During the opening session of the public launch and first conference of Atomium-EISMD Mr Javier Moreno, Editor-in-Chief of El País introduces the perspectives of the newspapers. Listen to his speech.
Mr Honorary President, Mr President, Monsieur le Ministre, ladies and gentlemen, it’s an honour and a pleasure to be here. As Editor in chief of the Spanish Journal El Pais, I am addressing you on behalf of the European newspapers which have joined Atomium-EISMD, initiative that has brought us together here today.
Although I run a newspaper, you may be surprised by the fact that I am no journalist by training at University, neither did I study any specialty which usually leads afterwards to journalism in a natural way, nor sociology, political science, philology or any languages either dead or alive. I am a chemist by training, which I guess makes me a happy choice for standing here before you today. I have to confess that I even worked four long years as a chemist before forsaking it for journalism. Four long years dedicated to research applied to industry, of which one was spent in a Spanish company and the other three in Germany at a European chemical giant.
Does all this give me special authority, any specific know-how entitling me to speak to you today about the challenges that we all face: researchers, companies, newspapers and the European society at large? No, it does not. Yet, there is something I would like to share here today: labs and newsrooms in which I have spent almost twenty-five years of professional experience have taught me the same lesson you have also learned, the hard way most of the times: a well done job requires minute, intensive, painstaking work with plenty of attention to detail; it may be a reactive mixture, when you speak chemistry; an eye-catching headline when you speak journalism, or again a complex analysis, well that applies both for chemistry and journalism and at the end of the day you achieve your goal, you understand a little bit the problem you have been working on in one case, or you put a polish newspaper out on a news stand in the other. I cannot imagine in any other way the task we all face. Actually I cannot picture the construction of a future for Europe in any other way.
Ten years ago, the European Union decided that “before the year 2010 Europe should become the first economic and technology power in the world”. Well, last time I checked we were not the first economic and technology power in the world and we all agree that we won’t make it in the remaining 34 days for the deadline. Now, the Lisbon Agenda has not been fulfilled. Felipe Gonzalez, the former Spanish Prime Minister asked a very simple question a few days ago at the forum on the future of Europe held in Madrid: is there any chance of Europe declaring that this has not been achieved and of our doing something other than what is done in the last ten years? I doubt it, said Gonzalez, and I would add: absolutely no chance.
So, the first lesson I think we should draw is the following: let’s forget please about the big words and all the hot-air rhetoric; after all those years maybe it’s interesting make a short list of things we should be aware of in the years to come – I promise it won’t be long.
First: let’s not further debate, it’s better to get going.
Stop rethinking the way: why not just go ahead.
Don’t try rewriting the social contract: let’s make the best of the one we have.
Don’t change the structure: let’s take advantage of what we’ve already got.
We don’t need any more tools, we need the will to use them.
We don’t need a single policy on anything on the size of tomatoes on how to treat pigs en route to the slaughterhouse, not because they aren’t important issues, but because each country can take care of them and because Europe is not a place renowned for having many people who mistreat pigs and certainly there is not shortage of states and governments concerned about the size of tomatoes.
We need instead to concentrate our efforts in a few areas that will set the difference, where our union will set the difference: research is one of those areas.
We, the newspapers that have joined Atomium-EISMD, will do our job; we know how to do it and we are willing to do it. The same applies to researchers and companies in this room and all this for the success for this substantial initiative. But Europe as a whole needs to take a big leap forward especially in one field: will power, political will. We already know how to do things, now it’s just a matter of wanting to do them and taking all the European point of view and that’s no small task. Thank you very much.
Mr Michelangelo Baracchi Bonvicini, President of Atomium-EISMD, opens the conference. Listen to the opening speech. Please find below the speech in English.
Welcome to the public launch and first conference of Atomium Culture.
I want to thank the Honorary President Valery Giscard d’Estaing who unexpectedly proposed that I open the conference.
Many among you already know Atomium Culture, that today is presented to Europe, and know that we are not launching a project that needs to be realized but -after many years of preliminary coordination and work among the actors engaged- the first permanent platform for European excellence.
This platform engages, for the first time some of the most authoritative actors within research, media and industry in Europe – promoting dynamic, coordinated and intersectorial interactions – in order to foster and disseminate knowledge at a truly European level. This first permanent platform has made the vision for Europe -that inspired its creation- tangible, concrete and accessible.
A vision that comes from the impellent necessity of doing. That is based on the conviction of the utility of an open, coordinated and concrete cooperation between the three key actors of the knowledge society at a European level. To redefine the role of these three actors in relation to society.
We all know that to avoid to remain behind despite its current preeminent position in many fields, Europe must adapt to a new reality where knowledge is and will be our major strength and our priority.
But if the old methods do not work, you need to look at the problem from a different angle and start again beginning from our strengths. What we present today is a new vision; promoted and shared by some of the most authoritative European universities, newspapers and businesses, that have decided to change from a more traditional approach and to accept some important challenges for the progress of European society that naturally also includes their own development.
The first challenge has been to accept and try a new –and thus uncertain- undertaking, investing ones name, authoritativeness and resources when everything was just a project, in order to contribute to build the necessary structure to turn the project into reality.
The success of this first challenge has shown that Europe is not an “old continent”, but that it still wants to learn and to adapt itself to the new conditions; that there is space for good ideas and that these can become reality; that we can change our habits and most importantly our mentality to adapt to a new reality.
The next challenge, starting from today, will be to make this vision beneficial, using the instrument created together – this permanent platform – to bring us gradually to a new stage where knowledge can move easily, in a coordinated and reliable way among the different actors of society and where the public is involved and informed, at a European level, about the best results.
John Locke said, “The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others.”
