Clifford Holt, Senior Editor, introduces issue 27 of SciTech Europa Quarterly, which includes content from EU Science Commissioner Carlos Moedas and ESA DG Johann-Dietrich Wörner, amongst others.
Science is often seen as a sector which stands alone – outside of the many competing factors which affect so much of life elsewhere, from politics to philosophy. And, of course, that can be a good thing – (deteriorating) international relations between some countries or regions tends not to have an effect on the scientific collaborations or co-operation between researchers in those nations, for instance, and, as many of the challenges facing society today are international in nature and can only be addressed by working together, this is of increasing importance.
In the past, scientific research has bene criticised for being shut off from society; for being conducted by scientists enclosed in ivory towers and whose work does not necessarily have an impact outside of the immediate discipline. This has changed, and ‘open science’ is becoming increasingly the norm.
Both of these views, of course, have merit, and both are true to a certain extent. And in light of this it must be recognised that nothing, not even science, happens in a vacuum – space based experiments notwithstanding – and that external influences may indeed have an effect, no matter how light their touch.
Alongside this is the reciprocal effect that science can, and does, have. And that is not limited to the application-based research which is resulting in ever ‘smarter’, lighter, and smaller consumer technologies, or that which is resulting in innovative ways to treat diseases, or to tackle climate change, to boost agricultural productivity, or to push forwards the digital agenda. Science also has a profound economic benefit to society – it creates jobs, boosts the knowledge economy, and enhances GDP.
Crucial here is the engagement of science, particularly ‘Big Science’ with industry. Scientific projects – from small, lab-based work to large international infrastructure projects – require industrial engagement to provide the products and services necessary for both their construction and the continued operation.
Yet, in many cases, procurement processes are complex and difficult to navigate, or, more simply, industry is just not aware of what science needs, while science is unaware of what industry is able to provide in order to meet their needs.
To address this, the Big Science Business Forum 2018 was set up to bring Europe’s Big Science projects together with industry, offering an environment in which procurement needs could be discussed and solutions offered.
I travelled to this event in Copenhagen, Denmark, and there spoke to Carlos Moedas, the European Science Commissioner, about some of these issues, and this interview can be found within these pages, as can articles on or from other high level speakers, including the Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Danish minister for Science, Technology, Information and Higher Education, Soren Pind, and CERN’s Frederick Bordry, amongst others.
This edition’s Research & Development section also includes articles on subjects including chemistry, quantum research, energy (including the European Commission’s DG for Energy, Dominique Ristori), and transport (including DG Connect’s Despina Spanou).
The Health section begins with an interview with the Innovative Medicines Initiative’ (IMI) Pierre Meulien, and goes on to include EMBL’s Christian Scherf, the JPND’s Professor Philippe Amouyel, and DG Connect’s Miguel Gonzalez-Sancho (on E-health).
The Environment & Sustainability section starts off with an article from Daniel Calleja Crespo, the European Commission’s DG for Environment, on plastics and throwaway culture. Then, subsections on agriculture, aquaculture, climate change, and water compliment this closing section of the publication.
As ever, I hope you find these pages as interesting and informative a read as I have found in their creation, and I welcome any comments you may have.
This article will appear in SciTech Europa Quarterly issue 27, which will be published in June, 2018.