Science and Technology and Development

Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment, while technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes Over the past 150 years, progress in science and technology has been a key driver of human and societal development, vastly expanding the horizons of human potential and enabling radical transformations in the quality of life enjoyed by millions of people.

The harnessing of modern sources of energy counts among the major accomplishments of past scientific and technological progress. And expanding access to modern forms of energy is itself essential to create the conditions for further progress. All available forecasts point to continued rapid growth in global demand for energy to fuel economic growth and meet the needs of a still-expanding world population.

It is useful to distinguish between several generally accepted phases of technological evolution, beginning with basic scientific research and followed by development and demonstration, RD&D. When all goes well, RD&D is followed by a ‘third D’—the deployment phase— wherein demonstrated technologies cross the threshold to commercial viability and gain acceptance in the marketplace. Typically, government’s role is most pronounced in the early research and development phases of this progression while the private sector plays a larger role in the demonstration and deployment phases.

Nevertheless, government can also make an important contribution in the demonstration and early deployment phases, for example, by funding demonstration projects, providing financial incentives to overcome early deployment hurdles, and helping to create a market for new technologies through purchasing and other policies. Many demonstrated technologies encounter significant market hurdles as they approach the deployment phase; for some—hybrid vehicles, hydrogen as a transport fuel, solar energy, coal-based integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), and fuel cells— cost rather than technological feasibility becomes the central issue. Established private-sector stakeholders can be expected to resist, or even actively undermine, the deployment of new technologies,
thus necessitating additional policy interventions.

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