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SDG #9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Sustainable Development Goals Blog Series

On January 1st, 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development officially came into force. Over the next 15 years, with these 17 goals, countries will combine efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. In this article we aim to familiarize you with SDG Goal #9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure, and what actions your organization can take to achieve this goal.

By Robbin-Jan Haar | 26-10-2017


SDG Goal #9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation, relates to investments made in industry, innovation and infrastructure to drive economic growth. You might expect that this is particularly relevant for less developed countries, but SDG #9 is highly relevant for developed countries where environmental challenges and energy efficiency may be driving the need for SDG #9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure benefits economy, communication, the environment and access to information; relevant for every nation.


For businesses, there are multiple reasons to get engaged with SDG #9, but one overarching factor can be identified.

Prosper sustainable economic growth
With an ever increasing world population, more and more people living in cities and rising prosperity, infrastructure becomes more important every day – and not only in terms of asphalt on the ground. It is true that travel times are increasing, yet in an era where not the physical but digital highway is key to economic growth, 4 billion people do not have access to the internet. With improved physical and digital infrastructure products and services will be more accessible, transparent and cost-efficient. Investing in industry, innovation and infrastructure also further creates and develops jobs, improves production capacity, reduce the carbon footprint and leverages data usage in production chains. Industry 4.0 is a perfect example of how investments related to SDG #9 can enhance production, develop the workforce and leverage data used, ultimately to prosper economic growth.


There are three actions that can be identified that businesses can take in order to contribute to the realization of SDG #9.

1. Think differently about logistics
Thinking differently about logistics is key to make changes to a field of business that has been optimized to near perfection over the past century. Innovations like self-driving trucks, truck platooning, or autonomous ships are great initiatives that may very well alter the field of logistics, especially from a cost perspective. But these innovations do not change logistics – they merely substitute for what we already know. Changing logistics to the future of mobility involves thinking differently about logistics, for example trough new urban supply concepts like smart lockers or same-day-delivery pick up points. A perfect example of this is the Dutch online retailer who partnered with Albert Heijn to open over 700 pick-up points at the same place where consumers do their grocery shopping1.

Furthermore, the future of mobility may involve Uber-like last mile delivery options that make smart usage of existing commutes to deliver packages right to your doorstep, or to smart lockers. These asset sharing or crowd logistics options allow transportation companies to accomplish more and take better advantage of their own networks’ capacities. Delivery is expected to change from a necessary evil to a differentiator for customers, while at the same time fostering innovation and relieving infrastructural burdens2.

2. Stimulate research initiatives to drive sustainability
Innovation in the digital era isn’t a concept that is exclusively exploited from within the organization, as bright ideas come from everywhere and people are increasingly willing to share their ideas – both online and offline. The University of Twente, for example, hosts the think tank ‘Create Tomorrow’ for which about ten organizations provide their most challenging issues every year that students can solve3. Fun fact: in this year’s edition of Create Tomorrow, half of the cases related to infrastructural challenges: clearly SDG #9 is on every agenda.

Teaming up with universities or participating in think tanks may help organizations to think big and step aside from the regular path, help to concisely think about organizational challenges, and provide clear solutions to those challenges.

3. Board the industry 4.0 train
Another way to get engaged with SDG #9 is to board the industry 4.0 train – joining the fourth industrial revolution. The manufacturing industry has re-invented itself for several times in the past few centuries, mostly related to the physical elements of manufacturing processes. Now, with ever increasing data gathering abilities, the manufacturing process can be improved by letting insights from manufacturing data drive the manufacturing process.

The German chemical giant BASF, for example, connects their periodic safety inspections to a digital platform in which mix-ups between different pieces of equipment have been made virtually impossible, increasing plant safety and worker safety4. Deloitte Germany showcases top-notch industry 4.0 innovations in their Digital Factory located in Düsseldorf. This candy shop for tech enthusiasts allows (potential) clients to play around with industry 4.0 factory solutions in a tangible way56.

Industry 4.0 relates to inclusive and sustainable industrialization, innovation, and may also affect infrastructure: smart city elements that connect the physical with the digital increasingly find their paths into our lives. A very simple but great example is the underground parking garage that shows green lights above the lots to easily indicate what specific parking lot is vacant, preventing driving in circles endlessly. And sending you further into despair with every lap. Only to find out that someone else took the parking lot before you. Recognizable? Put SDG #9 on your agenda.

Sustainable Development Goals Blog Series

This blog is part of the Sustainable Development Blog Series: a blog series that highlights the 17 SDGs one by one on a biweekly basis. In these blogs you will find more information about each SDG, why it is important for your organisation to contribute to the achievement of it, and specific examples of how you can do that.

More information?

For more information about the Sustainable Development Goals and what your organisation can do to contribute, please contact Anne Huibrechtse-Truijens via / +31882882071

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