Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blogging about Reflection Group

Recently I have been appointed the secretary general of the Reflection group. Chaired by Felipe Gonzales (ex Spanish prime minister) and co-chaired by Vaira Viķe-Freiberga (ex Latvian president) and Jorma Ollila (of Nokia fame) it was given the task to "identify the key issues and developments which the Union is likely to face and to analyse how these might be addressed. This includes, inter alia: strengthening and modernising the European model of economic success and social responsibility, enhancing the competitiveness of the EU, the rule of law, sustainable development as a fundamental objective of the European Union, global stability, migration, energy and climate protection, and the fight against global insecurity, international crime and terrorism." These are perhaps the most important issues to address about the future of Europe.

I was quite hesitant, should the Secretary General of the group blog about it or anything, for that matter? Any misplaced word, opinion, idea could be given the weight it does not deserve or perhaps even discredit the end results of the Group. The issue for the members is, should they keep quiet in public, should the group deliberate in the locked room until it comes with a carefully worded final report.

But the goal of the group is also to "Particular attention should be given to ways of better reaching out to citizens and addressing their expectations and needs." There are few better ways but to use the internet. So I plan to write something from time to time. And I hope so will the members of the Reflection Group.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Looking Back at the Slovenian EU Presidency

I'm keep getting questions about the (success) of Slovenian presidency of the EU (PDF). So now, from a "historic" perspective of 5 months after, lets try to summarize:

Context in which Slovenia took over the presidency:
  • Three years after membership, one year into the Eurozone.
  • Lisbon treaty signed. Optimism about the future role of Europe in the world. Possibility to look outward, now that internal issues seem to have been resolved. However, risks that treaty is not signed in some countries. Refrain from doing anything that would put signing of the treaty in danger.
  • Global uncertainty (Iraq, Afganistan conflicts; US/China trade, US interest rates).
  • Global warming at its warmest.
What did we achieve:
  • Confirming the European Perspective of the Western Balkans. Kosovo declared independence, but peace was maintained, and, moreover EU perspectives of all former Yugoslav republic significantly improved (stabilisation agreements with Serbia and BiH).
  • Lisbon Strategy. The updated 2008 version is more modern conceptually (5th freedom, talent, creativity based on European culture, EIT seat in Budapest) and with specific practical goals (like internet penetration). Kick started the reflection process on post 2010 strategy.
  • Climate Change. Kept the momentum, safeguarded the consensus, introduced some common sense (sustainability criteria for biofueles). Adopted the key prerequisite political decisions for the timely adoption the climate and energy package and made important progress in the understanding of proposed solutions and unification of the Member States’ positions. The Presidency also reached an agreement on the third legislative package for the liberalisation of the electricity and gas internal market. Including of aviation in the emission trading scheme
Factors of success:
  • Extremely motivated politicians and civil servants to demonstrate, that a small new member state can do it as well. A project to which the government was dedicated with 90% of the resources.
  • No single big issue to steal the focus and limelight and leave the rest in the shadow in neglected, but professional work across the board. No private national agenda but impartial, honest broker.
  • Sympathetic and supportive attitude by the EU institutions and member states.
  • Teamwork. Politically centrally managed from a prime minister's office, a small ministerial task force consisting of the PM+ few key ministers.
  • Early start of preparatory work; a lot was done in the fall of 2007. Drafts from the Commission and Consilium were compatible with our agenda.
  • Excellent and reinforced horizontal teams in Brussels (Perm Rep) and Ljubljana (Office of European Affairs). The ministries could therefor focus on content, not on process.
What did Slovenia get out of it:
  • A generation of politicians and civil servants that do not look up at Brussels, but had a level, eye-eye self confident view. The previous government was negotiating joining the EU and looked up at Brussels (and some of this feels in the incomming government again).
  • Knowledge, how things really get done in Brussels, where the levers of real power are. Contacts.
  • We truly, not only on paper, but with the hearts and minds became active members of the Union.
What I personally liked about it:
  • Being able to put some pet topics through the institutions right into the Concil conclusions such as creativity, open access to knowledge ...
  • Having beer very late in the evening in Ljubljana, after the spring council, receiving an SMS from a very high EU politician reading "Well done, congratulations".
  • Getting very good feedback from the likes of Richard Florida (Creative Class), Peter Sauber (Open Access movement) or Ann Mettler (Lisbon Council) about the results.
  • "Official visit" of the Slovenian delegation to the Waterstones bookshop after the council in Brussels. Bought the book "Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies" that explained why we lost the elections a few months later.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

ABC of Sustainable Development

My last speech during the Slovenian EU presidency at the European Sustainable Development Network Conference in Paris, June 30th-July 1st, 2008.

