A brand new book lifts the lid on how technology giants such as Apple benefit from tax-payers’ investment in innovation.
The book is called Rethink, Retool, Reboot and will be officially launched on Monday 7th November at The Photographer’s Gallery, 16-18 Ramillies Street, London, W1F 7LW.
Written by Simon Trace, a former aid worker and international development charity CEO, the book shows how a lack of governance gives huge multinationals a free ride and leads to a failure to deliver innovation that addresses the most critical problems faced today.
It gives examples of how technology found in the iPhone and other mobiles was developed through government-funded research and asks whether the State really gets a fair return on that investment in an era when many are questioning the aggressive, tax-avoiding behaviour of large corporations.
Trace said: "It’s not just state-funded research on technology found in mobile phones such as GPS, touchscreens, lithium batteries and Siri that private corporations are able to exploit.
"How can we change the parasitic relationship that giant corporations have with government-funded research? How can we make sure the Apples and GlaxoSmithKlines of this world pay a reasonable return to the State for the tax-payer funded research they are able to exploit for their own profit?
"Can we ensure that the State is then able to use those funds to deliver technological innovation in the critical areas where market signals are too weak to stimulate effective private sector action - helping to solve the twin great challenges of our time; poverty and climate change?”
The facts uncovered in the book are stark. More money has been invested into research for a cure for male baldness than a malaria vaccine and public subsidies for further developing fossil fuel technologies, including shale gas, are still between 4 and 40 times more than those supporting the development of renewable energy options.
Over 150 years after Edison patented the light-bulb more than 1 billion people are still living in the dark without electricity.
700 million people live without a clean water supply.
2 billion live without safe sanitation, despite the Romans having access to those technologies 2000 years ago. 800,000 children a year die from diarrhoea.
In the field of medicine the book also gives examples of original research developing new compounds for drugs done in government laboratories rather than those of the big pharmaceutical corporations. And yet in all these cases the results of state sponsored research are combined by corporations to deliver huge profits.
Simon Trace was awarded a CBE in the 2016 New Years’ Honoursand has spoken at the UN in New York and at the UNFCCC Climate Change meetings arguing that everyone should have access to the technology they need to live a sustainable, comfortable and happy life.
He said: “Technology injustices exist in the world today. The book asks why we cannot make simple technologies that have often been around for decades and which are essential to a basic standard of living available to everyone.
"It also highlights our failure to drive technological innovation in the right direction to help solve the two greatest challenges of our time: achieving an end to global poverty and providing a chance of a sustainable future for everyone on this planet"
Practical Action uses technology to challenge poverty in developing countries.
Our strength is our approach. We find out what people are doing and help them to do it better. Through technology we enable poor communities to build on their skills and knowledge to produce sustainable and practical solutions - transforming their lives forever and protecting the world around them.
By doing this each year we help around a million people break out of the cycle of poverty ... for good.