Research and Technology Competence for a Sustainable Development in the BRICS Countries
Study of the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research for the German Council for Sustainable Development
Sustainable development represents a growing challenge for science. Science is responsible for informing us about the type and extent of global problems concerning the climate, the environment, energy supply and the social dimension of "development". It is expected to develop locally effective solutions for global social problems of high complexity. Results from research and science have contributed significantly to being able to better predict our paths into the future in the sense of scenarios, for example, regarding climate change. Analyses such as those by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) or the Stern Report on the expected future costs of climate change present us with clear opportunities and ways to achieve a turnabout, but also with the consequences of a failure to act.
We need a guiding line in order to be able to construct the foundations for an informed debate from the data, models and measurements. The concept of sustainable development is necessary in order to make the right decisions for our future under uncertain conditions. Which are the technologies to invest in? Where will new, as yet unknown and unexplored fields emerge? One example: Is science able to show us a way to use CO2 as a raw material and not regard it as waste? Science is working towards Utopia.
Given the many open questions, risks, opportunities, demands and decisions to be made: It remains undisputed that the necessary reorganization of our society will not succeed without
- technological and social innovations,
- thinking in processes and institutional developments,
- the integration of solutions from politics, science and the economy.
The burdens imposed by modernization upon the environment and society are not only challenges for highly industrialized countries which are concerned with decoupling environmental and resource consumption from economic processes. Fast growing economies with an increase of GDP of more than 8% per year have long been causing serious and dramatic damages to the environment and the social cohesion of societies which eat up a large part of the welfare impacts. This results in increasing resource scarcity and rising prices for raw materials as well as a loss of biodiversity. To manage a global turnaround in the direction of sustainable development, a fundamental role will be played by building up research and knowledge capacities in sustainability when shaping our ties with developing and newly industrializing countries.
Against this background, the German Council for Sustainable Development together with the GTZ (Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit GmbH) conducted a dialogue about sustainability and growth with large emerging economies and transition countries in 2005. The result was that the Council for Sustainable Development recommended the German federal government to give this kind of dialogue initiative more scope in its national sustainability policy. The German Federal Ministry for Education and Research has followed this advice and is continuing a dialogue project in cooperation with the German Development Institute (DIE) with the title "Dialogue 4S: Sustainable Solutions - Science for Sustainability - International Dialogue of the BMBF on sustainability research". This aims to break open the thematic restriction and widen the focus of Germany's technology and research competence in sustainability.
To lay the ground for and, at the same time, provide an impulse for this research dialogue, the Council for Sustainable Development commissioned a comparative study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (FhG ISI) to analyse the technological performance and scientific competence in Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) and Germany, the results of which are now available. Six selected sustainability topics were subjected to a critical inventory and supplemented by German companies' experiences of cooperation in BRICS countries. For the first time, the study puts the global responsibility of Germany's research competence to the test. Germany has a responsibility to act as partner in structuring the economic development in developing countries and emerging economies in a sustainable way by allowing them access to its knowledge and technical solutions. The future markets of these countries will increasingly determine the demand for research results on sustainability. The international orientation of the research landscape and the coming together and interaction of different cultural systems, experiences and access to knowledge and technology development ultimately represent a source for the development of innovations.