Excellencies, ladies and gentleman,

It is a real pleasure to be here in Paris on the last day of the Slovenian presidency of the EU. The European Sustainable Development Network is a valuable actor for promoting the kind of development that is future proof. The presence of highly ranking politicians from Slovenia and France demonstrates the importance we attach to your network.

I am convinced that sooner or later the internal issues related to our institutional setting and the Lisbon Treaty will be behind us. My message here today will be focused on the importance of this network for the role that Europe needs to assume on the global stage. This role is to care [1]!

In a complex world of today, there are fewer and fewer issues that are limited to one scientific discipline, one industrial sector or a single ministry and working across these borders is extremely important. Slovenia has clustered the responsibility for the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs, for Sustainable development and Competitiveness under one office - the office for growth that I lead. I also chair or co-chair the related Councils that provide the platform for communication on these topics with the civil society, social partners and the NGOs. It is about these cross cutting issues related to sustainable development, but also vital to all other challenges that Europe is facing, that I would like to address today.

I like to summarize the challenges of the developed world, including Europe, as A-B-C.

A stands for abundance. In rich European countries there is an increasing problem as to what to produce, what to manufacture. The stuff that we actually need to live comfortably is getting more and more inexpensive and the marketing needs to keep coming up in inventing needs so that factories can keep the people busy. We are spending less and less money on things that we really need for survival and more and more of stuff that means something to us or makes us feel good. And this is a chance for sustainable production. We can feel good with a new car, a new suit, a new set of dishes or we can feel good by buying a piece of art, a fair traded shirt produced in the third world or an environmentally friendly alternative to a product. It is only a matter of our culture, our values and our ethics. Values and culture are the keywords I want to revisit later.

B stands for BRICS. Brasil, Russia, India, China. Since the communication revolution that brought us cheap paper and print, the West had a monopoly on science and technology and translated that into a political and economic leadership as well. This monopoly is now shrinking. Singapore has the best education system in the world and the listing of worlds top universities in produced in Shanghai, not in Bologna, Oxford or at Sorbonne. Innovation and R&D too is being outsourced into these economies so where does our competitive advantage lie? May I offer values and culture again?

C stands for Climate Change. So much has been said about the related inconvenient truths that it would have been boring had it not been so serious. The key issues is that the world must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. We know how to do so. We lived in an almost carbon neutral way only a 100 years ago, but nobody wants to go back to this kind of living. We must solve the problem without wrecking the economy. We need to put a monetary value to environment but we must also reshape the values of the citizens, so that they behave and act differently.

Where are the solutions to the A-B-C challenges? We must rely on the two renewable resources that we have at disposal.

The first is the sun. It will play a vital role in 20-20-20 goals the EU adopted in 2007 and is now struggling how to make it happen.The Slovenian presidency kept the momentum, coherence and ambition of the 2007 decisions by working towards a workable Energy and climate change legislative package to be adopted by the end of this year. A public policy debate was held extensively and the main outstanding issues have been identified. The Slovenian presidency provided for smooth continuation of negotiations on third package of legislative proposals for the internal energy market. The Energy Council in June reached broad agreement on the essential elements of the package which makes the promptly adoption of the package possible.

Reaching the 20-20-20 targets will not be easy, but we have the second renewable resource to figure something out - the human mind. And there are two sides to this mind.

The left, rational half deals with science, technology, research and development. Indeed, to make the transition into a low carbon economy we will need the third industrial revolution. This revolution is about a transition from below ground to above ground energy, from chemical to physical energy. The outlines for this revolution are defined in the Strategic energy technologies plan that was adopted under the Slovenian presidency.

