Promoting research, science and innovation in Europe

The work of European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas is placed under the spotlight by Open Access Government

European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas was previously Secretary of the State to the Prime Minister of Portugal. One of Moedas’s main priorities today is social innovation – a topic which he spoke about at a conference in Portugal on November 27th, 2017.

Moedas described the conference as a milestone, rather than simply an event. It marks the new era of social innovation in Europe, with Portugal becoming a world leader. “Just take a look at your conference welcome bags today. Inside you will find a colour code developed specifically for colour-blind people. And this was developed by a social innovation company, ColourADD, based in Porto”, he says. (1)

The Commissioner clearly outlines the origins of his recent push for this conference, after having a conversation with European Commission President, Jean-Claude Junker. Junker tells Moedas that he would like to stress the importance of the social aspect of innovation to the European Commission and to the future of Europe. From then on, they established a strong and passionate team to help make the conference a reality. “Social innovation is about two things: sense of purpose and reducing inequality”, Moedas went on to say. (1)

Moedas goes on to state that welcoming innovators with new ideas is not enough for a progressive future. It is also extremely necessary to actively find innovative ways to encourage social innovation. One way in which they will do this and was announced by Moedas at the ‘Opening up to an era of Social Innovation’ conference is the official launch the Horizon Prize for Social Innovation. With this prize, they hope to tackle one of the most pressing challenges of our ageing society: mobility.

With an ageing population of an expected 88 million elderly European citizens predicted by 2030, it is obvious that action should be taken to accommodate this change. The challenge to participants is this: they must be able to develop and test an innovative solution for safe and sustainable movement for the elderly. The winner will receive €1 million and each of the four runners-up will receive €250,000.

Here, Modeas is constantly evaluating how research can be maximised and enabling cooperation across multiple sectors with other European commissioners. The official responsibilities of his position are as follows:

  • Ensuring that research funding programmes, notably Horizon 2020, contribute to the European Commission’s jobs, growth and investment package;
  • Promoting the international excellence of the EU’s research and science and strengthening research capacities and innovation across all member states;
  • Evaluating how EU‑funded research can be used more effectively;
  • Ensuring that European Commission proposals are based on scientific evidence and;
  • Encouraging private companies to apply research to meet challenges faced by society and creating more high-quality jobs.

Just one week prior to the conference on social innovation, Moedas (who labels himself a techno-optimist) also spoke about ‘Media in the Age of Artificial Intelligence’, at the STOA Annual Lecture. He addresses recent challenges faced by society in areas of science.

Media and Artificial Intelligence (AI) may seem like polar-opposite areas of concern, yet both are so relevant to all the European Commission – not just in professional lives as policy-makers who are focused on science and technology – but also as consumers of media.

He perfectly highlights the link between the two, as today’s society infiltrates every part of our lives, for example letting it shape our ideas. He also goes on to say: “Because many of us start our day in work by consulting the media. We might read the politico playbook or scroll through social media on our commute to work.” (2)

At the STOA Annual Lecture: ‘Media in the Age of Artificial Intelligence’, we find out that the media plays such a big role in our lives and in decision-making, both for people in their personal lives and for governments. If complex, sometimes scientific debates are distorted in the media, intentionally or not, this can have immeasurable effects on our lives and the lives of our families for years to come, indeed we learn that fearmongering spreads.

Moedas then stresses the importance of truth in the media surrounded science and talks through of a series of steps that can be taken to avoid this. This can be summarised as follows:

  • Explaining the process of science;
  • Creating places of trust;
  • Being tougher on research integrity;
  • Tackling fake news head-on. (Recently, the European Commission announced the launch of a new high-level expert group and public consultation on fake news and online disinformation. With this, the aim is to get a grasp of this phenomenon and formulate recommendations to combat it.)

At the STOA Annual Lecture: Media in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, Moedas explains: “Artificial intelligence is not a threat. How we choose to use it is. And I think that fearing what is arguably one of the most exciting new technologies of our generation and denying ourselves its amazing benefits is not the answer.” (2)

Moedas certainly prioritises openness in science, as he believes that this is the way forward to achieving effective and efficient innovation. Collaboration, international mobility, support and research and embracing potential are all driving forces in Moedas’ work and indeed more widely, the European Commission’s.

References

(1) https://ec.europa.eu/commission/commissioners/2014-2019/moedas/announcements/conference-opening-era-social-innovation_en

(2) https://ec.europa.eu/commission/commissioners/2014-2019/moedas/announcements/stoa-annual-lecture-media-age-artificial-intelligence_en

Open Access Government

JMiles@openaccessgovernment.org

www.openaccessgovernment.org

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