1630.jpgNovember 2008 | By Yanire Braña, Professor at IE Business School

Itâ??s true that science and technology are the future, but some still face too many obstacles when it comes to accessing todayâ??s knowledge. The development of technological innovation is one of the main factors for guaranteeing long-term economic growth and minimising associated risks and entry barriers.

The responsible use of science and technology requires first of all solving or at least minimising the associated risks and problems. By the same token, the promotion of technological innovation also requires that the current tension among the players involved in the production of science and technology be solved, and that common ground for understanding among social, scientific and political interests be found. However, with a view to approaching innovation from other standpoints, it is our responsibility to reconcile science with society. In this particular case, the Minister of Innovation, Cristina Garmendia, has recently highlighted the need to combat the new forms of social and economic exclusion generated by unequal access to the knowledge society in which we live.

Indeed, unequal access to knowledge, which is largely due to the lack of technological know-how or resources, should be the first barrier to be overcome. The current gender gap regarding the use and adoption of technologies in Spain reveals an urgent need for measures and initiatives aimed at supporting women´s progress in the world of science and technology.There are several ways and actions for promoting the professional development of women on three levels: personal, corporate and socio-political. However, the actions taken should not be exclusive or ignore the experience and know-how of great professionals. Experience must be correctly constituted through social and technological structures to extend benefits to society as a whole. In Spain, we now have innovative national projects, which combine technologies and tools to support high-potential women, as is the case of IE Business School´s MET program (Mujer, Empresa y Tecnología -Women, Enterprise and Technology), which has now begun to reap its first rewards.

Any innovative technological initiative that places emphasis on social impact and value over market and economic value unequivocally contributes to improving not only corporate productivity, but also that of employees and, ultimately, society. The creation of areas for reflection and the exchange of innovative experiences not only on a national scale but also worldwide has become a very interesting way of establishing support networks and links with other countries.

October 7 of this year saw the end of the 5th Annual Science and Technology in Society Encounter (STS) in Kyoto. The purpose of the STS Forum, founded four years ago by the Japanese politician Umi Koji, is to explore new opportunities for global development through science and technology. This latest addition has brought together scientists, politicians and economic leaders from more than 90 countries, regions and international bodies. The two basic lines on which it has been based are harmony with nature and the effects of information and communication technologies on humanity, issues that are still to be dealt with by the science and technology policies of international governments.

This forum represents a real opportunity for Spain to set up links with other countries in the area of innovation through the exchange of experiences and values and, above all, the assumption of a commitment to the future. For the first time, a Spanish minister, Cristina Garmendia, attended the event to confirm her desire to open up the national R&D system.

This type of political initiative is very welcome and needs to be complemented with other initiatives on both a corporate and an individual scale. Spanish universities and business schools play an essential role in promoting and fostering innovation through the creation of a neutral space for work and collaboration between enterprise, governments and academia.

Hence, the measures required to improve the competitiveness of employees and Spanish companies includes making use of networks, support for research excellence and internationalisation.