A vision that intends to avoid the dispersion of knowledge into the many alleys of sectors and nationalities, thanks to a recognizable and reliable coordinating nucleus. A better informed society is a society with a stronger decision-making capacity.
The development of this new way of thinking changes the model for interactions and collaborations within different sectors of society, from linear to a more complex and dynamic structure. A model that reminds us of the complexity of the beehive where every actor brings and contributes to the whole with his expertise. To make the whole, as already Aristotle said, greater than the simple sum of its parts. And, I add, also better!
Europe has some of the most authoritative universities, reliable and free media and innovative businesses in the world. What we lack is a coordinated and transversal interaction among the various sectors of European society, a collaboration that can overcome our well known weaknesses.
We should not start reinventing the wheel. What is necessary is to increase and coordinate the movement of knowledge and the connections among the already existing institutions, to implement this and bring the best results to the attention of the European citizens. Interactions increase the value of new knowledge exponentially. It is not the size that makes a brain intelligent, but the number and speed of its connections.
Before all others, some actors of the European excellence felt the duty to support and promote this change with a new solution. We need to make the access and communication of the most innovative ideas easy and reliable. To reward talent and commitment, to give science the space it deserves and the most innovative ideas the right attention. The attention given to a good idea is an indispensible part of its success.
The reliability of information is a fundamental aspect of this vision, since the amount of information and disinformation can only be fought through reputed and reliable information. In this context, the role of the newspapers engaged is and will be of fundamental importance for the future knowledge society, both with regard to the traditional printed paper and their internet websites -or the one of Atomium Culture that will be at their service and at the service of the actors involved and the public.
Our mission will be to change the “culture” of how European institutions and citizens interact, starting by ourselves.
It is not enough to think about the specific sector, we need to think about society as a whole and, to start, to the sectors that are its leading actors. To reach a knowledge that is inclusive, a fundamental element in bringing Europe to a real knowledge society.
Atomium Culture is not a Think Tank, it has not been conceived to discuss abstractly of what should be done. It has been conceived as an instrument of action with a clear mission. As backdrop, Atomium Culture looks at a united and strong Europe, as a necessary part of global development.
We are here today not only to discuss about the problems. We are here to look at this challenge from a different perspective and to what can be done together to implement this realistic and coordinated solution, that will be operational starting tomorrow. If everyone is moving forward together, the success takes care of itself! Thank you.
Thanks to everybody for being here. I am partly here to represent the academic world: both the digital, but also the academic. Everybody knows that the academic has a nickname which is the “ivory tower”. We are here to speak slightly about the ivory tower. Just as a small background -not because I want to tell you about myself, but because I want you to understand the perspective- I started as a pure mathematician, so, the very top of the ivory tower, where the pigeons are, up there. Then I moved a bit down: computer scientist -computer scientist because it was a very interesting field- and then the web appeared and it has been like bolts and lightening appearing, because the web has such an incredible potential and also because it touches the people, not just the ivory tower, but the people living out of the ivory tower.
So, it has been a slow decrease up from the heights of the tower down to the matters of the real people. So, have things changed? (because this was happening years ago). The situation has slightly changed, although almost zero changing. I would say we have passed from ivory tower to ivory castles, you know; there have been efforts of increasing the parts, the sum of the parts should be bigger than just the pure individual components. But it’s just castles. There have been efforts, previous efforts: probably you know about the network of excellence effort of the European community, which has been an interesting idea, but still, from one tower you have passed to a castle.
So, when I heard about Atomium, I have to say I have been very much excited because it prompted to me: it’s a bridge! It’s a bit like a bridge from the ivory castle with all the brilliant ideas and the knowledge locked inside, like polished rooms, and a bridge bringing results out to the society, to the people, so that people can get in and also people in the ivory castle can get out. So, it struck me as a bridge, as a new idea, if you want. How do you develop such a bridge? Partly, you use networks. Networks is the big nickname, the big modern word. The networks that Internet – also now the so-called modern Internet, the Web 2.0 – has, these social network things, Facebook, LinkedIn, that you can get in.
Atomium is different: it’s not like Facebook or LinkedIn. I could tell you why it struck me that Atomium has some peculiar characteristic: it’s a different kind of network. It has been studied, but only very recently.
Instead of giving you the boring details: the Wall Street Journal –yesterday’s copy which you also find online, it’s still online- there’s an article on page 14 about the Wednesday 10 social network: it’s a social network from the ’50s, 1957, over fifty years ago, it’s a real pity you cannot see the picture, but it’s online, I’ll be showing it this afternoon maybe. Because you can’t see the faces of these people, it’s all people over 80, as you can imagine, almost, but they have sparkling eyes and these people, a bunch of people, developed already in ’57 a different, a totally different kind of network for the time.
Just more reading: I give you the very quick explanation of why this team was very peculiar. “The Wednesday 10 comprised at various points more than twenty men; the goal was a number small enough to maintain intimacy – small enough, so not a huge network – yet large enough to ensure that at least ten members would show up every time: The Wednesday 10″; and Wednesday because every month, the first Wednesday of the month, these people were meeting up.
No more than two representative of any one industry were permitted; for the time it was a totally innovative concept: a network is usually networking of common people, common ideas. These people were saying “no – we don’t want common people”. The idea was to combat insularity, to keep the men connected to people and events outside their own professions. And Mr Robert Menschel, which is one of those sparkling eye persons here, Goldman Sachs Executive for over 55 years, said “it helped me to understand why other people do what they do, which is important in life and business”. You don’t learn anything from talking to sameness”.
This was one of the very important things that distinguished this new network for the time -1957 – and later they go on describing other features like the advantages to membership, but there were lot of advantages from this apparent strange thing, you don’t gather similar people, but you get to gather different people, which is something strange, to say the least.
