The last few decades have been dominated by the concept that innovation in technology and processes causes better outcomes to occur for societies and their economies. In earlier times when new technologies were scarcer, the idea that ingenuity was the way to improve matters and achieve progress for society was dominant. We are now entering an era where resilience of our society to a range of stresses such as extreme weather, demographic change, food and energy security, and political unrest are seen as increasingly important.
This change is causing us to reconsider how we use a combination of innovation and ingenuity to achieve more resilient outcomes from a more interdependent set of systems. Emergent properties that result from increased interdependence, such as poor food security due to strain on transport logistics, single source refining of rare metals and electrification of transport and poor data on pathogens that are swiftly distributed by civil aviation, are catching us by surprise. Societies need to be better prepared for the plausible but unexpected situations that we are now finding ourselves in.
Using examples that are applicable to Singapore, this Opening Plenary will address how these interlinked concepts affect education, research and governance of this complex world that we have created and propose steps that could be taken in research and innovation programmes such as Urban Solutions and Sustainability (USS) to improve matters.