Role of Physics in Economic Development

Physics plays many vital roles in economic development, and its applications are as important in the developing world as in the developed world. It has a major role to play in many key sectors, including:

  • information and communications technologies, where the production of consumer devices continues to move from the developed world to lower cost centres of production, thus requiring local expertise;
  • the emerging field of nano-science and its associated nanotechnology, which will have deep impact in all areas of national economies of the developing countries allowing them, for the first time, to break free from traditional raw material-based production infrastructures and move into knowledge-based and modern economic, political and social systems;
  • green eco-friendly energy production, including the local generation of electricity in remote areas by solar, and wind, energy, etc. (energy is covered by a dedicated theme at the conference);
  • transport, where physics provides solutions to difficult problems;
  • understanding, prediction, modelling and communication of ecological, meteorological and other such events and conditions (including tsunamis and earth quakes) and action to be taken;
  • monitoring environmental impact by human activities;
  • health care, sanitation, clean water and priority deceases in developing countries (which is covered by a dedicated theme at the conference);
  • modern, knowledge-based agriculture and food production and a range of further areas.

Role of Physicists in Economic Development

Basic research may be the field that attracts most publicity, and this does lead to new and important technologies, the role of the physicists in economic development is much more extensive. Many physicists are employed in a range of roles within industry. Advantages of a physics training include the flexibility to tackle a wide range of problems and to be able to move from one discipline to another. It also gives the ability to solve problems from first principles, when standard solutions do not apply and where a range of disciplines needs to be called on. This can be of particular importance in the developing world where, for reasons of scale, economics or other local conditions, approaches developed and used elsewhere may be inappropriate. Aims of the Conference

To come up with concrete outcomes that will help developing countries and then for plans to put these into action. This is not just to help physicists in developing countries to advance their own professional interest, but to use physics to help their countries with economic, social and political development and, with regard to this theme, with their economic development specifically. Format for the Conference

Day 1 of the conference is plenary devoted to all four themes, but will include a poster session in the evening where everyone will have opportunity to present their views. Day 2 is the time for discussion of the four themes individually in four parallel sessions. This is the time for developing concrete outcomes regarding economic development. It requires presentation of examples of economic development and problems associated with it and presentation of proposals for concrete outcomes. These proposals are then discussed and further developed at a further plenary session on Day 3. The aim is to have an action plan and commitments from people to do the work.

Day 1
Papers on economic development to be presented during the plenary session on day 1 are as follows:
1. Introduction – the role of physics in economic development, Peter Melville, UK
2. Physics and industrial development – examples from South America, José Valentin Lolich, Argentina
3. Physics and agriculture, TR Ariyaratne, Sri Lanka
4. New technologies and economic development, Hashem Rafii-Tabar, Iran

Day 2
The themes on economic development for day 2 are:
a) Training and employment of physicists (including technology-based small enterprises)
Chair: Dawood Parker, UK
b) Applied research in developing countries
Chair: Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Vietnam
c) Physics and agriculture
Chair: Kedro Sidiki Diomande, Côte d’Ivoire
d) New technologies and economic development
Chair: Hashem Rafii-Tabar, Iran