But there is another part of the brain I want to talk about. It is the right hand side, the emphatic, intuitive, conceptual brain - the part of the mind that falls in love, gives meanings, defines values, tells us right and wrong. We will need this creative brain to think of (remember the ABC!)
  • (A) new products, rich in design and cultural values.
  • We will need it (B) to compete with technically excellent, cheap products from the BRICS countries that may fail to address our habits, our culture, our expectations of design, trust or environmental friendliness.
  • And we will need it (C) to change the habits, the values, the behaviour of the consumers towards consumptions patterns that are more sustainable.

Empathy, care is also controlled by the right hand side of the brain. Europe has always been a continent that cared. And Europe cares for its people, it cares for (1) nature, (2) cares for the less fortunate on the planet and (3) cares for nature.
  1. The care and dignity for the human individual has been both the baseline of European thought since the ancient Greeks and Christianity and has taken formal and legislative shape in the French revolution of 1789. It was that French revolution that placed the care for people, their equal rights and consequently open access to personal freedom, education, and healthcare high on Europe's political agenda.
  2. But a similar revolution is needed to extend these rights to all living beings on the planet. First, to the poor billion. Slovenian presidency has insisted that highest attention be given to the implementation of Millenium Development Goals, particularly noting the new dimensions generated by the climate change policies and the rising food prices. The issue of biofuels was suddenly catapulted to the top of political discussions, involving arguments ranging from biodiversity, protection of habitats, social implications, implications of food prices, technological dilemmas concerning the future of wining technologies in transport et cetera. Biofuels are an example how government distortions of the markets - over subsidized agriculture is meeting overtaxed fuels - can have negative impact. It is only with even more legislation - the firm commitments to develop, respect and monitor sustainability criteria for production of biofuels - that the issue could be resolved. The EU recommitted its leadership role in supporting the millennium development goals in the June council. EU remains firm to radically reform its aid policies in terms of effectiveness and to remain a main donor allocating 0,56% GDP by 2010 and 0,7% do 2015. And for this aid to be effective, the EU must tear down market barriers and provide assistance to the poor countries to establish law, order and good governance, a stable business environment in particular for small enterprises, and investment in human resources, in terms of healthcare and education.
  3. Finally the care needs to extend to nature. The venue for this thematic conference– a museum celebrating biodiversity – is symbolic as well: while we are loosing thousands of species on the planet each year, we need to adjust the economy, the production and consumption practices to protection of primary habitats and species. This is a vital message important for the quality of life of all future generations.

In common to all these efforts is an increasingly dominant role of values. Not only economical, but moral as well. But a winning combination is a combination of economic incentives and a change in values. The world will probably explore many ways to build environmental principles into the heart of economic policies, but sooner or later a price will need to be placed pollution. A single, uniform price on carbon embedded in products would create economic incentives for industry to look for ways to reduce it, it would motivate it to find cheapest and most economic ways, and would discourage the consumers to buy such products. Today, for example, some carbon is overtaxed, for example in fuels, and some is undertaxed, for example that in coal.

To do that, we need life cycle assessment of environmental impact, including CO2 footprint of all key products and services. We need to study this carefully. Literature today is offering very diverse results for items as simple as a kilogram of beef. And finally, we must give the consumer the information so that she can exercise the care for the environment when shopping. We must develop and standardize EcoLabeling of products in our stores.

As to the corporations, there is one mantra sweeping through the business would since Google coined it. Don't be evil! By adopting the Don't Be Evil culture, the corporation establishes a baseline for decision making that can enhance the trust and image of the corporation that outweighs short-term gains from violating the Don't Be Evil principles. The don't be evil principles were originally related to how a company treats its customers. It should be extended to how a company treats the other stuff that we care about - all the people and the nature.

Many of the principles I talked about have been included in the updated Lisbon strategy that was adopted in March. It provides a balance between economic growth and care. It introduces creativity, the importance of European culture, open innovation and the change of values into a top level EU political document. Yes, it calls for governments and EU institutions to set an example by reducing the use of energy in protocol car fleets and in buildings. It maintains the coherence of the energy and climate change package with the growth and jobs strategy.

