Sustainable Development Solutions for the Mediterranean Region
Intervento Ministro On. Prof. Maria Chiara Carrozza
1. Thank you for your kind invitation. I am honored to represent the Italian government and to participate in such a distinctive gathering of international scholars and experts, focused on sustainability in a Mediterranean perspective. I am sure these days will provide a great opportunity for students, researchers and professors.
2. This event reminds me of the first sentence in a 2011 report by the Royal Society, “Knowledge, networks and nations: Global scientific collaboration in the 21st century”: “Science is a global enterprise”. Italian scientists, professors, researchers, students need to be aware that research, science and technology are global by nature. As a scientist myself, I know we are players in these fields as long as we are willing to be part of a truly global conversation.
MED Solutions is indeed an example of where efforts of such an integrated and global approach could be directed to. We need to see more of these projects in Italy, as long as they are born with the right resources, the right partnerships and the right agenda. We don’t need networking activities for the sake of networking per se, we rather need real partnerships and patterns of collaboration.
3. In these brief remarks, I would like to share with you some of my views on the relationship between sustainability and innovation. At first glance, these two concepts might seem rather different: sustainability highlights the ability of societies to endure, whilst innovation has a lot to do with change. A sustainable development is, first of all, a balance, because it meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. How can this be achieved? Of course, through innovation. In a nutshell, innovation is an investment in the present in order to make the future sustainable.
This is why, when I think about sustainable development, my mind goes to the concept of social innovation. And in the UN Leadership Council for Sustainable Development Solutions Network report I find the three dimensions of social innovation that I have in mind:
- Truly innovative (disruptive and enabling, rather than incremental)
- Open to contamination to a variety of actors.
4. The global scientific community is increasingly driven by the need to find solutions to a range of issues that threaten sustainability. At the recent G8 science summit in London with my colleagues we reinforced our shared agenda to face global challenges together. We affirmed the role that science has to play in securing present and future sustainable growth. Many of today’s challenges are global, and thus require a coordinated action and a strengthened international cooperation on all global challenges: during the G8 science summit, we highlighted in particular urbanization, pollution, energy security, climate change, biodiversity, ocean acidification, youth unemployment, inequality, population ageing.
We need to innovate also our methodology, both for education and research. A cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral approach is absolutely needed, in order to face these global challenges properly.
Today, openness in science and research is a part of innovation itself. This is why, at the G8 science summit, we have identified as a key priority to “open our databases” and share information, scientific publications. We have emphasized that we want to work on the definition and the enforcement of key global research infrastructures, as assets for the development of science, technology, but also as sentinels of a global dialogue and therefore peace and mutual understanding.
5. The themes that the Leadership Council identifies as goals of sustainable development are the themes that humanity should focus on right now, and I strongly believe that on each of these issues Science and Technology can and should make a contribution. It has done so in the past, it is doing so with an incredible speed right now.
In order to face global challenges, we need to be creative. We recently launched a new program, focused on innovation demand, in order to attract students, researchers and professors, similar to the challenge prizes in other parts of Europe and in North America. Our goal is to involve schools, university and various firms in the challenges to solve specific issues on social innovation, and on the Italian artistic and cultural heritage. We will present the outcomes at the Milan Expo 2015, which will showcase to the world what Italian creativity and talent can produce if properly motivated. Expo 2015 is an initiative strongly related with sustainability issues, starting from the title “Feeding the planet. Energy for life”.
6. In order to feed the planet, we need to feed the future, starting from now. The sustainability of our system depends on clear political choices. We need to disagree loudly with those who consider the resources allocated to science and technology as an expense. As any serious economic research shows, these resources are the greatest investment… into the future of our country. Developed countries such as Italy need to invest most of all in human capital in order to maintain their competitiveness. And developing countries can pursue a path of sustainable growth only through the investment in education and research.
As any investment, research needs an evaluation. We need clear Key Performance Indicators, even in the short term. I warmly invite you to take a look at the report that will be presented on the 16th of July by the Ministry of Education, University and Research, that will clearly show the performance of our research system. Based on these results we will identify the way forward for the development of future initiatives.
7. I strongly appreciate the “multidimensional approach” of the MED Solution project. You emphasize that you work on (1) support to regional governance, (2) applied research, (3) teaching
This is indeed something which I really like. Our universities and our schools need to be multidimensional as well. It is difficult to stress only on research, it is difficult to be good teachers if you don’t research, it is impossible to advise governments if you are not updated with the international scientific debate or if you don’t transfer to the system prepared leaders.
8. In conclusion, both the Northern and the Southern shore of the Mediterranean are living in difficult times. On the one hand, these are times of crisis, of uncertainty, of instability. On the other hand, these difficulties could emphasize the common challenges we face and provide a unique opportunity of exchange and collaboration for our students and researchers.