Innovating with Purpose: Perspectives from the SDG 9 Leadership Forum

sdg 9 - industry, innovation, infrastructure

innovating with purpose: sdg 9SDG Goal 9 Leadership Forum
hosted by GlobeScan / VMware

Read the full report from our online discussion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.
Learn from the perspectives from more than 150 participants who explored the critical role technology innovation and digital infrastructure can play in achieving the United Nations’ ambitious 2030 goals, and the technology industry’s opportunity to help drive resilient and sustainable economic and environmental development.

What is Sustainable Development Goal 9?

SDG 9 aims to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

SDG Forum 9 discussion experts included:

  • Brands
  • Manufacturers
  • Funders
  • Innovators
  • Academics
  • NGOs
  • Government

Discussion Summary

Participants explored the reasons behind technology innovations, and considered that design for sustainable development may require an attitudinal shift. There was a call to move away from design that fits existing systems, and to instead direct innovation toward human needs, particularly those in marginalized regions. This requires fundamental understanding of challenges in developing countries to inform how technology solutions might be reached. Stakeholders discussed the importance of local context in delivering solutions, and that some less developed regions may need capacity building to reach the most impact.

Key Learnings

Five elements are needed to make further progress:

  1. A paradigm shift is needed. Participants highlighted that we may require an attitudinal shift in the way technology companies innovate: rather than designing products that fit into existing systems, technology solutions will need to be designed with all social groups in mind, but especially marginalized communities.
  2. The need to understand local context. For technology to have real impact in sustainable development, stakeholders agreed that solutions must be designed with users in mind and help break down economic barriers through cost-effective entry points.
  3. A need for local capacity. In developing economies, implementation of technology solutions requires key capacities on the ground.
  4. Unlock political will through technology infrastructure. Participants agreed that the first step in creating scalable technology innovations is to understand and account for local capacity: innovation will be fruitless if the proper infrastructure, resources, and people are not in place to make it successful and workable at scale.
  5. Scaling innovation for sustainable development. Stakeholders emphasized the importance of innovation that can be taken to scale, and some pointed out examples of where city infrastructure can provide lessons for the technology industry

Going forward, organizations like VMware will be crucial in raising awareness of Sustainable Development Goal 9. Not only is today’s infrastructure increasingly rooted in digital technology and networks, but innovation is a concept that technology companies embrace and lead. The challenge for the sector remains how to steer innovation toward sustainable development and more resilient, inclusive societies.

Nicola Acutt, Vice President, Sustainability at VMware sets out the challenge and opportunity well: “Meeting any of the SDGs will take an enormous amount of collaboration among governments, NGOs, and nonprofits, and the private sector. Progress requires all of us and I am encouraged by the people that participated in the Globescan SDG Leadership Series. We are all dealing with complex, global challenges each and every day, and here at VMware, we share the conviction that everyone can play a role in advancing progress.”

SDG 9 Forum Report

Read the full report to find out more about the discussion, examples of technology innovation and digital infrastructure in practice, lessons from other industries, case studies, barriers and solutions to this complex issue, and learn how consumers, brands and retailers can play a part in unlocking resilient and sustainable economic and environmental development.
download the report

Launch of VMware’s Discovery Center

VMware’s commitment to innovating for good is integral to the company’s success and is evident in its people, products and impact on the planet. It means incorporating sustainability into every product release and being at the forefront of sustainability in global business and operations.
In the below video, originally a live stream from the opening of VMware’s Discovery Center in Palo Alto, CEO Pat Gelsinger announced that the company has achieved carbon neutrality two years ahead of schedule.
The video also highlights a 30-minute panel discussion titled “Innovating for Good – The Opportunity and Responsibility for Tech,” where participants of the SDG Leadership Forum were able to view and interact with the panel by posting comments into the forum discussion. Following this panel, the discussion carried on for the remainder of the Forum, promoting thoughtful commentary and insights.

About the GlobeScan SDG Leadership Series

The GlobeScan SDG Leadership Series is a set of seventeen online discussions and each Forum will focus on one Global Goal, connecting experts and opinion leaders to share ideas and actions for making progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Read reports on past SDG Leadership Forums:

Sign up to be notified of future Sustainable Development Goal Forums and join our panel of experts.