So, we were saying “why Atomium struck me and struck you”, because we are all here. Because it has these different peculiarities: it’s not a flat network, like these online networks, where everybody can connect to anybody else. It’s more like a vertical network. Okay, you have islands of people, but can talk to different islands; castles but can talk to the people; it’s not a global network like the modern internet networks, where the value of the modern network is the bigger you are, the better you are. No, this network was kept small and it’s essential. Why? Because excellence is not broad. By definition excellence is a fraction, otherwise is diluted water: you cannot drink wine diluted with water. You can, but it doesn’t taste the same, of course.
And then diversity; we were talking about diversity of Europe. We are so lucky, but we have this diversity inside our structure, the European structure and that’s why also for instance the US researchers are not much ahead of European researchers, despite the differences in budgets and other things. Because we have diversity, we have much more to learn. This ‘57 people were keeping diversity as an essential feature and it’s also true here in Atomium.
Passion. These guys were saying to describe themselves: “we were ambitious and hard-working. If you were to skip two meetings: out”. It’s not like a normal network, a normal internet network, where you are in the network you have yet another star: I am in another network and then probably you don’t do anything. No, you need to do something. And I hope Atomium is also pursuing this: you need to be active, you need to want and to do something.
And then the last thing on the many advantages they were saying: “we were there because we also had the many advantages”. It is the case, it should be the case for Atomium as well, an essential component of any network, it’s not just the good will of the people; it’s also that I stayed there because I have some advantages, or, the society as a whole has some advantages. So, that’s also another thing that struck me.
So, I don’t want to take much more time because I know that I took more than my allowed time. I just want to conclude stating that close to the Venice region where I live, in Italy, at a certain period in history, some strange writings started to appear in the walls around Venice and also in the closer Venetian region: “less internet- written on the walls- more cabernet”. Well, in Italian it sounded similar, it sounds strange. Why, in an era where the internet is growing so much, people were writing this? You might think it was, I don’t know, older people writing this, old people writing “less internet, more cabernet”. No, it was mostly young people; the young people were writing this on the walls. Why? Because at that period in time the internet was something not so social, not so easy, rather difficult, a bit with some bureaucracy, if you want to say this way. And so they were complaining, they were seeing the potential, but complaining. Something was missing and they were protesting this way.
So, it is a similar situation, that we have experienced now with the ivory castle; so our future motto will be from “less internet, more cabernet” to “less ivory castle and more Atomium bridges”. Thank you everyone.
Thank you very much. I have spent all my life at the crossroads of knowledge and society because I started as a teacher for 12year olds which is usually the best audience you can have because they are interested and you have to make things simple. Then I was a journalist until twenty years ago. I started working in knowledge companies; I spent a couple of years in a pharmaceutical chemical company, seven years within an electrotechnical company and the last four years with Shell.
So, having difficult and sometimes contentious material that you need to communicate, not only to journalists, but to the outside world, it’s something that is part of the reason I go to work, because I really like doing that.
It’s nice to be back in Brussels: I used to come here a lot when I was Reuters’ Chief correspondent in Bonn, back in the late Eighties, when Bonn was actually the West German capital, you remember. We used to come here to cover something called the Common Market and I remember sitting up late at night when people were discussing CAP, which I believe had something to do with agricultural subsidies. And it was a time when I was actually able to go to all the briefings from the different member nations except for Greece. You know, it was a small and cosy place and that was even before my own country, Sweden, joined them and I kind of like coming back here because it brings back memories.
My connection with Europe as its history has moved through fits and starts and goes back to the late 1970’s, I was with the UPI then and frequently went on reporting assignments to East Germany; I saw a Soviet tank divisions being pulled out of Württemberg in 1980, it was part of the Détente. I was in Poland in the summer of Solidarity in 1980 and went back there on the Martial Law in 1982. On February 23rd 1981 I was dispatched to Madrid to cover a coup attempt and then remained there for two years as the Chief Correspondent of UPI. That was one of the few places I have been in Europe where the story actually was positive for two years in a stretch. And I heard Reagan making his famous speech about tearing down the wall around 1988 in Berlin.
Then of course came that giant leap which began in Europe in 1989. Since I moved to PR around then, I have seen both Europe and the world through a business in society lens and since then and of course as my personal lens as a Swedish citizen. Working and learning in a personal journey like this and what and how can it be relevant to the task and mission of Atomium Culture?
First of all you can make change happen if you use knowledge and enthusiasm in the right sort of combination and make clear to people where the journey is going. But you need to be able to connect your fellow citizens, and especially how to be able to connect with the young; and if you think of Twitter and Facebook and social networks on the web, where conversation is more important than content, then there is a great, huge level of challenge for science to connect with society, because most young people don’t actually read newspapers anymore: they get their information differently, they can be extremely educated. So, if you want to do something that reaches beyond the elite, you have to find a way to catch the fish the other end and lead you back in the mainstream again.
And of course the role of my former profession is key here. But media can only play that role if those who have the knowledge agree to – and I have to tell you a little story: a seeds researcher in that Swiss company I worked for Sandoz used to call me the “vulgarizer” when I turned up and asked him to explain things to me and as he was to explain how a genetically modified sugar beet seed didn’t change the sugar beet, or the sugar or the jam, in significant enough ways for this to be labelled on the tin. That was 1993. Failure to communicate means that this sugar beet seed is still not registered in Europe, because that’s how science fails to connect to the concerns of society in those days.
And we see it now in the energy field as well and I think you as leaders in the academia and media and my friends from industry who are here, we know that we need to do something rather urgently to help this continent remain competitive and perhaps even a leader through knowledge and through finding a purpose to become more competitive and less entitlement oriented – grumpy old man speaking here. And of course energy has a role to play here. I am going to spare you the Shell propaganda bit which my speech writer put in here, but it’s a good company, ok?
