Established in 1988, the Science and Technology Policy Asian Network (STEPAN) is a network of researchers and institutions in the Asia-Pacific region focusing on research and training support for national science and technology (S&T) policy and management programs under the auspices of UNESCO. STEPAN provides an umbrella policy-level network to all other UNESCO science networks. As such STEPAN provides a vehicle for raising issues from the agenda of the other networks to the senior policy levels of government.
STEPAN now counts 20 countries in its membership. The most recent member, the Islamic Republic of Iran, joined in April 2005. STEPAN has recently re-organized its structure to separate the Secretariat from the Chairmanship of the Network. The current Chairman (2005-2008) is the Philippines, and the UNESCO Jakarta Office serves as the permanent Secretariat. The Constitution was accordingly amended in 2005 to reflect the new structure.
For sharing information and learning resources on S&T policy development, STEPAN publishes a newsletter, STEPAN Update, twice a year, and also maintains a website at www.stepan.org.
Formulating S&T policy
STEPAN collaborates bi- or multilaterally with Member States to assist S&T policy formulation and the strategic implementation of the nation’s innovation vision. It also facilitates the development and use of S&T policy analysis tools, and advises governments on S&T and innovation policy.
The Science and Technology Policy of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was formulated in collaboration with STEPAN and approved by the Lao government as their national policy. This is the first S&T policy of its kind in Laos and therefore has great historical significance. Their follow-up project, Implementation of National S&T Policy for Knowledge Societies, will be partially funded by UNESCO’s Participation Programme.
STEPAN worked together with UNESCO’s Beijing and Jakarta Offices to draft a policy report, A Master Plan for Science and Technology for Mongolia, for that country’s Ministry of Science, Technology, Education and Culture. The Draft Master Plan was subsequently presented to the policy-makers of Mongolia and became a major consideration in the formulation of Parliament Resolution No. 24, that defined the Science and Technology Master Plan (2007-2020) of Mongolia in 2007.
A science and technology policy review was also done for Brunei Darussalam in 2005. The recommendations arising from the review are now being taken up by the country in strengthening its science and technology as well as higher education systems.
The demand to learn the S&T policy lessons of newly industrialized economies in Asia – such as Korea – is very strong. But this has not been matched by a strong initiative to design appropriate S&T policies for the developing countries and diffuse them internationally. And until recently, there was no clear network for sharing S&T policy experiences with other developing countries. STEPAN is now filling this gap.
Workshops are being organized to share the lessons learned. One such was a Sensitization Workshop on Understanding Development Strategies for Innovation-Driven Growth Models Offered by Korea, organized by STEPAN in collaboration with the Science and Technology Policy Institute of Korea (STEPI). Participants from the STEPAN Member Countries, particularly from Korea, shared their experience of science and technology policy development during the industrialization process, and got some insight into the national innovation systems of each participating country.
More recently, STEPAN launched a project aiming to generate case studies as reference materials for policy-makers, on the topic of Innovation -Based Entrepreneurship, with Emphasis on Micro- and Small and Medium Enterprises. This project aims to assist science and technology and innovation policy-makers in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly developing countries which are still grappling with new emerging trends in S&T policy development, and its links to the broader innovation policy and economic development.
The preparation, compilation and publication of a compendium of case studies will be a valuable platform, in achieving the following objectives: (1) to build capacity in participating countries for S&T and innovation policy analysis; (2) to contribute to existing literature on S&T and innovation policy that addresses issues specific to Asia Pacific region; and (3) to foster networking among S&T and innovation policy institutions and practitioners in the Asia Pacific region and facilitate sharing of experiences, good practice and successful policy models.
Two workshops have been held, the first to establish the case-writing framework, and the second to train the selected case writers. Both workshops were held in Manila. The participants are expected to proceed with the preparation of their cases for compilation and publication in 2008.
STEPAN publishes a newsletter, the STEPAN Update, twice a year.
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