Making science, technology and innovation work for better lives


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

21 October 2015

Daejeon, Korea

(As prepared for delivery)



President Park, Minister Yanghee, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,


I am very happy to be here today to open this Ministerial-level meeting of the OECD Committee for Scientific and Technology Policy, the first such meeting since 2004.


Let me start by first thanking you President Park and the Korean government for its generosity in hosting us here in Daejeon today. This reflects Korea’s commitment to harnessing the benefits of science and technology for strong, sustainable and inclusive growth.


The theme of this Ministerial meeting, Creating our Common Future through Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), could not be more timely. As you know, the current context of slower global growth and declining productivity means that STI takes on an even more important role in boosting growth and jobs; and of course, in addressing the grand challenges of our time such as development and climate change.


The new Sustainable Development Goals and the upcoming meeting of COP21 later this year are a testimony to the urgent need for us to work together. Innovation is a way to accelerate change and lower the costs of transition to a low carbon economy and of development.  And innovation needs to play its role in making our future growth path more inclusive, lifting all boats and leaving no one behind.


Over the course of the next two days, we will reflect on three major challenges that science and technology policies are being confronted with at the global level. Let me briefly outline them:



The digitalisation of science


The first challenge is digitalisation. In short, scientific and technological activities are increasingly going digital. The way in which science and technology are undertaken, disseminated, and implemented in the economy are all affected by digital technologies.


These have changed the way scientists work. They have made it easier to access scientific data; they have enabled greater collaboration; and they have created new opportunities for analysis, such as the use of big data. The resulting “Open Science” is being widely embraced as a means for accelerating research, ensuring transparency, enabling collaboration and fostering innovation.


We recently published a report on “Making Open Science a Reality” which stresses the importance of incentive mechanisms and clear legal frameworks for data-sharing at both national and international level.  “Soft factors” such as the development of an open science culture are also essential. We will discuss some of the implications of open science, including the changing skills needs of scientists, later today.



The emergence of new players


The second transformative force is the emergence of new players, notably from Asia. Only two decades ago, most science and technology capabilities were located in a small set of highly advanced countries. Today, this is far less the case with the pronounced shift towards Asia.


Although the United States is still the world’s largest R&D performer, with nearly USD 433 billion of domestic R&D expenditures in 2013, this is now just about one-third more than the amount of R&D performed in China – the second-largest performer – which is itself broadly on a par with the combined R&D of the EU. Our host country, Korea, has the second-highest ratio of R&D expenditures to GDP in the world, just trailing Israel. This broadening of the innovation effort around the world offers new opportunities for ensuring that more are involved and benefit from innovation.



The growing need for international cooperation


This shifting topography has also fuelled the third transformative force: the globalisation of science and technology, and the growing need for international co-operation. Such co-operation is badly needed as the planet faces fundamental challenges like climate change that require a globally co-ordinated response. This challenge is further compounded by the fiscal restraint that many countries continue to face as they strive to exit the crisis.


Now, more than ever, we need to harness our activities into a collective, co-ordinated effort: increasing international co-operation in research to extend the global reach of science while reducing the costs for each country. We also need to move beyond national rivalries and create incentives and mechanisms that support shared and collaborative scientific research. Such collaboration will help share investments and risks, and avoid costly duplication.



The OECD is focused on developing a global STI policy


Numerous strands of the OECD’s work are focused on addressing these issues and supporting you in the forthcoming discussions. Only a few days ago we released our new ‘OECD Innovation Strategy’, which provides governments with the policy tools they need in order to develop a comprehensive strategy for STI policy and which stresses the imperative for innovation.


Furthermore, yesterday we released the 2015 OECD STI Scoreboard which documents the changing landscape of growth, science and innovation and measures economies' progress in these domains, as well as the 7th edition of the Frascati Manual – the world-class standard for measuring R&D since 1962. A lot has changed: R&D has gone global, involves diverse actors, different instruments and special statuses granted by trade agreements and competition rules. But the manual continues to provide robust and internationally comparable evidence in this vital policy area, now in 15 languages.


Our discussions over the next two days are critical in charting a proactive, global STI policy agenda for the future. This is particularly important in today’s world, beset by uncertain economic prospects, rapid technological changes, and global challenges that cannot be addressed by any one country alone.


In this respect, there is a lot that the OECD can do to help, but let me underline three areas in particular. Firstly, we need to push harder to make “open science” a reality, and develop common principles for the promotion of open science. As such, internationally co-ordinated approaches to data and information infrastructures will be an important step in this direction.


Second, we need to strengthen the global science commons, boost international collaboration and make science and innovation more inclusive at the global level. This can be strengthened through actions such as mapping basic research initiatives and through multilateral funding initiatives. Both are critical elements in generating breakthrough discoveries that underpin long-term productivity growth.


And third, to enhance technology diffusion and help reduce productivity gaps, we need to work on facilitating firm entry and entrepreneurship, reduce trade barriers, especially in the services sector, and improve access to quality education and training.


President Park, Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,


Marie Curie once said: “I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.” Indeed, the crisis has taught us many hard lessons, but a particularly important one is that we must continue to work together to overcome the challenges we face. And we must be both bold and creative in order to make science and research work for people, for our planet and for greater prosperity.


Thank you.