But I think it’s a combination of three things that we really have to do: we have to get the policies right in society; we have to make sure that policies enable technology development, but then we have to work in that very very hard part which is behaviour. So, if I walk through this quickly and take the context of climate change, which is what we’re looking today – Copenhagen and what’s going to happen- we’ll probably have some sort of political deal and we hope it will take less long to formulate the regulations that it did to decide on the last round of the WTO – I think it was twenty-four years- or the time it took Brussels to not want to mandate the shape of bananas that is one of the good stuff that sometimes happens here.
So, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) can only happen if we have the policies around that flowing out of Copenhagen. And why is that important? It’s important to have carbon capture and storage, because otherwise we are going to run out of fuel, because if we keep burning out fossils fuels the way that we burn today, the planet is in danger. So, it’s a bridging technology that has to happen.
It raises a lot of fears and concerns: we see that in the base where I live currently and work currently in Holland, where we’ve just been working with the government, the government has agreed that one old gas field, which we used to capture CO2. It has developed a new phenomenon called Numby (Not under my backyard) and it’s a real concern, you know. People live with CO2 underground all the time and they don’t know it and therefore they don’t fear it and when you want to put it back in again, it seems to be dangerous. And of course the critics use this argumentation and that fear to argue against CCS and they argue against CCS because exactly they think it’s going to prolong the hydrocarbon age.
So, again, if you want to have an informed debate about these things, the scientific knowledge, the journalistic digestion of that scientific knowledge can only be done if people are open and curious in society around us. And then we can develop the technologies that we need.
Then comes the hard bit, the really hard bit, that is: who’s going to tell people, us, that we cannot use as much energy as we have been so far? Who’s going to tell us to be less comfortable, less mobile, less productive and so on and so forth? Which government is going to try to run for re-election on a platform that says “Actually you’re going to live a colder and less comfortable and less interesting life?”
This is where I think that Atomium Culture can play an enormous role as a catalyst for change in the way that society treats knowledge and in the way that society treats science. And you know, this is something that I think we can do if we get the thing right.
So, anyway, you can print money, but you can’t print knowledge. And, as a teacher, I learned then that, unless you have patience, unless you respect your audience, your children and start with the knowledge base that they have, they’re not going to learn and they will never be able to understand the data and understand how data become information and how information becomes knowledge which, if we are lucky turns to insight, which, if we are even luckier turns into wisdom and can guide us forward.
So I think that rather than just staring at the competitiveness and you know, coming from manufacturing that we get in places like China and India, we should look at other countries and what they are doing, Japan and South Korea for example. They are two very mature economies that face many of the same issues that Europe is grappling with today and they are finding a way to bring innovation to the forefront. And they seem to be able to do that without having all the societal debates around whether the progress is a good or bad thing. So, perhaps we should look at them as well. Because if we can learn from these other countries Europe will probably be able to contribute more. And if we don’t act, those of us who have an interest or a passion for this, who on earth will? Thank you.
Thank you very much. It is a great pleasure and honour to be here.
First of all, I would like to thank you, Mr Valéry Giscard d’Estaing for some words which you said, I will quote them: “We need a printed press, we need words”. That makes my future a little bit more optimistic, because not everybody is really so convinced that we need a printed press, especially in present time, when we have to do with such enormous growth and development of internet and new media.
But why do I think that this thesis, which Mr President said, is so important. Because what is the advantage of printed press and printed words in comparison with other forms of media activity. First of all I think that in printed press you are able just to deliver thought, we are able to think in a critical way, we are able to analyze the reality and to focus on the content of this, what is said and what is thought. And that is the huge difference if you compare with other media. I wouldn’t say that journalists work in printed media are in a way better than their colleagues from other media, but they have more time and they have to concentrate more on the real content and not so much on the form or on the outlook of this what they said or what they write.
And that makes me go to the core of our discussion and to ask which are the most fundamental conditions that this whole initiative that Atomium Culture prepared could be successful. We have a situation like that, there are three worlds: world of science, world of business and world of journalism and media. And the main problem for us is how to combine these three worlds and how to create a real communication between people working in these different worlds. Because on the highest level of abstraction this cooperation seems to be very easy, in fact we think over that it’s something obvious that universities should cooperate with business and universities should cooperate with journalists and in fact it’s something of very easy support for this idea.
But the problem is, as I said before ,the problem lies in communications, in the language in which the scientists are going to communicate with the public opinion.
That is the question: who the journalist is, what is his role in the democratic society?
In my opinion, the journalist shouldn’t be a specialist. I am also, as my colleague from Spain, I am not a professional journalist. I finished Law at Warsaw University and in fact my journalists who work in the science section, most of them are also not professional scientists and I think that it’s an advantage, because in that way they are able to think as the readers think and they are able to translate the complicated, sometimes very highly complicated language which scientists use in their work. So, to reach the reader, to reach to the readership, so to reach average educated people who usually not have so much time to go very deeply in some particulars and some facts, but to catch the general ideas from the science.
I would say that the role of the journalist is to be in between: in between I mean if we have on one hand a scientist with a very thorough and deep knowledge and on the other hand the public opinion, people who have usually not much time, just some kind of general education, even if it’s high education, people who have not so much knowledge especially concerning the sciences like physics, like chemistry, like mathematics, like biology. And the journalists are in between, so they are able to: firstly to go to the scientist to understand what they do and then to translate it to the language which is understandable for normal readers, because that’s the crucial condition for the whole enterprise which Atomium Culture started: that the text which the printed press is going to publish must be attractive. Because, otherwise, the whole enterprise wouldn’t be successful. Only if you are able to this scientific language or the language of scientists into understandable and attractive language for normal readers, that is the crucial point for the success of the whole enterprise.
