Africa scientists -:AFP:Getty Images Africa science

The R&D Road to Development

Research and development – into everything from cleaner ovens to preventing family violence – delivers some of the highest social benefits of any form of development intervention. Yet R&D is rarely the highest priority when development aid money is being allocated.

COPENHAGEN – When famine strikes, governments and international donors step in with life-saving aid. And rich countries give more than $130 billion each year not only to feed the starving, but also to build crucial infrastructure and reduce gaps in access to education, health care, and clean water and sanitation worldwide.

All of this is vitally important. But one of the most powerful investments the development community could make is not in today’s problems, but in research that will address tomorrow’s challenges.

A dollar spent on research and development has been shown consistently to deliver some of the highest social benefits of any form of policy intervention. More spending on R&D would avoid many of the typical concerns expressed in donor countries about “funding corruption.” And there are large gaps in the knowledge base that research could close. This requires charting new territory beyond popular research topics like alternative energy and vaccines.

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