Innovation – The Key to Achieving the SDGs for A WORLD WE ALL WANT, Part 1

Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Through Innovation - An Introduction to the imperative for business innovation
By:  Admin On November 4, 2021

In this series I will present proven technologies and innovations that can be replicated to achieve SDG Targets.  I will unpack technology and innovation across all the 17 Goals. Innovation is the backbone of knowledge, and knowledge is the backbone of society’s progress. This journey we call ‘progress’ takes us from our current state to a new level defined by human need and aspiration. Innovation is needed to expedite accomplishment of the SDGs, which all nations have pledged to achieve by 2030.

The UN tasked “all countries and all stakeholders”, which includes you and me, institutions, corporations, entrepreneurs and governments working together, to implement the 2030 Agenda. This means we have a larger role to play in realizing the Goals.  And innovation must be central to our efforts.

When you browse through the Goals notice that the title of SDG9 specifically includes Innovation; four additional Targets in SDGs 8 and 17 also include it.  You might be curious to see technology is mentioned over two dozen times in SDG Targets and Target Indicators.  In fact, Target 17.8 mentions technology four times, along with one nod to innovation! There is even a “Technology Facilitation Mechanism, based on a multi-stakeholder collaboration between Member States, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community, United Nations entities and other stakeholders” (UN, 2015).

Do you think innovation has a huge role to play in the development and economic progress across all levels of society? I believe it has a specific role in the creation and diffusion of technologies to ensure growth and welfare of all communities across the world. However, despite the obvious benefits that innovation has for achieving the SDGs, policy makers often question its relevance.  Various authorities suggest that this is due to the mistaken notion that innovation is “high technology” (OECD & WB, 2013). The objective of my series is to provide actionable information regarding relevant innovations for each SDG. Entrepreneurs can convert some of these innovations into sustainable businesses. And large corporations can use innovations as part of their social responsibility initiatives.

What is the next innovation you are working on? Is it a social innovation?  Internationally recognized sustainable development expert, Jeremy Millard writes “Social innovations that work bottom-up in designing and delivering public services to marginalised communities in a gender agnostic way based on local acceptance and advocacy campaigns, have a very significant role to play in achieving the SDG goals by 2030” (2017).

We sometimes use innovations to excess in our lives, with our cell phones for instance.  During the pandemic we’ve increased our dependence on them. However, innovations can provide breakthrough improvements, rather than incremental change from typical improvement programs. When we face significant challenges, inventive thinking paves the way to multiple solutions to a problem. Innovation is vital to society’s well-being, growth and sustainable development (CIIE.CO, 2018).

The more I research this area, the more I find other experts supporting my personal assertions. For example, “Innovation is the Only Way to Win the SDG Race” was particularly validating (D. Young, 2019).

In this series, I will be sharing my thoughts as well as other experts’ insights, and invite you to share your innovation insights in the comments below.  Please follow me, share on social media, and come back for my next article.


Callan Hough. (2020, March 03). Different Types of Innovations. Retrieved from ideadrop:

CIIE.CO. (2018, February 12). How Innovation Will Drive The Economic Growth Of A Country Like India. Retrieved from

  1. Young, W. W. (2019, May 02). Innovation is the Only Way to Win the SDG Race. Retrieved from BCG.COM:

Millard, J. (2017). How Social Innovation Underpins Sustainable Development. Dortmund:

OECD & WB. (2013). what-role-innovation-different-stages-development. Retrieved from The Innovation Policy Platform:

  1. (2015). Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (p. 29). New York City, New York, USA: United Nations.

Image Courtesy : Creative Commons
Copyright 2021 J. Thomas and SHERPA Institute. All rights reserved – please cite and link to this web page.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *