Yesterday marked the first full day of EU Science: Global Challenges, Global Collaboration (ES:GC2), a week long conference at the European Parliament that has been jointly organised by the Irish Presidency in collaboration with Seán Kelly MEP and other European Parliamentarians.
Industry experts, distinguished academics and science policy-makers assembled from across the globe to share their insights on the relationship between innovative research and the global economy.
The opening plenary session, moderated by Clive Cookson of the Financial Times, set the tone for the discussions to come. The speakers agreed that interdisciplinary, responsible and globally collaborative innovation is crucial to the resilience of societies and health care systems.
European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn kicked off the proceedings with a brief explanation of the transition from FP7 to Horizon 2020, stressing that international cooperation is, and always has been, a crucial element of Europe's research and innovation strategy. She commented: "We need to move away from fragmented learning and country-centric solutions".
This notion of international collaboration was a recurring theme in all of the speakers' presentations and was also echoed by Lilly Chairman, President and CEO, Dr. John Lechleiter Ph.D.
He commented: "As an industry, we have increasingly found that solving complex global health problems also requires collaboration among governments and society."
Dr. Lechleiter then took the opportunity to further emphasise the pressing need to safeguard medical innovation in order to overcome potentially chronic societal problems, particularly in today's austere times. To read Dr. John Lechleiter's speech in more detail, see here.
Representing Lilly and the biopharmaceutical industry more broadly, Dr. Lechleiter also presented during a panel on the Future of Medicine, which addressed the economic implications of upcoming global health challenges. The lively discussions centred upon questions of data sharing, interoperability and the active uptake of eHealth solutions.
Lechleiter underscored: "a company's ability to pursue innovation requires an "ecosystem" where innovation can flourish, including: solid protection of intellectual property; a fair, rigorous and transparent regulatory system." He continued, "that ecosystem must also include: open access to health care markets and market-based pricing, government support for basic research, and robust collaboration between industry and government and academic labs."
Drawing plaudits at the event was former-NASA astronaut, Buzz Aldrin and his United Space Vision. Part of the Apollo 11 mission of 1969, Aldrin was the second human being to set foot on the moon, but "only because Neil Armstrong was closer to the door," he quipped.
At the age of 83, he remains a fierce advocate of space travel. As he told his remarkable tale, it was difficult to ignore the parallels between the vision required to make the Apollo mission a success, and the vision that must be incorporated into global research and innovation strategies.
He signed off, "The true value of Apollo was not the rocks we brought back or the experiments we left behind, it was the story of innovation and teamwork, and that is value beyond measure. Now is the time for the world to work together and achieve the impossible."
Perhaps the overarching message of the day was put most succinctly by Professor Mark Ferguson of Science Foundation Ireland: "Good science anywhere is good for science everywhere."
You can follow live updates from the remainder of the conference on Twitter, #ESGC2.