By JULIA DAY, STEPS Centre member

As the world’s economic leaders gather at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to thrash out a plan to get economies moving again, members of the STEPS Centre’s Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto project are here at the OECD‘s headquarters in Paris to look at new ways of harnessing this current state of change and flux as an opportunity to help address poverty reduction and sustainable development.

OECD and UNESCO have together organised this event, Innovation for Development: Convertsing Knowledge to Value. The aim, says chair Tony Marjoram of UNESCO, is to share knowledge between developed and developing countries to promote innovation for development and help address the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those that address poverty reduction and sustain development.

The organisers would like us to leave this workshop on Friday with a written agenda for action; the workshop is expected to contribute to the identification and analysis of best practices for the effective promotion, repoting, measurement and assessment of innovation aimed at: coherent approaches to innovation policy; better targetted innovation to help meet global challenges such as climate change, or to cope with the consequences of the global challenges; and the creation and strengthening of the development of human capital, and the use of networks as part of the innovation process.

The two and a half days’ worth of discussion is also aimed at feeding in to the OECD Innovation Strategy. And this strategy is very much open to change in the context of the current global financial crisis. Pier Carlo Padoan, Deputy Secretary General of the OECD made the point in his opening address that even if we dealing with areas far away from financal crisis, when crisis over it won’t be business as usual: “This is where this work (on innovation for development) is very important. We have to think about innovation in developing countries as a strategy to rebuild the sustainable growth mechanisms after this crisis.

Mr Padoan said innovation efforts and spending could become casualties of this crisis as governments divert money into fighting the effects of the situation, so huge effort is needed to make sure this crisis does not destroy innovation for development.

“We all need to work together and share knowledge and thinking for new solutions that use innovation as a powerful instrument to tackle development problems.”

We look forward to the next couple of days and will see if an action agenda evolves from the discussions here.