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Expert Forecasts for 2020

Generally, a country’s level of S&T capacity links up with indicators of economic and social development. By and large, countries with less S&T capacity also rank lower in the other two areas, while countries with more S&T capacity rank higher.5 Consequently, nations with different levels of S&T capacity often share similar problems and, as a result, tend to prioritize similar objectives. Promoting rural economic development, improving public health, and reducing the use of resources and improving environmental health—all basic development goals—are usually top concerns for countries on the lowest rungs of the development ladder. Strengthening a nation’s military and warfighters does not necessarily or clearly correspond to a particular position on the development ladder. Certain countries sorely lacking in the most basic living standards have been observed to funnel the majority of their national budget into military spending, given certain circumstances. The same is true for strengthening homeland security and public safety. But in general, nations lower on the development ladder are not in a position to prioritize these two concerns. Meeting the essential needs of their populations— Rapid bioassays and ubiquitous RFID tagging, which nations at this level of S&T capacity can acquire as well, could be equally useful. Rapid bioassays would provide a means of ensur-ing that people can move safely across borders to conduct business, because it would allow governments to detect unintended transport of infectious disease more effectively. RFID tagging could enhance performance of retail industries, enabling greater control of inventories throughout the supply chain and making marketing more efficient. Figure 4 illustrates the overall capacity of the 29 nations in our sample to implement all the technology applications they will be able to acquire.4 Of the seven scientifically advanced countries able to obtain all 16 applications, the United States and Canada in North America and Germany in Western Europe will also be fully capable of implementing them through 2020. Japan and South Korea in Asia, Australia in Oceania, and Israel in the Middle East will be highly capable of implementing all 16 as well. All these countries will have excellent S&T capacity, along with the highest number of drivers and lowest number of barriers. What Drivers and Barriers Affect These Countries’ Ability to Implement the Technology Applications They Could Acquire? The S&T capacity that enables a country to acquire a technology application is only one of several factors determining whether that country will be able to implement it. The drivers facilitating innovation and the barriers hindering it also have a decisive influence on the ability to implement technology applications (i.e., to put the applications in place and get significant gains from them across the country). These assessments involve such things as whom an application will benefit and whether a country can sustain its use over time. Drivers and barriers involve the same dimensions: A dimension that is a driver in one context may be a barrier in another. For example, financing, when available, would be a driver, but financing, when lacking, is a barrier. A high level of literacy among a nation’s citizens would be a driver, but if literacy were low, it would form a barrier. And in certain cases, a dimension that is a barrier can simultaneously be a driver when only partial progress in that dimension has been made or when conflicting issues in the dimension are present. For example, education in the United States is a driver, but there are also concerns about problems in math and science education in the United States. Also, environmental concerns may dampen some S&T applications in China while promoting environmentally friendly applications, such as green manufacturing and hybrid vehicles.