But Lisbon strategy is expiring in 2010. We were convinced that Europe needs a coherent strategic framework beyond 2010 bringing together the strategy for growth and jobs, sustainable development strategy and the social agenda. I quote from the conclusions:
The European Council furthermore stresses that a continued EU-level commitment to structural reforms and sustainable development and social cohesion will be necessary after 2010 in order to lock in the progress achieved by the renewed Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs. The European Council therefore invites the Commission, the Council and the National Lisbon coordinators to start reflecting on the future of the Lisbon strategy in the post-2010 period.
So lets start working on it - the first discussion took place in Brussels in May. There are some good baseline documents on the table, like Cohen Tanugis. Things are connected and interdisciplinary. This strategy should provide a baseline for the new financial perspective that should support it.

Ladies and gentleman,

The unique characteristic of Europe has been that it cares. That it values the human, the human life and nature. We know that care for environment must be global. We must do all that we can to win the rest of the world to join us. In time for Kobenhavn meeting in December 2009, the EU needs to finish its homework on Energy and climate change package and win other rich and poor countries to join the effort. The effort will not be worth much if they don’t.

But we can also provide an example on other issues. Sooner or later European policies on eradication of poverty, on social justice and welfare will become the worlds as well. The world needs Europe to lead, with example, the way into peace, prosperity and care. Care for our people, care for the poor billion and care for nature. And Europe needs leadership as well. The good thing about the rotating presidency is, that for half a year there is an ambitious, energetic lead that goes beyond what bureaucracies in Brussels can think of. Let's be ambitions and lets show to the world, how one can have a good living and remain caring for people and nature. This is what Europe can and should offer to the world. Good luck France in taking this forward!

[1] Jan van den Biesen of Philips made a good point on this at the Future of Europe Summit last year.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Internet Economy and Open Access

I am still in Seoul where we have just adopted the Seoul declaration. Here are some notes from my intervention on the plenary before the signing:

First I'd like to join all who congratulated the organizers, the government of Korea and the OECD for such an excellent event. I think it demonstrates that we are all aware what a vital role the internet plays in globalized economy.

What internet is enabling is many more people to get involved in creative and innovative processes. This type of innovation is called 'open innovation' and for it to work, information and data on which the innovation and creative processes are based, must be made broadly available. One set of such data is scientific data and scientific publications.

This is somehow covered in item b on page 6, bullets 2 and 5 and I would like to understand that it covers open scientific publishing as well. While we support the declaration, I would like to invite the OECD to investigate and continue to make policy recommendations in the future, with regard to the access to scientific publications that are reporting on publicly funded research.

In the near future we will be seeing an intensification of publicly funded research on sustainable development and open access to this research would speed up the dissemination of the technologies to fight climate change.

Last but not least, the internet technology itself has been developed in such an open way, and it is still based on open standards and open source solutions and as such provides a good example of the benefits of open access and open innovation.

Monday, June 16, 2008

They say we need IPv6

Empires stood (Roman) and fell (Napolen's adventure in Russia) with communications technology. Today we are building empires of the mind and we need communication technology more than ever. In fact Europe's global dominance started with the communication revolution that democratized paper.

The 2nd communication revolution related to the Internet is democratizing electronic communication and inviting a new wave of talent into creative processes. As Florida put it, creativity is the ultimate economic resource and there is a war for talent going on out there. Technology is something that attracts talent, internet technology definitively.

So the Slovenian presidency built a strong emphasis on creativity and internet into the updated Lisbon Strategy. IPv6 makes future growth of the Internet possible.

This was in a nutshell the contents of my talk at the IPv6 launch event in Brussels on May 30th. I took my mobile phone with me to the podium and recorded the talk. A colleague synced it with the slides and here are the results:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

World Environment Day

To address climate change we need to think both with our wallets and our hearts (notes for an intervention at an OECD ministerial meeting in Paris, June 4th, 2008).

Climate change is an issue that is global and global solutions should be found. But we must make very clear that politics should define the goals and targets, and that the business and science must, in undistorted competition, find the best solutions. Lets not speak about 50-50-50 until 2050 until we do 20-20-20 by 2020.

Politics should not pick winners. We need a third industrial revolution and it will be done by science and business. To be enable it we must create a level playing field for competing technologies and this also means creating a single price for CO2, regardless of its source, and not distorted by widely different taxation and subsidies even if the tax is not called CO2 tax. This would enable the market to identify the cheapest solutions.

But so much about thinking with the wallet. At least as important is the thinking with the heart, at least as important are the changed ethical values of the consumer. We must make sure that the values and ethics shift, that environmental friendliness becomes a value, just like design, brand, fashion and other influences of our culture and that consumers have the right information to exercise their attitude towards the environment.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Speech at Athens Summit on Climate Change and Energy Security

ADDRESS of Minister dr. Žiga Turk
at the Athens Summit on Climate Change and Energy Security
Athens, 5. – 7. May 2008

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the beginning allow me to thank the organizers for bringing this summit together and congratulate for such excellent organization.

There is mounting evidence, that humanity has been affecting the climate not for the last 100 but for the last 6000 years. We are here in Athens, Greece, which is the cradle of western civilization. But to build the ships that ruled the Mediterranean and to smelter the iron and copper, the forests on the coasts of the Mediterranean had to fall. The last oaks in the Slovenian Cars fell to build the fleet of the Venetian Republic. Two industrial revolutions have been fueled by fossil fuels, releasing into the atmosphere the carbon that has been captured by biological processes below the surface of the earth in millions of years.

The effects of climate change are being felt now: temperatures are rising, icecaps and glaciers are melting. Yet, for most of the developed world, adaptation to climate change means installing more air-conditioning, snow making machines, irrigation systems and dealing with a few extreme weather events. These industrialized countries account for 75 percent of the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions during the past 150 years. But for the developing world, climate change is literally a matter of life and death - sea levels rising, droughts, extreme weather events. They may also be a victim of bad market distorting policies, where, for example over-subsidized food production meets over taxed car fuels.

Ladies and gentleman,

The development that was fuelled by energy captured under ground over millions of years need to come to an end. We need a new industrial revolution that will be based on above ground rather below ground energy - sun, wind and water rather than oil, coal and gas. This revolution needs to be global, the developed countries facilitating the introduction and dissemination of new and clean technologies world-wide.

A major building block of this revolution is the Strategic Energy Technology Plan, as endorsed by the EU Heads of State and Government at the Spring 2008 European Council. Its aim is to accelerate innovation of energy technologies, and subsequently push the European industry to turn the threats of climate change and security of supply into opportunities to increase its competitiveness.

This SET plan is part of the Energy Action Plan that was adopted by the European heads of state at a landmark summit in March 2007. The Action Plan aims to move forward with the EU’s ambitious objectives to slash greenhouse-gas emissions and boost renewable energies by 2020 in a bid to reduce the EU's dependency on imported fuels and set the pace for "a global industrial revolution". The Climate and Energy legislative package presented by the Commission this January provides the means to meet these objectives.

The Slovenian Presidency to the EU has been making every effort to facilitate the deliberations within the Council of the EU and make it possible for an agreement between the Member States, as well as between the European institutions, on these proposals to be reached before the end of 2008 and consequently allow for their adoption within the current legislative term.

Climate change cannot only be dealt with political measures, taxes, incentives, by technological progress. It also calls for a change in the mindsets, in the value systems of the people. It was also because of this that the Slovenian presidency asked the member state governments and the EU institutions to set an example and increase the energy efficiency of government buildings and car fleets. And at the spring European council the EU leaders agreed.

But there is little use if Europe acts alone. The ‘Bali roadmap' adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference last December in Bali includes the key building blocks of a future global agreement. It is this global agreement that we should aim at. The credibility of EU climate policy, and thus its international leadership, depends on our ability to bring discussions in Parliament and Council on this package to a successful conclusion before the end of 2008.

***

When it comes to the more practical issues of energy supply and availability, Slovenia believes that a fully liberalized energy market, combined with the appropriate mechanisms such as public-private sector partnerships, where governmental incentives are matched by private investments, or where governmental incentives can stimulate greater R&D expenditure by the private sector, will guarantee a favorable environment for long term strategic investments in energy infrastructure and energy R&D. If we want to succeed, we must make climate change mitigation a viable business! We should make it into a business opportunity! We must create favorable investment conditions!

