Innovation in Water, Sanitation, and Solid Waste: Assessment, Perspectives, and Opportunities for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Jul 2020
Our main challenge is to promote a virtuous cycle that reinforces itself over time; in other words, to keep innovation closely linked to the day-to-day issues of Latin America and the Caribbeans water and sanitation sector. Developing knowledge and skills, working with other stakeholders, and improving innovation management promote risk taking, which in turn inhibits the status quo culture. Innovation has always boosted a societys generation of value. In line with the reality of the past two decades, which was marked by the acceleration of multiple challenges and shifts in lifestyles worldwide, innovation has become more central and is expected to become even more so in years to come. Given the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the importance the Water and Sanitation Division (WSA) of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) assigns to innovation, this report aims to contribute to fostering innovation efforts in the water and sanitation (W&S) sector in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The main challenges innovation faces in the W&S sector in LAC can be split into three categories: 1) Governance efforts; 2) Research, Development and Innovation (R&D&I); and 3) Water, sanitation, and solid waste utilities. Therefore, studying innovation experiences in other parts of the world in the aforementioned fields may result in a valuable contribution
to the learning process in our region. Based on regional challenges and international experiences, this document provides elements to reflect on opportunities for action from the perspective of each sectors stakeholders and from their joint efforts. In this context, we offer a roadmap that can serve as a guide to improve peoples quality of life. It includes a series of “cardinal points” that provide general direction and specific action items. Regarding governance in the innovation section, the cardinal points are to: i) promote public policies and regulations, and ii) support integration mechanisms to bolster innovation and its sustainability. In the R&D&I sector, they are to: iii) facilitate research and development based on relevant challenges, and iv) encourage cooperation between the sectors innovation ecosystem stakeholders. Regarding utilities, the cardinal points are to: (v) encourage the adoption of innovation, and (iv) strengthen the management of its implementation and associated capacity for innovation. Overall, every sector should promote the development of a favorable environment to catalyze innovation in water and sanitation.