This paper gives an overview of the history of science technology and innovation (STI) institutions and policies in the Latin American region, and the challenge of using STI to meet development needs.

The paper gives examples of public, private and civil society initiatives illustrating regional efforts to develop a 3D innovation agenda — one that concentrates on direction, distribution and diversity of innovations. It outlines areas for action to advance STI in Latin America, which include agenda setting, funding, capacity building, organising and monitoring, evaluation and accountability. Limitations and failings of STI are considered, and recommendations of further research are offered; they include persistent social and economic inequalities, institutional and political resistance to change, and the role of power relations in determining directions of STI policy in the future.