Maybe some personal experience, I would say that our newspaper, Rzeczpospolita, which is in fact the most authoritative in Poland, was the first one which started the science section in Polish press and we’ve been publishing this section for ten or eleven years; we started with one page once a week, now we’ve got two pages everyday. So it shows how enormous is the demand to have more knowledge and more information in our readers and in fact I would say that’s the highest group in Polish society. But to be really successful, we can’t skip other media, we have also to find a way how to reach other journalists and how to reach radio or television. I said at the beginning that they are least in a worst situation, or maybe better. That depends from the point of view. Because they have less time and less possibility to think deeper. But, on the other hand, they have more expanded target groups, they are able to reach much more people than printed press.
So, the structure is like that: at the top of the story we have the group of scientists, I would say, who work on particular programs and are able to show their particular achievements; then they go or they are invited by journalists from printed press, who are able to translate it in a very, quite understandable way for quite a large group of people but still high educated; and then, on the basis of that, other media could follow.
So, from that point of view, the idea that in this program, which is prepared by Atomium Culture are representatives of printed press, seems to be quite a reasonable one, because it’s the first role of translation, from the top to the much larger group of society. So, I strongly believe it’s possible for us to create such a language, such communication in which the text which are given, or the publication which are prepared by particular universities would be generally understandable and in that way we’ll be able to disseminate the text, the articles to our readership, to our readers, to our public and that this dialogue between these three worlds will be successful. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much. I have got six minutes. I’ll try to do it in five minutes, so, I have a clock here so. We are happy to be here; Lund University is in fact the strongest Swedish Research University and we try very hard to combine education, research and also innovation and my own background is in fact that I have been running in a governmental agency for innovation and research for eight years and before that I was having a start-up University and Institute of Technology and we used in fact at that university education and research and interplayed with industry very strongly and saw this type of growth, where the university was located, into one of the leading growth area in Sweden, concentrating on ICT.
And so I was promoted to trying to do the same trick for whole Sweden and that is not so easy, but I was running an agency for innovation and it was very interesting to understand really how innovation takes place and it takes place not by doing innovation by yourself, but by interplaying and you are very dependent on the interaction. And I would tell you something about that and then, in the afternoon, I will expand a little more.
And I am very happy also that Atomium Culture take into place the very important papers and communications and I have been also launching program for innovation journalism, because excellent journalists that really understand science, business and also politics and policy are very valuable in the way that we could change Europe and be a more growing and responsible continent.
So, Lund University is quite a strong university where two thirds of our budget is for research and we are very happy for the decision of the European Spallation Source that we will build now in Lund and we are preparing for that. And we are very happy and it’s quite a change also for us and we think this is very good, not only for us of course, but for the whole Europe. But unfortunately it took quite a time for Europe to decide, so there is the same – but we will build it better of course – but there is already one in Japan and in the US, so we are lagging behind but now we are building as fast as we can.
We are part also of the League of European Research Universities and we are happy for that because I think we have to join forces between the strong universities in Europe in order to be competitive in the world and also to make Europe competitive. And of course we interplay with business and different societies around the university.
Then, if we compare – and I am little rude here – if we compare Europe with Asia and America, if we can see that Asia they are concentrating in products, they do also some services, but it’s products and they have this long-term perspective. For instance China is run by engineers and economists, so they are very bold and they go directly on things and they are really making a change in the country. So, they are concentrating on products and long-term perspectives. Americans, as we know, they are concentrating on business and they change: if the business doesn’t work, they change. And what about Europe? We are making discussions like this, we are meeting, then discussing policy and then we invest heavily in subsidies in agriculture. And then we complain that we are not so competitive.
I think we have to change and I think there are some good change for that and we have in fact to learn from Asia and we have to learn from America. And this, I think is the key issue for us, that we have to address the real problem and not just being polite and talking around, but addressing the things that are real problems for us. Innovation: that means in fact new successful products, services and processes and this means to interplay with business, university and politics.
Because it’s a knowledge-based economy so you can’t rely just on business, you have to rely very strongly today on university. So in fact you can say that you today don’t just keep it public-private partnership when you do those things, you have to have public private university partners because it’s a knowledge based economy and this of course addresses the university also to act differently and also to take part of the society and of business. And I am happy to say that the motto of Lund University is to be, in Latin, prepared to be both. You see, we have the lion there, that’s a book in the left hand and we have a sword in the right hand and the sword is then that we also would like to act.
And I think that we have to realize that the business of course is in competition worldwide, but also we, as university, we are in the world of competition and you imagine this world ranking list: we are on place 67 on Times Higher Education World list and we are happy for that and we try to go up, higher. But also policy, politics are in competition: if the policy is not good, we will lose jobs and we will lose competent people, so that’s the reason why policy is so important and we have to form centres of excellence, not only in research, but also in innovation at our university. We have to understand innovation procurement to buy things that don’t exist and then use researchers and use agencies that can evaluate ideas on how to do new things. And then of course address small and medium sized companies.
And then, research by itself doesn’t in fact make any money. It’s in fact opposite: research transform money to knowledge and competence; innovation, on the other hand, transforms knowledge and competence into money and value. And if you have to make this really work, you have also to understand the needs from business and society. So, that’s a key question.
If you are running a university, you can’t just keep this innovation inside technology and science and medicine. So, I am very happy for our social scientists: they have ideas now on how to introduce projects to get rid of the homeless, so we help the homeless people find homes. So we have a project and call it “Housing first” adapting from other parts of the world and introducing a new way of new policy and I am very happy for that. So, this is also, could be also part of innovation and in the afternoon I will talk a little more about innovation journalism, that’s a program that we have introduced and this is very important. And it’s very important that Atomium Culture has taken newspapers and communication into a part and this means also that the link between research and education to business and for innovation be stronger and will be also scrutinized by good people from papers. Thank you very much.
