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OUTCOME OF MEETING OF THE OECD COMMITTEE FOR SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL POLICY
AT MINISTERIAL LEVEL
Paris, 22-23 June 1999
1. Science and Technology (S&T) and more recently Research and Development
(R&D) are subjects of broad public interest, of government support
as well as of business activities. They are considered to be the most important
elements of innovation and technological change and drivers of productivity,
competitiveness, of economic growth and employment. Therefore, the ability
to create, distribute and exploit knowledge is of crucial importance to
both the economy and the society.
2. The growing importance of knowledge has brought about new policy
challenges. Efforts to address these challenges have led to programmes
to strengthen national innovation systems. Furthermore, technology policy
has sought to speed up the process of innovation and to promote innovative
behaviour. In general, it has been the central aim of S&T policies,
to strengthen effectiveness and efficiency in order to improve conditions
for the transfer of scientific and technological knowledge into marketable
goods and services.
3. S&T policies as well as the reorganisation of public and private
R&D institutions have been to some extent successful in increasing
the mobility of information, scientific staff and of capital. But they
have failed in providing for solutions related to many existing challenges
and alarmist developments like high and persistent unemployment in many
countries, the global climate change, inequality and poverty within the
least developed countries. This has caused a public debate, which calls
into question the credibility of science and research.
4. It was against this background, that ministers for science and technology
in the OECDs 29 Member countries, plus ministers from Israel, Russia,
the Slovak Republic and South Africa, met in Paris on 22-23 June 1999.
The meeting was intended to discuss The contribution of science and technology
to sustainable growth and social well-being: new opportunities and policy
5. The issues paper prepared by the OECD for the meeting suggested that
the discussion should focus on three key challenges facing science and
- How can they, by promoting innovation, contribute to sustainable
development and job creation?;
6. Ministers were invited to examine scientific and technological advances
in the areas of health and the environment, with a view to discussing ways
of involving the scientific and business communities and civil society
more closely in policy formulation. The involvement of the latter was also
discussed during joint consultations, prior to the meeting. Because of
the outcome of the G8 Cologne Summit the previous weekend considerable
attention was given to the OECD role on food safety.
- How can they better respond to the globalisation process and enhance
international co-operation?; and
- How can they contribute to the setting up of regulatory structures
better adapted to rapid scientific progress and the exploitation of advanced
Prior to the Ministerial Meeting: Joint Consultations with BIAC and
7. In preparing the consultations with the CSTP, TUAC issued a statement
regarding both recent trends in R&D and challenges faced by S&T
policies. It urged the OECD Ministers to provide for a reorientation of
strategies promoting innovation and economic development in order to achieve
environmentally and socially sustainable growth. In particular, TUAC urged
- refocus competitivity so that investment in the labour force
and intangible assets are seen as an investment and not a cost;
8. During the joint consultations with the Chair and the Vice-Chairs of
the CSTP, TUAC delegates (Gerd K÷hler, DGB-GEW; Val Ellis, TUC-IPMS;
Roland Schneider and John Evans of the TUAC Secretariat) emphasised that
the development and application of new technologies would need public trust.
In order to preserve and strengthen the necessary trust and confidence,
they called upon scientists and researchers to act in a responsible manner
regarding both ethical norms and social values as well as risks related
to new technologies. Moreover, they called for an inclusive approach and
urged ministers to provide means for a consultation of all groups of stakeholders
during the decision-making process in the fields of S&T Policy, regarding
the social and economic impact of new technologies.
- reverse the relative decline in R&D expenditure and employment;
- integrate Science and Technology policies with employment strategies
based on raising skills and productivity;
- develop participatory strategies involving employees and their unions
in the introduction of new technology and organisational change at the
- give confidence and security to research workers;
- ensure that macro-economic policies support knowledge intensive growth
strategies by expanding demand;
- avoid the concentration of knowledge and intellectual property in
a few hands;
- support the development of effective labour and environmental rules
in the global trade and investment system;
- prevent harmful tax competition;
- re-orientate industrial location strategies to support knowledge based
clusters of economic activity;
- rebuild public confidence in Science and Technology through transparent
and open systems of technology assessment;
- improve regulatory systems;
- to develop the OECD's role in multidisciplinary work in the fields
of safety and health.
9. With regard to the work of scientists and researchers, TUAC delegates
warned against conflicting interests of private business and the public.
Conflicts may arise regarding both the funding of research and the regulatory
framework. TUAC delegates referred to a particular danger, which could
be caused by a promotion of R&D focusing almost exclusively on the
achievement of commercial results. To avoid such a danger and to ensure
a rather broad focus of R&D, public funding of independent research
10. Furthermore, TUAC delegates emphasised the need to ensure the existence
of a basic regulatory framework, which covers social as well as environmental
requirements. They strongly argued against calls for a new policy approach,
particularly favoured of a recent OECD policy brief, by which governments
should step back further from efforts of fostering technological progress
and leave more to the market. In order to underline this TUAC delegates
pointed out that success in science and research does not necessarily lead
to economic success. With reference to the findings of the former OECD-TEP
project they called for R&D taking into account the whole spectrum
of scientific and technological activities from basic research to technological
mastery, from invention to diffusion.
