In the Caribbean science and technology (S&T) have had inconsistent support and consequently disappointing results. Research and development and other S&T institutions have been created and policy and plans written, but coherent knowledge infrastructures have yet to emerge. University departments and research centres, devoted to S&T, have existed for decades, but the transforming positive effects of these tools, as seen in the industrialized and recently developed countries, are still only forlorned hopes in the region. Confidence in S&T as development instruments still remains elusive.
On top of this, countries in the Caribbean face serious socio-economic problems that only scientific research, innovation and knowledge can solve. For example, those of clean and affordable energy, food security and growing degradation of fragile environments, still present chronic challenges. These difficulties have contributed to enemic economic growth with insufficient number of jobs and possibilities for new occupations, with heightened social and political tension, much acrimony, class discrimination and blatant inequality.
Although much is said publically about the importance of S&T these imperatives are considered optional extras. It is not strange for them to be given ceremonial support in one political administration, to be totally ignored by another. At best, S&T receive minimal affirmation mainly for fad and fashion and less for the purposes of serious national development.
The region has produced high quality graduates in science and engineering, however, the majority of them have to ply their talents abroad. At the same time, significant sums are being spent on foreign consultants, technological advice and equipment, some of which are entirely inappropriate to local circumstances and conditions.
The objective of this discourse therefore is to determine what can be done to improve the worsening situation, by exploring the relationships between science, technology, innovation and socio-economic development.
There is a tendency to associate science with technology so closely that they are considered a linear continuum, while innovation is now the new craze which is mentioned in every matter concerning S&T. It is now illogically nailed into the duo of S&T to make a more confusing trio – science, technology and innovation.
There is no doubt that there are organic associations between science and technology and these have profound influences on innovative capacity, however there are natural discontinuities in these relationships that should be respected, especially when execution and implementation are concerned1.
There are clear distinctions between science and technology, and even more variance between these and innovation. While S&T are developmental tools, innovation speaks to imaginative outlooks, or novel ways in which these tools may be used.