This is not a day I think I can sum up, but I just wanted to mention four European cities, which I think pose some of the challenge for Atomium Culture and for all of us.
The first city is Athens, and in a way almost everything we talked about today perhaps has its origins in Athens and a spirit which we are all the descendants of, which was a spirit of observation, which is actually seeing things as they are, a spirit of argument, often ferocious argument between scientist, philosophers and so on, and the belief that it should happen publically and the very “publicness” of arguments, observation and discovery is what helps them to happen. That was a very distinctive approach to knowledge which in a way, for 2-2500 years Europe has benefited from and then, in some ways, helped to turn in a common property of the world. And yet, in some ways, always we are trying to recapture that spirit because our institutions tend to go against every aspect of that; they tend to become perhaps not very theoretical, not very observational and they tend to become a little bit siloed, conventional wisdoms, take over from argument and they become perhaps a little bit closed-off from publicness and transparency.
The second city to mention is Lisbon, which has already been mentioned a few times today. Ten years after the ambitions of the Lisbon Agenda and with only a few weeks to go, it’s clear: it wasn’t a successful programme; it was needed and probably what was done in his name was necessary, but it was not enough. We’ve talked about tomatoes and pigs, as one symptom of what Europe still appears to value most, perhaps not brains and knowledge. And perhaps, looking back what one of the elements which Lisbon could have benefited from, was something like an Atomium Culture. Atomium is described here as a platform; it’s a platform, not a programme, in a way a platform which has to be filled in with content. But one of the ways which Europe has, I think, not caught up or kept up with the rest of the world, is the interlinking of universities, business, entrepreneurship, civil society. And this is a field where in the past Europe did lead the world, but has fallen behind, has arguably allowed its institutions to become too hierarchical, too stagnant, not enough space perhaps for younger minds and voices. And that’s one of the ways in which I think the Lisbon Agenda was very good on rhetoric, very good on talk, but perhaps not so good in terms of action.
The third city to mention, as you did, is Copenhagen; only a week or two away and whatever else is wrong with Europe, I think on climate change has at least been more seriousness of purpose about the issue and about what could be done than in any other region in the world, but the very issue of climate change I think brings to the fore all of the challenges which Atomium Culture is part of resolving. One, this is a field where, if you are a scientist working in any aspect of climate change, you have to become a communicator. You have to try to explain very complex phenomena to a public audience who are hungry to understand what are rather difficult and ambiguous things to understand. I remember a politician about ten years ago saying to me that the problem with scientists was that they reminded him of the comment which the poet Shelley made of his mother; and Shelley said of his mother that she had lost the power of communication, but sadly not the power of speech. And sometimes, when experts do speak, they don’t communicate and yet, ten years on, I say the climate change field has in many ways done extraordinary well in communicating, but every scientist now needs to learn, not just the thirty-second piece for YouTube, but how to explain complex systemic phenomena in ways the public can understand. This is something which Atomium can help with.
There are one or two other points about Copenhagen, whether or not it is successful. One is that much of the focus of attention in equivalent summits in the last 5-10 years has been on technological innovation and scientific understanding; that is undoubtedly correct. But the more we learn about climate change, the more it’s clear that we also need other kinds of skill, other kind of method, because so much of what needs to be done is really about social organisation, about psychology, about our patterns and lifestyles which can’t be fixed through technology. And I think one of our challenges across Europe in the next five or ten years is keeping the momentum on technological innovation, the key issue of the XX Century, but also matching it with much more effective social innovation, innovation around human, psychology, behaviour, which are key not just to climate change, but also to issues like healthcare and ageing as well.
And the final point on climate change and Copenhagen is every young researcher working in that field in Europe wants to connect better with others across Europe, but they also want to connect globally. And I think it’s very important. We think of making Europe linked better as important, but only in so far that it also enables our young scientists and researchers to be active and members of the global community. That is what they aspire to, it’s the way knowledge and teams are organised and it’s very important that Europe doesn’t try to put boundaries around itself, which are inappropriate ones.
And that really leaves me to the fourth city I wanted to mention, which is Berlin. Twenty years after the fall of the Wall, that in a way is the great metaphor for Europe’s hope and future and in some ways, what we’ve been talking about today though, is the challenge of breaking down some of the less visible walls, which do exist within our institutions in the way we do business; we heard earlier about the ivory tower, the need to build bridges out of the ivory tower. Many of our institutions are quite siloed, better at communicating internally than externally and yet we know that our future depends on breaking down the silos, creating cross cutting ways of thinking, ways of seeing and ways of acting. The other respect in which I think the Berlin Wall is perhaps a useful metaphor for us is in a way its fall was a victory of good science over bad science. Its fall was a victory for one part of the enlightenment tradition of investigation and hypothesis and free enquiry and argument over another strand the enlightenment took which tried to suppress all of those things. And one of the battles which Atomium I think is part of, is how to embed much more deeply in our society, in the media and in the Internet is the strength of good science over bad science and I think a large part of that will be mobilising younger researchers to be confident voices when they see misleading facts, misleading truths on the television screen, in the newspapers or even in political debate. We have a public who I think are hungry for enlightenment and truth and reliable authority, but simply aren’t getting enough of that from any of the existing sources. And I think there’s a generation waiting to be helped, empowered to become the guardians of essentially a truth and discovery against falsehood. Well, the irony of the internet is that it’s both a wonderful circulator of truth, but also a wonderful circulator of untruths as well.
