Realising the full potential of science, technology and innovation

Blog contributed by Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, Minister of Education and Research, Norway; Vice Chair of 2015 OECD Ministerial Meeting.

In my view, the title of the CSTP Ministerial in Daejeon, “Creating our common future through science, technology and innovation”, captures the essential reason for why such a meeting at the ministerial level is most welcome. As ministers responsible for science, technology and innovation, we want these activities to shape an advantageous future for our citizens. Many of the most serious obstacles we face on the path to such a future are common to all countries. Threats to our environment and to the human health will potentially affect us all, and our intertwined economies cannot prosper independently of each other. On the other hand the scientific and technological communities are of a truly international character – through mobility and dissemination as well as through cooperation. In this dual sense it is therefore quite fitting to say that we create our common future through science, technology and innovation, and I see the CSTP Ministerial as a great opportunity to improve our endeavours in shaping this future.
 
I very much look forward to participating in the Ministerial as Vice-Chair alongside Dr. Carmen Vela and with the Chair, Dr. Choi Yanghee, and to the opportunity to chair the plenary session “Realising the full potential of science, technology and innovation”. The meeting’s agenda is filled with topics of the greatest importance to our future well-being and a sustainable and inclusive growth, and which I believe would benefit greatly from an open discussion among ministers.
 
Although there are many commonalities among countries in the overarching aims for STI policy, the short term objectives and measures needed in a national strategy will be particular for each country. We face, however, many challenges in the development and implementation of our strategies that will be quite similar: How to move from the strategic drawing board to a situation where the different stakeholders work together towards the identified objectives in a well-functioning ecosystem? How to achieve coherence in public policy and coordination among the different levels and branches of government? As a minister of research and higher education, I recently put forward a national plan covering these policy areas. For me the Ministerial is a perfect opportunity to draw upon the experience of other ministers as I am working to implement this plan, and I am sure that some of my experiences will be useful to others.
 
The characteristic openness of science is a fortunate starting point for realising the potential offered by the rapidly evolving digital technologies for the co-production and utilisation of knowledge. The technological development seems, however, to have a faster pace than the rate of change in many academic communities – as well as for policy makers. We need policies to accelerate the transition towards the scientific practices of the 21st century. And as the scientific and digital worlds lack national borders, many of the policy questions are the same for all countries, and a great deal of the answers must be international as well if the impact of digitisation and openness in science and innovation is to be maximised.
 
To realise the full potential of science, technology and innovation, we must have some idea of what this potential is, and how our policies affect its attainment. Knowledge about the impact of policies is at the core of the OECD’s work. Science and innovation policies involve a number of trade-offs, where the right balance may be quite different for countries in different situations. When it comes to the methods and indicators for assessing the impact of policies, however, the experiences are perhaps more transferable across countries. In addition to peer learning and the exchange of good practices, we could benefit from more cross-country analyses of the impact of STI policies, which the OECD is in a good position to facilitate and carry out.
 
I am confident that the CSTP Ministerial in Daejeon in October 2015 will provide a stimulating arena for discussing these topics, and I am grateful for the Korean initiative for the meeting and the willingness of the Chair to host it. I look forward to an open and constructive dialogue about the challenges we face – a conversation in which we can learn from each other, and point out some directions that the OECD can follow in this area to our mutual benefit.