Enhancing the United States - European Union Science and Technology Partnership

Kerri-Ann Jones
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Washington, DC
December 12, 2011

Delivered at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) at a conference organized by the Polish Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the Delegation of the European Union to the United States

Good afternoon everyone. Thank you Tom for that introduction. I recognize many friends in the audience. It is my pleasure to be here at AAAS for this conference on “Science and Technology Landscape in a Changing World – Enhancing U.S. Collaboration with the EU and its Member States” where we have come together to identify ways to enhance U.S. collaboration with the European Union and its Member States. I would like to thank Ambassador Vale de Almeida, Ambassador Kupiecki, and Dr. Leshner for the invitation to speak to you today. I look forward to hearing Dr. Dingwell’s keynote remarks following my own.

A great deal of work goes into organizing an important event like this. I want to extend my thanks to AAAS and the Science and Technology Counselors from the EU’s Mission to the United States, as well as many Embassies and their science counselors specifically: Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Sweden. I congratulate you on pulling together this important conference.

We have before us an important topic that comes at the right moment. How to enhance transatlantic collaboration in science, technology, and innovation. It is a moment when we are facing complex challenges, economic challenges, environmental challenges and social challenges. In the face of these challenges we share a common realization of the importance of science, technology, and innovation and a common commitment to invest in these areas for the good of our citizens and citizens of the world. Even in this tough economic climate, the budget now before the U.S. Congress that President Obama submitted in February 2011, called for strong, sustained, Federal investments in research and development (R&D); it called for investments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; and it called for investments in 21st century infrastructure.

Today, I want to look at where we are in our collaborations and also look at what else we might do that could contribute to the objective of today’s meeting on enhancing transatlantic collaboration in science and technology.

The United States has an extraordinarily important relationship with the EU and its Member States. This July, following her meeting with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy - Ashton, Secretary Clinton stated that this partnership, “is rooted in our common values and aspirations as well as serving as a cornerstone for global peace and prosperity and security.” (//2009-2017.state.gov/secretary/20092013clinton/rm/2011/07/168027.htm)

Our common values, aspirations and our global commitments also lead us to embrace science, technology, and innovation. The EU and the United States signed their Science and Technology Agreement in 1998. I worked on that negotiation during my days at the Office of Science and Technology Policy and remember what some of the sticking points were and how excited we all were to be able to complete the Agreement. Since then, the Agreement has been renewed and extended, and we have learned a great deal as it has evolved.

Over the years, we have had approximately 12 high-level U.S. - EU Joint Consultative meetings. At our last meeting in Brussels in early November, we discussed ways the United States and the EU could enhance our existing work together to focus on three topics. The first topic is addressing societal challenges, including Energy, Health, Climate Change and Land Use, Water Resources, and Critical Raw Materials. The second topic is working together on key enabling technologies, like Smart Grids and E-Mobility, Information and Communication Technology, Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology. And the third topic is addressing obstacles to collaboration. This means that in addition to identifying priorities and funding, we must also work through administrative details in each of our bureaucracies. As we all know this can sometimes be a formidable challenge.

Specifically, at the Joint Consultative meeting we looked to the future. Plans are already underway. For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Geological Survey are deepening collaboration with new Implementing Arrangements with the European Commission in research related to climate change.

The United States and the EU are also going to work together in the area of critical raw materials. We want to make sure that our industries have access to the materials they need. Our goal is to improve how raw materials are extracted, managed, conserved, and utilized, and to develop alternative materials when possible.

In the future, the United States, the EU and its Member States will also explore ways we can promote the public understanding of science and common values shared by our researchers including, merit review, transparency, data sharing, and increasing the participation of under-represented individuals and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The inclusion and the empowerment of women broadly is a priority for this Administration, including the Department of State. Secretary Clinton is a champion for women’s empowerment.

Our collaborative work also goes beyond our Science and Technology Agreement. The United States and EU members possess a diverse array of valuable Earth-observing assets. Almost 10 years ago, the United States and the EU, along with several other key Member States, recognized the value in sharing and integrating observations from these various platforms. We worked together to establish the Group on Earth Observations, now known as GEO. Since then, our cooperation has been critical in establishing the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). As a result, scientists and decision makers around the world now have access to a continually-growing integrated set of Earth observations that inform and protect society.

Energy issues are also important to our collaboration. Last month, the U.S. - EU Energy Council met here in Washington DC, co-led by Secretary Clinton and Secretary Chu and European Union High Representative Ashton and Commissioner Oettinger. At the meeting, we renewed our commitment to continued cooperation on energy for mutual security and prosperity. We recognized the importance of leading-edge energy technologies in creating jobs, fostering economic growth, and facilitating the transatlantic trade in energy products and services.

Space is also an area where we collaborate. At last month's meeting in Lucca, both the United States and the EU underscored the importance of space exploration to capture the human imagination and inspire us to innovate and explore beyond the planet. I am delighted that the United States will host the next space exploration dialogue, and I look forward to close collaboration with our EU partners.

In addition to the ground breaking Science and Technology Agreement with the EU, the United States has 15 bilateral Science and Technology Agreements with EU Member States. This combination of regional and bilateral agreements is unique and creates a dynamic and complimentary network of activities.

