About » The ISI-CUP project

Integration of Sustainability Innovations in the Catching-Up Process

Information: PD Dr. Rainer Walz, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research
Partner: TU Berlin, Chair for Innovation Economics
Funding: German Federal Ministry of Science and Research (BMBF)
Contact: rainer.walz@isi.fraunhofer.de

There is general consensus that environmental sustainability requires an integration of environmental friendly technologies in the economic catching up process of Newly Industrializing Countries (NICs). This challenge is also discussed within the concept of the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC). According to the EKC-hypothesis, environmental pressure grows faster than income in a first stage of economic devel-opment. This is followed by a second stage, in which environmental pressure still in-creases, but slower than GDP. After a particular income level has been reached, environmental pressure declines despite continued income growth. Graphically, this hypothesis leads to an inverted U-curve similar to the relationship Kuznets suggested for income inequality and economic per capita income (Figure 1).


Figure 1: Concept of tunneling through the Environmental Kuznets Curve

Within the global environmental debate, it is argued that NICs do not necessarily have to follow the emissions path of the industrialized countries. An alternative devel-opment path can be labeled “tunneling through the EKC” or “leapfrogging”. It is argued that countries catching up economically can realize the peak of their EKC at a much lower level of environmental pressure than the developed countries. Developing coun-tries could draw on the experience of industrialized countries allowing them to leapfrog to the latest sustainability technology. This leads to a “strategic tunnel” through the EKC. Two critical questions to this concept have to be addressed:

Both aspects require that domestic competences in sustainability related science and technology fields are build up in NICs. The ISI-CUP project aimed at analyzing whether or not this process has already started in selected NICs. Key results of the project are presented on this web page. This information is relevant for various actors:

The project was running from 2006-2010, and has been supported by the German Federal Ministry of Science and Research within the research program “Economics for Sustainability”. It was coordinated by Priv.-Doz. Rainer Walz from Fraunhofer ISI. It used a top-down indicator approach (see methodology sheet) to assess the capabilities in the NICs. Important cross cutting results are presented in the overview. A more de-tailed presentation with statistical data can be found in the country profiles.