Jan. 27, 2017


USAID Should Speed Application of Science, Technology, and Innovation to Global Development Challenges

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Agency for International Development should speed its transformation into a global leader and catalyst in applying science, technology and innovation to the challenges facing developing countries, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  In doing so, it should draw on resources from across U.S. government agencies, developing countries, the public and private research enterprise, research universities in the U.S. and abroad and other development agencies.

Among USAID’s top priorities should be scaling up successful interventions, strengthening host countries’ capacity to apply science and technology to their own development, and expanding investments in science, technology, and innovation that engage and empower women, the report says.

“In the long run, USAID’s focus on science, technology and innovation is critical to improve development outcomes,” said Michael Clegg, chair of the committee that wrote the report, former foreign secretary of the National Academy of Sciences, and professor emeritus at the University of California, Irvine. “Partnerships in all three of these areas can maximize the impact of individual and group efforts in order to reach millions – rather than just thousands – of people with unmet needs.”

In recent years, USAID has begun to transform itself from its traditional role of designing and wholly funding stand-alone projects in individual countries to that of a global broker of organizations and resources to achieve impacts that are broader, more sustainable, and more cost-effective. Appropriate partnerships with other donor nations/agencies and host nations are vital in reaching national and global development goals, says the new report.

USAID should elevate scaling of successful projects to be a core priority, in order to improve the sustainability and cost-effectiveness of interventions and to expand their impact, the report says. Emerging research on scaling points to the importance of particular steps – for example, planning for scaling impact from project inception, tracking progress closely, and building the business case for others to sustain service provision after a project concludes. Identifying private- and public-sector institutions for scaling success is essential. Because scaling can involve commercialization of publicly funded efforts, private-sector advisers and partners will have much to offer, the report notes.

Another overarching goal for USAID should be to invest in strengthening host countries’ institutional capacity to apply science, technology and innovation in their own development, and to ensure training of individuals in higher education and professional schools, both in-country and in U.S. universities. The agency should develop a broad range of programs to support efforts to build capacity for research in host countries, such as top-quality, relevant training for students at various levels; support for science institutions; and strengthening of regulatory bodies.

In addition, USAID should expand investments in science, technology, and innovation that engage and empower women, the report says. Expanding women’s opportunities leads to better living conditions through improvements in education, health, and agriculture, and through access to technology and economic opportunities.  And empowering women through education and access to the formal economy can sharply increase the global human potential to address societal challenges. In addition to gender analyses of initiatives specifically targeted at equality and empowerment, each mission director should ensure that all science, technology, and innovation projects consider gender at all stages of a project cycle.

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit http://national-academies.org.  A roster follows.

Sara Frueh, Media Relations Officer
Rebecca Ray, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail news@nas.edu national-academies.org/newsroom

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Copies of The Role of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships in the Future of the U.S. Agency for International Development are available at www.nap.edu or by calling 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).



Policy and Global Affairs Division
Development, Security, and Cooperation

Committee on the Role of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships in the Future of the U.S. Agency for International Development

M.T. Clegg1 (chair)
Professor Emeritus
University of California

DeAndra Beck
Associate Dean for Research
International Studies and Programs
Michigan State University
East Lansing

Thomas J. Bollyky
Senior Fellow for Global Health, Economics, and Development
Council on Foreign Relations
Washington, D.C.

Gargee Ghosh
Director of Development Policy and Finance
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Washington, D.C.

Julie A. Howard
Senior Advisor to the Associate Provost and Dean
International Studies and Programs
Michigan State University
East Lansing

Christine L. Moe
Gangarosa Professor of Safe Water and Sanitation
Rollins School of Public Health
Emory University

Francis J. Ricciardone
American University in Cairo
Cairo, Egypt

Rebecca R. Richards-Kortum1,2
Malcolm Gillis University Professor
Rice University

Melanie Walker
Senior Adviser to the President
The World Bank
Washington, D.C.

Amos Winter
Assistant Professor
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Richard E. Bissell
Study Director

1Member, National Academy of Sciences
2Member, National Academy of Engineering