So, these are four cities, Athens, Lisbon, Copenhagen and Berlin, all of which, in a way, have been in our minds today. Atomium has set itself a very ambitious set of goals and we heard them made them even more ambitious this morning by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, as he encouraged our “audace”. In the face of these challenges, I think the real issue for Atomium will be how to find the key points of leverage, where an organisation with relatively limited resources, albeit a wonderfully strong network of partners, how it can find the points of leverage to have most influence. And with that, I think I will hand over to Cecilia, who has been one of the driving forces in Atomium and has the answers to all of the questions about how this emerging coalition, this platform, this space can be filled out through action on issues like climate change, health, ageing and so on and hopefully allow Europe to do what I think it hasn’t done in the last few decades, which is to make its many parts, its brilliant universities, its brilliant scientists, its brilliant companies, but to make the whole more than the sum of its parts. Thank you
Mr Bruno Le Maire, former Secretary General of Atomium-EISMD and current member of the Executive Board, French Minister for Agriculture and former French Minister for European Affaires, addresses some key advantages that Europe has to become a leading knowledge society. Listen to the speech (in French)
Thank you very much Mr President, dear friends. I am very pleased to see you all here for this launch event of Atomium Culture. I’d like to welcome all the participants in this meeting with a special mention of former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing who has agreed to be here today, which is a real source of pride to everybody who has been working on Atomium Culture for years. We are so glad to have an Honorary President who is somebody who was really at the origin of the most important institutional projects since the beginning of the European Union. So, thank you very much for being here.
While I’m here as the Minister of Food Agriculture and Fisheries, I have occupied other posts in the past, I have always had very strong European conviction and I feel that the best way in which we can implement this conviction is not only to become involved in politics and I have been not only satisfied by occupying European roles; I also want to provide my support and my participation in initiatives that have emerged from civil society. It think they are encouraging European construction and strengthening the links between the member states of Europe.
I think everybody here is aware of the fact that Europe today is at a turning point in its history: it has just acquired new institutions, it has just acquired a Foreign Minister, a President of the Council. People can always say that it’s not as far reaching as the original creators of Europe we would have wished, but it’s still an important stage in Europe’s history.
So, now that we have closed the institutional debate for a few years and I am going to echo what my neighbours said here, we have now a political project to prove and we must do so in a world which , as we all know, is rapidly redefining itself: new powers have emerged in the space of a few years; new powers want to take their rightful place at the table of international issues: China, Brazil, South Africa. All of these states wish to play full role on the international stage.
New issues are emerging on the international scene; they can only be resolved by a new world governance, which is not yet clearly defined. Will it be the G20, will it be the UN, will it be the IMF, the World Bank, will it be a mixture of these institutions? In this world governance there are several projects on the table and we are still hesitating about which to choose. But everybody agrees that all of these issues can only be addressed on a world scale by this new world governance.
Besides the strategic and military issues, the three most important are: climate, which will be dealt with in Copenhagen; financial and economic regulation –this has been dealt with for several months; and the issue which is particularly of interest to me: new regulations for the agricultural market throughout the world, because the issue of feeding the world is going to become a bigger issue in the years to come and essential for the stability of the planet.
So, what can Europe contribute to this new governance and in this new international landscape? It can obviously contribute its wealth – I remind you it’s one of the richest continents in the world today. If it wishes and if it has the will to do so, it can contribute its political power, to move in one direction or in another. But I think that what it can provide and that it would be most decisive, it’s its capacity for research, innovation, its knowledge and technology. In one word, what Europe can contribute to define the world tomorrow is its intelligence.
I was struck last week when I went to the FAO conference in Rome, I was there representing the President in that meeting. I saw what African countries and Asian countries with agricultural problems, problems of hunger, what they were expecting from Europe was not money, it was not subsidies, it was cooperation in technology. They wanted us to provide European intelligence at the service of the development of those states.
Mr Moreno said this very well earlier: in order to move towards this Europe of intelligence, a few years ago we set up the Lisbon Strategy. This provided us with disappointing results: ambitions were high, the results did not live up to those ambitions. At the time I was Minister of European Affairs and I suggested that, in order to move forward more quickly, we should set obligatory criteria in terms of public spending for research in each member state. There are obligatory criteria in terms of public spending restrictions, debt restrictions, inflation restrictions. Why shouldn’t we impose compulsory criteria in terms of investments in research: that would have the benefit of moving us more quickly towards the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy. I echo what you said Mr Moreno: the results haven not lived up to our expectations once again, so we now have to move forward more quickly.
This is why I think that Atomium Culture truly responds to something that Europe is lacking, which is having the sufficient political will power to move Europe towards a knowledge society, a Europe of intelligence. Politicians can do it, but civil society can also do it; private initiatives can do it and an initiative like Atomium Culture fits perfectly into that process.
I feel that this initiative brings together European qualities and what is particular about Europe today: what constitutes European identity today is this capacity to forge links between countries that have different histories and memories, by drawing these links we’ll move towards a more Europe; if we destroy these links, we’ll move back towards parochialism; by drawing links between universities and different member states, by creating links between those universities and major newspapers we are going back to an idea of European identity based on closer links between member states. This is not an idea that goes back 10 or 20 years, this is something that goes back hundreds of years and we all have the responsibility to maintain that.
The second essential European quality is diversity. I think that the initiative of trying to link such different universities as Madrid or Paris or an Italian university with universities in Central and Eastern Europe is a way of recognizing the strength of diversity in Europe. A European philosopher thought a great deal about a European identity, Rudolf Steiner: he said that Europe is the only continent where detail is so important. But I have to say, I am proud to be in a continent where detail is so important, because detail leads to diversity and while we are trying to move away from a sort of levelling out of culture, it’s important to remember the detail.
