"The activities of governments, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors need to be closely interlinked to ensure each economy gains the maximum benefit from science, technology and innovation." This view was expressed through the communiqué released by APEC Science Ministers at the end of their 4th meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 12, which was held in conjunction with an APEC Innovation Showcase and a meeting of the APEC R&D Leaders' Forum. After considering the recommendations of APEC R&D leaders, Science Ministers agreed on action under four key policy areas to enhance the capacity of science, technology and innovation to deliver sustainable growth across the region.
Science and technology research and development, generated by appropriately skilled workers, and effectively linked with intellectual property protection and commercialisation, can provide significant and sustainable growth across APEC economies. In addition, the sharing of scientific and technological information across economies can help improve living standards, and be a catalyst to the development of increasingly effective medicines and products that are environmentally friendly. APEC Science Ministers agreed that the benefits are many, but that effective policy direction is required to maximise these benefits.
One of the key challenges facing the APEC region in the coming years is matching the supply of appropriately skilled and educated science and innovation workers with the need to maintain basic sciences, as well as to meet the increasing demands for work in multidisciplinary teams and the ongoing management of development in the areas of science and innovation. Science Ministers acknowledged that Human Capacity Building, the first agreed policy issue, is a top priority for economies in the region as they become increasingly reliant on knowledge-based industries and as more traditional industries become knowledge intensive.
R&D leaders identified a great opportunity for APEC to facilitate human capacity building by moving people around the region in a targeted way. One example put forward was sharing best practices in commercialisation from universities, including the identification of how staff are trained, the use of patent pools and how to leverage the intellectual property system to greatest effect. Linked with this, R&D leaders also recommended that scientists require new skills in areas such as human resource development, finance and leadership in the eIssue ving world of science and technology development. Scientists also need to be more business savvy. A final recommendation in this area was for APEC to explore opportunities for creativity and invention at the interface of indigenous and scientific knowledge systems.
To help address human capacity building needs within the APEC region, Science Ministers instructed APEC's Industrial Science and Technology Working Group (ISTWG) to collect data to allow a thorough analysis and evaluation of the current situation, with a view to developing specific initiatives and policies to effectively build capacity in this area. Additionally, Science Ministers acknowledged science and techology capacity building should also be addressed by educators and commended their communiqué to APEC Education Ministers, who meet in April 2004, inviting them to inform Science Ministers of the outcomes of the meeting.
The ISTWG, in conjunction with the Human Resources Development Working Group, was also tasked by Science Ministers with considering how APEC can facilitate the exchange of science and technology staff. Also to be identified by these working groups are successful policies to promote mobility of science and technology staff drawing on the APEC Architect and APEC Engineer programs. Consideration will also be given to development of curricula that incorporate science, research and technology with business and innovation.
Science Ministers recognised the need to have in place policies which facilitate the operation of national science and innovation systems, under their second agreed policy issue Connecting Research and Innovation. The importance of efficient interaction between science and industry was identified as a driving factor behind the performance of innovation systems, which increases the need for interdisciplinary approaches and collaboration amongst key players. Ministers also reaffirmed the high priority of investment in fundamental research, which acts as an engine to technological innovation and economic growth.
International Science and Technology Networks, the third agreed policy issue, was also considered by both R&D leaders and Science Ministers. R&D leaders noted that, as a matter of urgency, options need to be developed to achieve more effective linkages between the science and technology community and business groupings in the region. The possibility of establishing an APEC research council was recommended to Ministers, which would integrate research efforts in areas of regional interest, particularly in the area of sustainable development. One of the objectives of the council would be to establish links with similar regional bodies such as the European Union. R&D Leaders also put forward the idea of establishing an APEC-based regional directory to build on existing local and national initiatives to develop directories and programs embracing business, venture capitalists and research communities.
Science Ministers noted the important role of modern information and communications technologies in facilitating more effective international networking in science and technology and acknowledged the critical role of the APEC Science and Technology website, ASTWeb (www.apecst.org), in facilitating some of this networking.
Under the final agreed policy issue, Strengthening Technological Cooperation and Encouraging Best Practice in Strategic Planning, Science Ministers noted that establishing mechanisms for multilateral cooperation and leveraging the APEC project knowledge base should enable more effective identification of opportunities to address high priority science and technology issues in the region. The ISTWG was directed by Science Ministers to initiate a comparison of current practices in national strategic planning, including foresighting techniques, to define relevant best practice and review the current directions and topics of APEC-wide foresight studies.
Science Ministers concluded their Communiqué with Recommendations on Sustainability to the 16th Meeting of APEC Ministers' in November, 2004. The recommendations included the need to consider the most effective ways of including sustainable growth concepts and priorities within the priorities of APEC fora, while avoiding unnecessary duplication of the activities of other international organizations. A working definition of sustainable growth was also put forward, "Growth that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."