Kathy Gibson reports from Gitex – Research and development investments play a critical role in future-proofing a nation’s economy – and nations need to work together to solve the big global problems.

That’s the word from Dr Ray Johnson, CEO of Technology Innovation Institute and Aspire, keynoting the Main Stage conference at Gitex today.

Indeed, R&D investments, scientific research and technological innovation were key to driving US prosperity, and is still attribued to about 50% of the country’s GDP.

He points to two particular technologies: GPS and the Internet. Both were born from military research and developed over time to be critical commercial offerings.

The economic impacts of GPS are reasonably easy to quantify – and it is not confined to the US, but is applicable globally.

The Internet, initially a project of the Defense Agency Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has resulted in social impacts that are far-ranging and actually unquantifiable.

“So what research is being conducted today might be the GPS of the next 70 years?” he asks.

UNESCO statistics indicated that global R&D spend has reached a record high – but it is still led by just 10 countries.

“But the challenges today and tomorrow are global challenges,” Dr Johnson says. “They cannot be solved by one government or country.

“Our future economic prosperity is inter-dependent on the success of one another. So collaboration, not competition, is critical to our mutual successes.”

The TII in Abu Dhabi collaborates with nations around the world, with people from 63 nationalities worked at the centre.

“The investment in R&D at TII is not just an investment in today: it is an investment for tomorrow, to safeguard the economic prosperity of ourselves, our children and grandchildren.

“Faced with the challenges of the world, global collaboration has never been so important,” Dr Johnson concludes.