Urgently needed: technological transitions for the SDGs

Dietrich Van der Weken

October 5, 2019

Since January 2017, Dietrich Van der Weken is the General Manager of the G-STIC conferences series initiated by VITO, the prime research and technology organization in Belgium. Dietrich joined VITO in July 2009, focusing on cleantech innovation. Until December 2016, Dietrich was the Program Manager of MIP, the Environmental and Energy Technology Innovation Platform, a subsidy program that focuses on accelerating the transition to the sustainable management of energy, materials, and water. Dietrich holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics, obtained at Ghent University, Belgium.

Many excellent contributions were delivered at the 7th International Conference on Sustainable Development (ICSD) during Climate Week NYC 2019. But it was Queen Mathilde of Belgium’s inaugural speech on the urgent need for technological transitions for the SDGs that mainly struck a chord with the entire G-STIC team. Let me briefly explain why.

As a well-known advocate for the SDGs, Queen Mathilde rightfully pointed out at

Urgency should become our motto… We need to transform. Radically and much faster.

Hitting the nail on the head

Queen Mathilde really hit the nail on the head when she added that

Several recent analyses point to the fact that we could probably achieve the SDGs more efficiently by pursuing policies that target several of them simultaneously. For instance, by focusing on food, health and agriculture collectively, rather than individually.

That’s precisely what we have been working for with the entire G-STIC team over the past years. It’s also what we will continue to do with even more dedication in the years to come. G-STIC is all about integrated technological solutions tackling multiple sustainable development challenges at the same time, and covering aspects of health, housing, food, water, education, energy and climate at the same time.

With G-STIC, we firmly believe that the deployment of market-ready integrated technological solutions is a crucial step if we want to transform the current production and consumption patterns and open doors to new development and growth opportunities for all. 

Engaging with international processes that forward STI for the SDGs is crucial

During her inaugural speech at ICSD, Queen Mathilde resolutely recommended her audience

…to participate in the STI Forum and special events … if you want to be part of the technological transitions that will move the world onto a more sustainable development path.

A strong engagement with international processes that forward STI for the SDGs has always been at the core of what G-STIC is doing. This engagement explains why previous editions of the G-STIC conference were successful in helping to put technological transitions for the SDGs on the international policy agenda.

With this year’s edition of the G-STIC conference, we aim at accelerating technological transitions for the SDGs and start building a living library of transformative technologies across sectors. This kind of library is indispensable for policymakers developing STI roadmaps for the SDGs, while captains of industry can use this library for exploring new business opportunities.

Technological transitions for the SDGs will heavily rely on changes in the private sector

Engagement of the private sector is but one of the elements that Queen Mathilde emphasized during her inaugural speech. As she highlighted,

Progress needs to be achieved on all fronts. The transformation agenda will rely heavily on changes in the private sector.

G-STIC works across national and sectoral boundaries, bringing together policymakers, researchers and delegates from the private sector. In particular, G-STIC gives a platform to private companies and organisations that are turning climate change challenges into business opportunities.

At our technology exhibition during the G-STIC 2019 conference, companies from Brazil, China, Flanders, Kenya, Nigeria, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, as well as VITO, will showcase market-ready proven technologies. Policymakers, researchers and organisations will be able to discover the services our exhibitors have on offer, and understand how their know-how and solutions can help them contribute to achieving the SDGs.

Education to support technological transitions for the SDGs

I’d like to conclude with one more quote from Queen Mathilde’s inaugural speech at the 7th International Conference on Sustainable Development.

Finally, it is obvious that education around the SDGs will remain a key entry point. Quality education is a goal in itself, but education about and for the SDGs is vital if we want to develop new ways of thinking.

I concur, and I heartily recommended you to read the full text of her speech on the Belgian Monarchy website.

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