Economic development in context
Among the points he emphasized during his visit was the need to not apply a single economic theory too broadly across countries. Countries, he said, have different national contexts that necessitate different theories on how to approach development. Awareness of this need, he said, was part of how China was able to become a ‘growth economy’ in the 1990s.
For developed countries, much of innovation is on the true cutting edge. Whereas for many developing countries old technologies can provide new and missing critical services. This is an example of a major structural difference that rises from different national experiences, he said. It also demonstrates that developing countries generally need better existing technologies that will address pressing needs at home, such as poverty or water availability.
“You can’t use a first world focus, or you will miss the big picture,” he said. “We need to adopt this understanding of the reality of the condition of the country, and what works.”
Meanwhile, some applied sciences needed to adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution may be a challenge in particular for the developing world. Social sciences can help by taking into account the life of people in developed countries, and identifying existing technologies in sectors such as agriculture and energy to supply those countries with the resources they need. And the kind of scientific growth nurtured by TWAS, he noted, can provide for a shift in the nation’s economic context, and make home-grown innovation possible.
“TWAS is a good bridge, in the sense that it can allow young scientists in developing countries to have a community, to share their experiences, and to contribute to scientific progress,” Lin said, “as well as provide scientists from developing countries with appropriate recognition for their accomplishments.”