Our bilateral Science and Technology Agreements with several of the EU Member States foster joint efforts on specific areas of common interest. The level of activity under each Agreement varies. It is based on the interests of our research community and technical agencies and opportunities for collaboration.

Mobility is a priority that needs our attention nationally and regionally. Mobility and people-to-people exchanges are important for us all because exchange of students and researchers allows us to build the strongest research teams, provides us with new perspectives, and trains students to be members of the global research community.

At the recent Joint Commission Meeting under the U.S. - German Science and Technology Agreement, I received a wonderful collection of stories by American students that had gone to Germany for internships under the RISE program. RISE is a German study program for North American students in science and engineering supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). From reading the stories in this little book, I could see that the students had wonderful experiences that will enrich both their professional and personal lives.

To foster researcher mobility, we have a research fellowship program with the Nordic countries sponsored by the National Science Foundation, which encourages U.S. graduate students to study abroad in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

Our work with France includes access to archaeological research sites. Together, we ensure mutual access to sites and preserve pre-historic art. French researchers work at sites in the United States, like the Nine Mile Canyon in Utah, and American researchers work at the famous Lascaux caverns. We also have an archaeology working group that brings together researchers from the humanities, social sciences, and the physical sciences.

Working with Denmark and Greenland, the United States cooperates in the field of glaciology. Together, we study ice cores to better understand the impacts of climate change.

Under our U.S. - Ireland Research and Development Partnership we are building research networks to strengthen relationships between the three jurisdictions, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the United States. Our joint projects are working to accelerate economic development through innovation and improving public health. The advances that our partnership is fostering in the area of biomedical research are impressive. Together, our researchers are making breakthroughs in our understanding of how cystic fibrosis works. At a recent Steering Group meeting, we agreed to add new fields of research and cooperation to the Partnership. Telecommunications, Energy and Sustainability, will be added and the Health component of the Partnership will be expanded.

Our work with Sweden includes collaborative research through the National Institutes of Health to gain a better understanding of the causes of Alzheimer’s. We also focus on polar climate research through NOAA.

Last year, we established a new committee under our Bilateral Commission with Portugal for Science, Technology, Energy, and Environment. At our inaugural meeting in November, we established mechanisms to share data in three areas, clean energy technology, sustainable fisheries, and protecting the health of coastal marine habitats.

Our Agreement with Italy has renewed existing cooperation and spurred new cooperation between our technical agencies like the national parks agencies and maritime protection offices. NOAA has an agreement with the Italian Ministry for the Environment and Territory to work on managing marine protected areas.

Overall, looking at regional and bilateral agreements, the collaboration between the EU, its Member States and the United States is thriving.

- Ten of the 15 most recent awards for the National Science Foundation Partnership for International Research and Education involved eight different EU countries.

- Over the last five years, the National Institutes of Health has seen the number of extramural grants involving EU researchers increase almost 65 percent.

- In FY10, nearly 950 EU researchers, again representing almost every EU Member State, carried out research at the National Institutes of Health.

- The U.S. Department of Defense continues to support a wide range of joint U.S. - EU basic research through grants administered by offices located in several EU Member States.

This is a very rich relationship. Yet we need to seek additional avenues for collaboration and connection. We need to recognize the strong foundation of collaboration we have and build upon it. We need to be creative and look at everything from systemic issues like merit review to emerging technologies that are connecting our institutions and researchers. We also need to listen to our research communities and pay attention to the details because what is in the details often slows us down. What is working and what is not working? Why are some communities and some certain disciplines more connected than others?

I am delighted to say that the National Science Foundation is stepping forward and leading on such initiatives. In May 2012, Dr. Suresh, the head of the National Science Foundation, will convene a global Merit Review Summit. The purpose of the Summit is to identify common principles of Merit Review. This discussion will facilitate increased collaboration.

Science Across Virtual Institutes (SAVI) is another National Science Foundation initiative. SAVI fosters international networking among scientists, engineers and educators around the globe to be connected in ways not possible before. Virtual institutes will connect researchers with common interests and goals and will address important societal challenges.

We will need to work together across the Atlantic to identify other common values and emerging challenges. For example, I believe the United States and the EU share an unswerving commitment to increase the role of women in science. Each of us has a number of programs and activities designed to address obstacles women face in pursuing scientific careers, both in entering science and in staying there. We could do much globally working together to advance women in science. We also share our need to inspire younger people to be a part of this global scientific community. And we share an understanding that transparency, freedom of information, and reporting of data are critical to science.

Our countries have a great and vibrant science and technology relationship with a bright future. Yet we will need to maintain our momentum, working together on large problems and small problems. I am convinced that our historic relationship can be even stronger. Our research communities are up to the task.

We all recognize the importance of science and technology and innovation to stimulate economic growth and address global challenges. In November, the European Commission announced its plans for the “Horizon 2020” program, taking a new approach to funding and linking research to innovation. It recognizes the important role of science, technology and innovation in society. The horizon is a fitting image. As we continue with the discussions today, let’s look outward to the horizon, to new opportunities and face the future head-on, together.

Thank you.