Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

With over half the world population now living in cities, mass transport and renewable energy are becoming ever more important, as are the growth of new industries and information and communication technologies (SDG Fund, 2019).

The facts

Industrialisation drives economic growth, creates job opportunities and thereby reduces income poverty. Innovation advances the technological capabilities of industrial sectors and prompts the development of new skills.  Infrastructure provides the basic physical systems and structures essential to the operation of a society or enterprise. Sustained investment in infrastructure and innovation are crucial drivers of economic growth and development. However, basic infrastructure like roads, information and communication technologies, sanitation, electrical power and water remains scarce in many developing countries (SDG Knowledge Platform, 2019).

At the moment, 2.3 billion people still lack access to basic sanitation. In some low-income African countries, infrastructure constraints cut businesses’ productivity by around 40 percent. Moreover, 2.6 billion people in developing countries do not have access to constant electricity, and more than 4 billion people still do not have access to the Internet – of which 90 percent are in the developing world. There are opportunities too. The renewable energy sectors currently employ more than 2.3 million people, which could reach 20 million by 2030. Also, in developing countries, barely 30 percent of agricultural products undergo industrial processing, compared to 98 percent high-income countries, which suggests that there are great opportunities for developing countries in agribusiness (UNDP, 2019).

The focus of SDG 9

The focus of sustainable development goal (SDG) 9 is to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. These pillars all share the objective of achieving socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic development. Realizing SDG 9 by 2030 requires overcoming resource constraints, building and strengthening developing countries’ capacities, and exploring innovative ways to solve development challenges. SDG 9 has approximately 20 targets and indicators related to its three pillars and is closely linked to other SDGs related to job creation, sustainable livelihoods, improved health, technology and skills development, gender equality, food security, green technologies and climate change (SDG Knowledge Hub, 2019).

Implications for business

Ageing, degraded or non-existent infrastructure makes conducting good business challenging. Business relies on materials, resources, labour and service support from all corners of the world and the ability to access them efficiently is key to establishing new markets. Computing and technology-based skills are of significant value to most businesses today, and consumers of common goods and services live on every continent. However, basic infrastructure supporting technologies, communications, transportation, and sanitation that business relies on is not universally available, hindering economic growth and societal progress. Promoting sustainable industries, and investing in scientific research and innovation, are all important ways to facilitate sustainable development (SDG Fund, 2019).

Promoting innovation

More than 4 billion people still do not have access to the internet. Bridging this digital divide is crucial to ensure equal access to information and knowledge, and consequently foster innovation and entrepreneurship. This presents an opportunity for business. By committing to sustainable industrialization and promoting innovation across company operations, businesses can contribute to development efforts in the regions in which they operate through upgrading local infrastructure, investing in resilient energy and communications technologies, and making these technologies available to all people, including marginalized groups, who might not have access otherwise. Global companies can also promote inclusive infrastructure development by bringing valuable financial services and employment opportunities to smaller and/or minority-owned businesses (SDG Compass, 2019).

Delivering infrastructure

Leadership on SDG 9 represents a significant market opportunity for businesses in other ways too. For example, retrofits and installation of new infrastructure is a market worth $3.7 trillion annually. Delivering this infrastructure can allow businesses to access new markets for their products and services, as well as access to underserved labour markets and resources, while respecting international standards for environment and social impacts. The transition to a green, resilient industrial and infrastructure base globally represents a significant investment opportunity with large rewards for businesses that can position themselves at the leading edge of the sectors that must deliver it (SDG Blueprint for Business, 2017).

Interconnectedness to other SDGs

Action on SDG 9 is strongly interconnected with many other SDGs, most notably SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities, and SDG 12 on responsible consumption and production. Efforts to create new opportunities for innovation and employment in developing countries directly relate to SDG 8. Infrastructure-dependent SDGs including those relating to food (SDG 2), water and sanitation (SDG 6), energy (SDG 7), and climate action (SDG 13) will also benefit from action on SDG 9. Leading action must be managed such that it does not risk exacerbating existing inequalities, or creating new ones, and so that it is not contributing to any form of corruption and violation of human rights that would negatively impact on a range of SDGs (SDG Blueprint for Business, 2017).

SDG Video

The video on SDG 9 is created by our CR3+ partner ISAE Brazilian Business School (ISAE). The video highlights two projects that are related to SDG 9. The first project is called Jardins de Mel, which involves placing bee boxes in areas such as parks, schools and community gardens. The project raises awareness about the environment, the contribution of insects to maintaining life, pollination and the importance of ecosystem services. The second project is a start-up from Curitiba in Brazil that used renewable energy technology to create a mini-plant that generates energy from water and then returns 100% of the water back to its source.

Please enjoy the presentation.

If you would like access to the full video to use in your teaching, please contact Dr Swati Nagpal.

This blog is part of the SDG Series, a series that focuses on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, in the lead up to the CR3+ Conference in October 2019. 

More blogs in the SDG Series:
- An introduction to the Sustainable Development Goals
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 1
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 2
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 3
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 4
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 5
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 6
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 7
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 8