President’s editorial: Global challenges require international cooperation

When the pandemic broke out in the spring, many predicted that globalisation would quickly meet its demise. We did, in fact, see an increased national focus and protectionist tendencies in the short term. But the pandemic has also shown us how important it is for countries to work together to solve global problems. International research teams and multinational pharmaceutical companies have collaborated and produced Covid-19 vaccines in record time. When the eagerly awaited vaccines are ready for distribution, they will be purchased and shared among countries based on international agreements.

International cooperation is essential in order to handle global crises and societal challenges. The climate poses the existential threat of our time. The consequences of a climate that continues to heat up will impact the entire world. No country can protect itself through local solutions alone. Our ability to use science and technology is crucial if we are to achieve the UN’s climate goals. We can only succeed if we work together – and across all boundaries. Sustainable technical development and innovation must benefit more people – in all regions and in all nations. 

IVA realised the importance of a global outlook early on. The Academy sent technology scouts to the USA back in 1945. Their task was to forge contacts and monitor science and technology news. This marked the beginning of an extensive network of technical attachés around the world – a position that still exists today. IVA is an active participant in partnerships with academies of engineering sciences around the world. Through our participation we can learn from others while also contributing scientific leadership to address the global challenges of our time. When political diplomacy falters and cooperation between countries and regions weakens, diplomacy based on knowledge and science is more important than ever. Academies that are independent and have a wealth of knowledge like IVA have a vital role to play. 

IVA is the world’s first academy of engineering sciences and over the years it has supported the development of several national academies around the world. These academies have built international networks that have grown in strength. Together they are helping to develop society through knowledge exchange and knowledge growth, and by providing expert scientific advice. Scientific academies are highly trusted; for example the European Commission’s policy work is based on a mechanism that uses a team of scientific advisors who in turn rely on the expertise of the European academies in their work. The academies’ broad and deep knowledge and inherent independence and integrity are the basis for the trust they enjoy.

Euro-CASE – an organisation of 23 European academies of engineering sciences – is IVA’s most important international network and has contributed to several important decisions taken by the European Commission. One example is the creation of the GDPR which was strongly impacted by cyber security input from the academies. Another example is the EU’s strategy for a climate-neutral energy system, which was also based on advice provided by the academies. As we now prepare for the post-pandemic era, Euro-CASE is making a concerted effort to address the areas of digitisation, energy supply and education. The network’s next annual conference – London 2021 – will focus on how Europe should handle economic recovery after the pandemic. It is also important to continue to focus our efforts on reaching our climate goals. 

We are now approaching a new year which means we are on our way to putting a year dominated by the coronavirus behind us. It is dark in December. But when the holiday period comes to a close we will be able to look forward to brighter days ahead in the New year with a vaccine and a sustainable reboot.