11. The representatives of BIAC referred to recent trends and changes
in the fields of science, research and development. They pointed out that
industrial R&D has recently undergone a major change in emphasis and
that particular attention and importance is being placed on speed and
intellectual property rights as key issues of all stages of the innovation
process. BIAC is considering these changes as precursor of a new paradigm:
scientific discovery, industrial application and societal impact don't
occur any longer, as it previously has been the case, in a serial way but
almost simultaneously. Moreover, these elements of the process of innovation
are mutually influencing each others development. Because current government
S&T policies and plans have not kept pace with this trend, BIAC called
upon governments to adjust policies in accordance with the new paradigm.
12. BIAC, like the TUAC presentation, also raised the fact that government-funded
research has become increasingly short-term and commercially oriented.
Not surprisingly, the conclusion drawn from that points in a quite different
direction. According to BIAC public funded basic research should no longer
be considered as just an academic pursuit but as a means to trigger creation
of novel industrial markets based on significant breakthroughs. Thus, to
facilitate the results of public funded research into industrial developments,
BIAC called for an improved consultation between science policy officials,
industry as well as academia, on science and issues at the intersection
of science, the economic world and other public policy domains. A venue
for such a consultation could be provided by the creation of the Global
Science Forum, where business wanted to be represented.
13. With regard to current debates focusing on both new opportunities
and risks brought about by new technologies, particularly by biotechnology,
BIAC complained about the absence of political leadership and a lack of
credible information and science-based regulation. Due to these circumstances
some groups would be able to manipulate large segments of public opinion
and instil public distrust of new technologies, regulators and enterprises.
To provide sound framework conditions for further innovation, BIAC called
for work in favour of an improved scientific understanding and communication
of risks and rewards of biotechnology, in particular consultation between
the CSTP Working Party on Biotechnology with industry and academia was
14. BIAC representatives did not go so far as to call explicitly for
an exclusive approach, refusing involvement of workers, consumers and the
concerned public into a debate on new technology. But their presentation
led to the conclusion that due to the new paradigm of innovation and industrial
developments, which makes time to market crucial, a social dialogue on
technological change would face the danger of hampering technological progress.
However, Ministers did not share this conclusion.
15. With regard to the call for a better involvement of stakeholders
in S&T Policies made by TUAC, Ministers agreed on the need for a social
dialogue focussing on a broad range of issues related to technological
change. During a press conference being held after the meeting, the Minister
of Education and Science of Sweden, one of the Vice-Chairs of the CSTP,
stressed the crucial importance of public confidence into science and research.
He declared that ministers had agreed on the principles of openness and
transparency as prerequisites of public confidence. At the same time he
pointed out that OECD should promote the implementation of a dialogue on
technological change involving all groups of stakeholders. According to
the final conclusions of the meeting ministers agreed that the CSTP of
the OECD should play an important role in identifying best practices to
foster such an interaction among the different stakeholders.
Assessment of the CSTP Ministerial Meeting
16. During the meeting ministers discussed first, as suggested, both
the need and the opportunities to promote innovation in order to contribute
to sustainable development and new employment opportunities. They agreed
that significant effort should be devoted to scientific research on technologies
for sustainable growth that can contribute to solving global scale issues
in areas such as environment, health, food production and energy supply.
17. With regard to the achievement of a higher eco-efficiency ministers
showed a greater openness towards a market-oriented approach. In line with
the mainstream in economics they stressed the importance of institutional,
regulatory and fiscal framework conditions to promote innovative and entrepreneurial
behaviour, the removal of obstacles to collaborative research and networking,
and improved access to venture capital and long term financing.
18. Ministers did not take into account explicitly the positive experience
related to demand-pull approaches of the promotion eco-efficient technologies
triggered off by changes of the regulatory framework. Moreover, they did
not consider that a high degree of external flexibility would hamper both
the implementation of high performance work systems and the acquisition
of new skills and competencies. Instead, they repeated calls for better
functioning labour markets and an increased mobility of workers as prerequisite
of an improvement in innovation capacities as well as its translation into
the creation of more and better jobs.
19. With regard to the promotion of innovation ministers recommended
that future work of the CSTP should give particular emphasis to:
- enhancing its ability to track, measure and understand changes
in national S&T and innovation capabilities, and their impact on economic
performance and employment, notably in service activities;
20. The second part of the meeting was devoted to the discussion of responses
of S&T Policies to globalisation. Ministers recognised the need to
embed national S&T policies directly into an international perspective
so as to increase the capacity of economies to access and exploit the results
of global scientific and technological activity. Moreover, they expressed
support for measures to facilitate international co-operation among firms
at the pre-competitive stage and ease international mobility of S&T
personnel while taking due account of possible adverse effects concerning
the brain drain.
