage on the policy agendas of the SPECA countries to make this happen.
Innovation would also be crucial to foster the sustainable use of natural resources, sustainable trade (in line with the SPECA Principles of Sustainable Trade), digital and green transformation (the focus of the upcoming 70th Commission session), and transition to circular economy (theme of the 69th UNECE Commission session) – all of which are of particular importance to the resource-dependent SPECA sub-region with its untapped potential. Hence, innovation policies and institutions carefully tailored to the transition context of the SPECA sub-region would need to be central to such transformations.
UNECE supports the SPECA countries to design, implement and monitor innovation policy, including promotion of innovative entrepreneurship, for example, through handbooks on business incubators and on support to innovative high-growth firms. To complement these efforts, a draft policy paper on “New innovation policy for the transition economies of the SPECA sub-region” is being developed. It will look at how innovation policy in the SPECA sub-region can be a catalyst for economic transformation and generate positive spill overs for the wider economy, while helping to address sustainable development challenges, as well as accelerate transition to green and circular economy.
On 19 May, UNECE organised a webinar to gather inputs from SPECA stakeholders to develop a policy paper on new innovation policy approaches. The discussions also highlighted the interest and readiness of the SPECA representatives to step up efforts to support innovative entrepreneurship, including through a planned SPECA Network of Business Incubators and Accelerators for Sustainable Development and associated UNECE training events. This activity will support the SPECA Innovation Strategy for Sustainable Development and its Action Plan.
To find out more about the webinar, please click here.