Scientific Foresight (STOA) By / August 28, 2014

Science, technology and innovation policy

How are science and technology used outside research, and how can research foster innovation in Europe? These questions are particularly…


How are science and technology used outside research, and how can research foster innovation in Europe? These questions are particularly relevant in the light of the Europe 2020 strategy seeking to bring Europe out of the economic crisis, which aims to increase the proportion of Europe’s GDP spent on research and development from 2% to 3%. In addition, with Horizon 2020, the new European Research Framework Programme, using public funding for research and innovation, it is ever more important to make sure research money is well spent.

STOA, the Science and Technology Options Assessment body at the European Parliament, is an organisation that seeks both to answer questions about the relationship between science and society and to ensure that research is used in policy making. STOA has examined European leadership and innovation in research can be fostered or maintained. This focus on innovation has led to other work on intellectual property rights.

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How European research can best assist with innovation has been a significant area for STOA’s work. Its 2014 study on ‘Science Metrics: measuring scientific performance for improved science policy making’ examined how research could be evaluated more. The study advocated the development of a European research information e-infrastructure, a transnational system to provide an overarching European view of research performance data and enable improved measurement of the inputs, outputs and impacts of research.

It can be hard to measure the effects of research, particularly if it does not seem to have a direct application in the real world. The STOA workshop ‘How to retain European leadership in particle physics’ on 29 May 2013 recognised the need for basic research, which improves scientific understanding but does not have obvious immediate benefits for society. Participants heard how to ensure European leadership is maintained in particle physics, particularly the need for relationships with its main rivals, Japan and the USA. Speakers advocated for the benefits of basic research, such as developing new technologies and training scientists and engineers.

Europe should increase the value placed on creativity and collaboration in education so that today’s learners can solve tomorrow’s problems. Technology will be an enabler, rather than the solution. Teachers should be seen as mentors and guides as learners direct their own learning. This was suggested on 8 April 2014 in a workshop on ‘New learning and teaching technology options’, forming part of STOA’s foresight efforts to consider long-term developments in science and technology.

The provision of scientific advice is vital for policy-makers. STOA’s 2011 study ‘Technology Across Borders’ examined the European network of bodies that analyse emerging technologies for parliaments. The common challenge was holding the attention of parliamentarians. There are barriers that impede cooperation between scientists and politicians, such as the different languages of science and policy. Parliamentary technology assessment concentrates on the long term, compared with the more short-term focus of parliaments. The study suggested pan-European cooperation could be the future, allowing transnational issues to be tackled more efficiently. The domains for this work could include nanotechnology, global warming, energy, and health.

STOA is a partner and founder of EPTA, the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment network established in 1990, which brings together bodies that advise parliaments on the impact of science and technology. A workshop on 7 September 2011, ‘Conference on pan-European Parliamentary Technology Assessment’, gathered colleagues from Finland, the Netherlands, Catalonia, Germany, and Austria. Also involved was ‘Parliaments and civil society in Technology Assessment’, PACITA, a project seeking a pan-European perspective on genomics, ageing, and sustainability, combining the natural and the social sciences.

Intellectual property rights provide incentives to commercialise innovation. STOA’s work in this field has looked into the prospects for harmonisation of regulations across Europe as technology increasingly crosses national borders and consumers increasingly have a digital single market. STOA’s 2011 study ‘Copyright in the EU’ recommended fighting piracy and a simpler copyright management system in the short term, while over the long-term, the EU institutions should work towards a unified European copyright system.


  • Towards an Intellectual Property Rights strategy for innovation in Europe, 2009 (full study)
  • Copyright in the EU – What next?, 2011 (options brief / full study)
  • Technology Across Borders – Exploring perspectives for pan-European Parliamentary Technology Assessment, 2011 (options brief / full study)

Study-related workshops

Ad hoc events

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