The third central European characteristic which is reflected in Atomium is audacity: we need to be bold to launch a major cultural project such as this. While there are institutions that deal with culture, education and knowledge in Europe, but, unlike the criticism that we often hear from American counterparts, Europe can be audacious, it does exist. Europe has not stopped being audacious. A few centuries ago, this was a given, we were conquering new territories, we were discovering new continents, the knowledge we were developing seemed to be infinite; we haven’t managed to sustain the same levels, but it’s still there. All these initiatives which go to encouraging intellectual audacity are going in the right direction. We will mark the world of tomorrow if Europe can show real intellectual audacity, we won’t close ourselves in.
Lastly, the last characteristic I would like to point out, which makes Atomium such an important project is that at the heart of Atomium is intelligence. The real European strength today is intelligence, knowledge, ability to research, it is its culture, the diversity of identities, its ability to understand the world, its knowledge in maths, chemistry, medicine, law. In all sectors we have a huge intellectual capacity. Unlike anywhere else we know how to spread this knowledge, using the media, such as those representatives of the media who are here today from daily newspapers and I really think we are doing something useful. Thank you very much.
27 November 2009 – The public launch and first conference of Atomium-EISMD took place at the European Parliament in Brussels.
With the participation of the Honorary President of Atomium-EISMD, Mr Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the President of Atomium-EISMD, Mr Michelangelo Baracchi Bonvicini, the Editor-in-Chief of El Pais, Member of the Advisory Board of Atomium-EISMD Mr Javier Moreno, the Rector of the University of Utrecht, member of the Advisory Board of Atomium-EISMD, Professor Hans Stoof, the Adviser and former Secretary General of Atomium-EISMD, French Minister for Agriculture Mr Bruno Le Maire, the Secretary of State for Universities of Spain, Professor Marius Rubiralta and many more (for complete list of speakers see http://www.atomiumculture.eu/mail/Conference27November2009.html or see the PDF above).
The conference brought together leaders and main representatives from some of the most authoritative universities, newspapers and businesses in Europe to together address the failure of the Lisbon strategy – as mentioned by Mr Javier Moreno “Europe will not become the first economic and technology power in the world in the next 34 days”- the recognition of knowledge and intelligence as Europe’s main asset – as said by Minister Bruno Le Maire “Europe should contribute to global development with its intelligence”- and the need to change the way we do research –as mentioned by the Mr Baracchi Bonvicini “The development of this new way of thinking changes the model for interactions and collaborations within different sectors of society, from linear to a more complex and dynamic structure. A model that reminds us of the complexity of the beehive where every actor brings and contributes to the whole with his expertise”.
For a strong Europe we need to take action, as called upon by Mr Moreno “we need to stop debating and start doing”. Professor Per Ericsson, Rector of Lund University underlined that if identifying two characteristics for different areas of the world Asia would be “products and long-term perspectives”, America “Business and Change” whilst Europe is characterized by “Discussions and Agriculture”. This will not lead to innovation and progress.
We need to use the institutions we already have and start promoting what is most important, Research and Innovation.
The Honorary President Giscard d’Estaing underlined the “courageous approach of Atomium Culture in forming the link between eminent universities and researchers, business and press. Each actor an essential component for the future of a strong Europe”.
Minister Le Maire pointed out that what politics fail to do can be done by Civil Society and Atomium Culture is the perfect example in bringing together leading institutions of civil society to bring forward the transformation that Europe needs.
The importance of the collaborations with the printed press was underlined by the Honorary President Giscard d’Estaing, the President Mr Baracchi Bonvicini and Mr Pawel Lisicki, Editor-in-Chief of Rzeczpospolita, who underlined the strategic role of newspapers as the first step in increasing the dissemination of research to the public at large as newspapers have the “time” to focus on the depth and content of the matter more than other media.
Mr Wim Philippa, Secretary General of the European Roundtable of Industrialists and member of the Advisory Board of Atomium Culture, reiterated the need for industry to prioritise this collaboration at a European level for the development of a health economy in Europe.
Massimo Marchiori, one of the major contributors to the development of the World Wide Web (and upcoming member of the Innovation Committee of Atomium Culture, currently being created), emphasized the peculiar characteristics of the Permanent Platform of Atomium Culture that makes it different from other networks: its diversity, its call for action and its excellence. Characteristics that enables it to be a bridge between research and society.
In looking towards the future, Professor Marius Rubiralta underlined the priority of the coming Spanish Presidency in supporting the development of a knowledge society in Europe.
As was mentioned by Professor Hans Stoof, the habits and attitudes of society are changing, at a time when the global challenges are directly linked to scientific research, the most current example being Climate Change the responsibility of universities to open up and communicate to society is pivotal. If you would like to know what the situation is concerning a complex issue what would you do? In its Area of Exchange, that will start with the High-Level Workshop on Governance for a Low-Carbon Society, Atomium Culture will bring together leading thinkers from the different sectors of society (university, business, media and policy makers) in order to foster a comprehensive and open debate on the real content of issue of public concern. Not to debate about the problems, but to look at the existing solutions, the solutions that we have access to today, and what these leading thinkers would jointly suggest as a good way to move forward. To make accessible to the public at large the best thoughts on these matters from experts on the area in a comprehensive, interdisciplinary and intersectorial format.
Mr Baracchi Bonvicini underlined that Atomium Culture “has not been conceived to discuss abstractly of what should be done. It has been conceived as an instrument of action with a clear mission” and invited the actors engaged in the platform to be pro-active and use this platform to reach the shared ambitious mission (see the European Manifesto of Atomium Culture ).
As Bjorn Edlund, Vice-President of Communications for Shell, mentioned “you can make change happen, if you use knowledge and enthusiasm” with a clear mission ahead and have the capacity to communicate this to others.