Collaboration: a much needed tool to solve today’s key challenges

 

Do we have the ability to address global challenges? From concerted decision making (as was demonstrated last December for the COP21) to local actions (and activism), can we move collectively towards a better future?

I am convinced that we can achieve the above only under the condition of major collaborations. Collaboration will be crucial and should not be viewed superficially as merely the ability to get along with each other or to accept compromises but as a real desire to build a new vision of the world together. Collaboration will need to be deeply rooted in empathy and common understanding. In my field of expertise and my particular interest, the scientific world, a similar situation with mostly superficial collaborations with a limited number of actors can be observed. Problems have become more complex and will often require joint efforts in order to solve them. Many voices ask “do scientists have the ability to address global challenges?”. These issues are well presented byJason Pontin in this TEDTalk.

According to a report written in 2015 by the OECD the reason we do not manage to tackle major issues through science and innovation is because “international collaboration is under-utilised”[1] particularly in the scientific community. Most of the collaboration in STI (Science Technology and Innovation) is still today formed on a “business as usual” model. Even when discussing “Open Innovation”, many major companies today only think of research partnerships with universities or of the creation of an investment fund. These practices are still not bold enough to tackle today’s Grand Challenges. They are based on conditions of less intertwined issues and more traditional models of science-society-policy interaction. Today, “the scope and urgency of global challenges, on the one hand, and the new and more open means of knowledge generation, sharing and application, on the other, may require new types of collaboration” [2].

A first idea on which we could build on is the co-creation model between major industrials and social entrepreneurs that is praised by Ashoka. However, it will be necessary to go even further. Scientists, policy makers, business people (both from social and classic business) and ordinary citizens will have to think globally and act collectively.

There is a need for a common platform where different actors can begin this conversation. This is one of the reasons we are launching our new cycle of conferences “The Future Of _” as a place to foster a dialogue and collaborations between different actors. “The Future Of _” conferences seek to present innovative solutions to our most pressing social and environmental challenges. Through responsibly thought and implemented science and technology we can devise a new world. However, this world cannot exist and these solutions will not have a major impact if not for the collaboration between very different actors such as scientists, social entrepreneurs, major companies and policy makers.

The first topic we will tackle in “The Future Of _” cycle is Food and our agricultural models: what are the innovations that will help us feed 9 billion people in 2050 in a sustainable and healthy way? For “The Future Of Food”, we will hear on stage many different actors: small start-ups such as Agricool or Micronutris, SMEs like Nutriset, major companies such as Danone and leading scientists such as Mark Post. Every actor is welcome to take part in the conversation, and keeping that in mind, we have devised special prices for start-ups so that they too can participate in the exchanges. Moreover, each conference will have only 30 participants in order to really foster deep conversations and ideas for collaborations.

Do you want to be part of the Future of Food through new scientific and entrepreneurial models? Join us on the 12th of April in Paris!


[1] Meeting 21st century challenges with science, technology and innovation, OECD

[2] Meeting 21st century challenges with science, technology and innovation, OECD

 
Nathan Grass