The World Bank's Role in Science and Technology

In continued pursuit of its mandate to help countries reduce poverty and improve living standards through sustainable growth and investment in people, the World Bank has renewed, and deepened, its commitment to enhancing the contribution of science and technology to economic and social development worldwide. Through effective partnerships with other multilateral institutions, government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, the Bank aspires to apply its financial resources and extensive knowledge base towards increased efforts in the S&T sectors, which will help create the foundations of knowledge-based economies in its client countries.

It is important to bear in mind that the World Bank's primary interest is not in the development of new technologies, but in their ability to facilitate a wider development agenda. Hence they are usually introduced as part of a package of activities which may include policy and regulatory reform, financial or management restructuring, private sector participation and other 'non-hardware' investments which may have equal, or even greater, impact on environmentally and socially sustainable development. The Bank has been financing scientific and technological projects, and project components, since its inception. During the nineties, Bank support for S&T-related projects averaged US$ 560 million per year.

Clean Energy Technologies plays an important role in the World Bank's Lending Portfolio. The Bank is involved at both the Supply Side, in which the rapid growth of gas turbine technology, particularly in combined cycles (CCGT), is the most significant example of a new, cleaner energy technology introduced into the power sectors of Bank clients in the past 10-15 years, as well as on the Demand Side, in which the Bank's efforts have been focused on facilitating the uptake of demand side efficiency technologies, through the development of energy service companies (ESCOs) and other intermediary entities. Through this mechanism for example projects have upgraded district heating systems to reduce system losses through better distribution systems, controls and management. Further the Bank has actively been involved in Fuel Switching and Improvement projects and in financing the development of Renewable Energy Sources

The World Bank is currently devising a comprehensive strategy for future lending that capitalizes on the pivotal role of science and technology in the development process. The lending program for scientific and technological capacity is expected to increase, as the creation and application of knowledge play an increasingly essential part in development efforts. These investments will focus on institutions, policy reform, selfenhancing financing mechanisms, and human capital development and will make effective use of state-of-the-art technologies.

In parallel with the development of an S&T strategy, the Bank is implementing a number of innovative actions. These include projects undertaken under the aegis of the Millennium Science Initiative (MSI). The MSI utilizes the Bank's existing lending instruments, but strongly emphasizes the need for countries to improve the performance of their science and technology systems. MSI projects are designed to stimulate national S&T systems to function according to international best practice for research funding. Through this and other actions, the Bank joins the international S&T community in placing high priority on the use of knowledge for sustainable development.

  • Authors: Lauritz B. Holm-Nielsen
  • Year: 2000
  • Organisation: The World Bank
  • Publisher: The World Bank Group
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