- benchmarking and identification of best policy practices concerning
industry-science relationships and the development of research-based spin-offs;
- ensuring an effective contribution to the OECD horizontal project
on Sustainable Development;
- assessing practices aimed at a better involvement of civil society
in policy making pertaining to the exploitation and diffusion of new technologies;
reviewing the role that social sciences can play in this regard and, more
generally, in policy assessment and formulation.
21. Ministers expressed their appreciation for the accomplishments of
the Megascience Forum and they welcomed the decision to create a new OECD
Global Science Forum to succeed the Megascience Forum. Since 1992, the
Megascience Forum has provided a venue for regular consultations about
Big Science among senior science policy officials. It has delivered practical
and action orientated recommendations for co-operation in the fields of
big scientific projects.
22. The new forum will bring together twice a year government science
policy officials, directors of laboratories and professionals responsible
for the management and development of new scientific projects and programmes.
All will be involved in decisions that require international co-operation
to advance better planning and funding of crucial scientific infrastructure
which requires more than one country to fund it. The Forum will seek to
identify and to exploit opportunities for strengthening the global research
infrastructure (site facilities such as new neutron sources, instruments
such as new telescopes or drilling exploration vessels, databases such
as those which contain material on Biodiversity resources, as well as research
and education networks and programmes). The Forum will seek to promote
the sharing and more rational use of existing or new resources among participating
23. After a controversial debate during the preparation of the ministerial
meeting and in the light of the G8 discussion Ministers agreed to endorse
efforts by interested countries and encouraged initiatives aimed at establishing
an international co-ordinating body that would implement a Global Biodiversity
Information Facility (GBIF). The purpose of GBIF is to co-ordinate the
standardisation, digitisation and global dissemination (within an appropriate
property rights framework) of the world's biodiversity data. The importance
of such a facility in the areas of health, resource management, environmental
protection, agriculture and education was acknowledged by the Ministers.
They also welcomed the efforts of several countries to undertake preparatory
work necessary for the establishment of GBIF by mid-2000.
24. During the final part of their meeting Ministers discussed ways
to adapt the regulatory environment to the needs of scientific and technological
progress. Obviously they shared the view that some regulatory provisions
would limit the contribution of S&T to economic growth and sustainable
development by hampering scientific advances and the generation and commercial
exploitation of new technologies. Therefore, Ministers called for an appropriate
regulatory reform to unleash innovative capacity by encouraging innovative
behaviour and the diffusion of knowledge. But they noted too, that new
regulatory frameworks need to take account of social and environmental
policy objectives, promote diversity of technological choices and command
public understanding and confidence. According to Ministers the latter
is particularly the case in areas of rapid change such as the application
of biotechnology to health and agriculture.
Conclusions and follow-up
25. Ongoing debates about the information society and the knowledge-based
economy are characterised by a lack of a social dimension. Many contributions
made are still based on economic as well as technological determinism.
With regard to the limits of markets the fact cannot be overlooked that
civil society needs realms of political rights protected from the market.
A knowledge-based economy cannot be based on the superiority of free markets
and on technological determinism.
26. The rejection of technological determinism and the recognition of
the social aspects of new technology have important consequences. They
make it obvious, that policies to promote the widespread use of new technology
cannot and should not be limited to the economic integration of technological
change, as a High Level Expert Group of the European Commission has put
it in a recent policy report. Accordingly, all aspects of a broader social
integration of technological change must be included in S&T Policies.
The development and use of new technology, technological change as a whole,
must be considered as a social process.
27. With regard to the process of globalisation, trade unions are concerned
that policy attention related to new technology has mostly focused on liberalisation
of markets for products and services based on new technology as well as
on ensuring competition. Little attention was given to establishing, and
enforcing a set of common social standards. This must be overcome.
28. Recent developments within national systems of innovations are indicating
that by many public and private actors in charge of the promotion of science
and research, of education and training as of innovation, expenditures
related to the generation, accumulation and application of new knowledge
are simply being perceived as costs. Expenditures related to these activities
are hardly considered as strategic investments and contributions to existing
assets. This perception is guided by the idea, that competitiveness is
determined by the evolution of costs, in particular by wage costs. This
assumption does not hold true.
29. What are needed are new ways to measure competitiveness which reflect
the idea that competitiveness is not synonymous with competition for market
share. An up-to-date and compelling concept of competitiveness should not
only refer to the capacity of business enterprises to produce goods and
services which respond to the demands of international markets, it must
at the same time refer to the demands of workers and citizens to enjoy
an improving standard of living.
30. The promotion of so-called intangible investments, education and
vocational training as well as the enhancement of skills, the redesign
of traditional taylorist forms of work organisation, the introduction of
team work must become a characteristic mark of Science and Technology Policy.
Extended S&T policy approaches must be accompanied by efforts to upgrade
skills and competencies of both the workforce and companies. Skills and
knowledge must be recognised as important assets of both companies and