The issue of securing energy supply by diversification of transport routes and energy mix also needs appropriate attention. The EU is the second largest energy consumer and the world’s largest importer of energy. If present trends continue the EU will be 90 percent dependent on imports for its requirements of oil and 80 percent dependent regarding gas by the year 2030. Therefore we need to nourish and further develop our relationship with the countries and regions that provide us with energy. To guarantee energy security Slovenia advocates the diversification of energy suppliers, sources and transit routes.

Slovenia’s efforts in addressing climate change will not cease with the end of our Presidency. In this context Slovenia is providing a forum for the continued debate on climate change and energy security at its traditional Bled Strategic Forum. This year’s conference entitled “Energy and Climate Change: Si.nergy for the Future” will bring together high-level government representatives, EU officials, enterpreneurs and senior representatives from think tanks and NGOs. I would like to take this opportunity to invite you all to Bled, Slovenia on 31 August and 1 September.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We know the task in front of us: We must slow down global warming without derailing economic growth. It will not be easy. On earth we only have two renewable resources: the power of the sun and the power of the human spirit. The third industrial revolution that is staring is in the combination of these two - a massive r&d and innovation into renewable energy sources. This will, in pespective, drive our carbon footprint down not by 20% but by 100%. The sun and the human spirit!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Europe Takes a Creative Turn

The economic and social future of Europe is mainly outlined in a strategy called "Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs". Launched in 2000 it provides the blueprint for Europe staying competitive in the globlized economy. It so happened that at the Spring European Council ending a few minutes ago, Europe is launching the next three year cycle. The European Council is presided by Slovenia and as the Minister in charge for the Lisbon Strategy in Slovenia I imagine that I had a little bit of influence on the flavor of the strategy in its next cycle.

The first lesson learned with Slovenia in the driving seat of the EU is that it cannot make any sharp turns. The EU is much like a huge cargo ship with 27 smaller or larger tow boats trying to push it a bit in that or the other direction. And in the last couple of months we did some more pushing than one would expect from one of the smallest member states.

Since its beginnings in 2000, the Lisbon Strategy was placing high hopes on the knowledge economy - on science, technology and innovation. One of the directions I tried to push was for a fresher view on exploiting Europe's intellectual and cultural potential. Contributing actively to the Internet communication revolution since the early 1990s, I was very well aware that the ideal innovation and creativity ecosystem is no longer one that is paper based, locked into closed institutional boundaries and that just the scientific and technical innovation is not enough to stay competitive on the global stage.

The prime ministers or heads of states of the 27 member states did acknowledge that "A key factor for future growth is the full development of the potential for innovation and creativity of European citizens built on European culture and excellence in science." and

"At the same time further efforts must be made, including in the private sector, with a view to investing more, and more effectively, in research, creativity, innovation and higher education and achieving the 3% R&D investment target."

and also:

"Providing high‑quality education and investing more and more effectively in human capital and creativity throughout people's lives are crucial conditions for Europe's success in a globalised world."

Explicitly mentioning the creative industries was beyond the vision of those who were negotiating the text that would be acceptable to all 27 member states. But frankly, the creative industries, just like the R&D sector is the one that is providing the added value. The latter creating the functional excellence of a product or service, the former its meaning.

The primer ministers introduced the concept of free movement of knowledge:

"Member States and the EU must remove barriers to the free movement of knowledge by creating a "fifth freedom" based on enhancing the cross-border mobility of researchers, as well as students, scientists, and university teaching staff, making the labor market for European researchers more open and competitive"

It is the free movement of the entire creative class that can make sure that in Europe we can put the best person to the job. Each individual member state is too small a market for the highly skilled and their movement is hampered through all kinds of obstacles. But the phrasing "cross-border mobility of the creative class" or "talents" did not pass under the bar. Member states do have a broader vision. For example, the discussion paper of the UK government "Realizing Britain’s Potential: Future Strategic Challenges for Britain" has a subtitle "Unlocking Talent".

The 5th freedom, as originally proposed by the (incidentally) Slovenian commissioner for Research dr. Potočnik, was understood as movement of knowledgeable people. But the free movement of knowledge can mean so much more. The European leaders added

"facilitating and promoting the optimal use of intellectual property created in public research organisations so as to increase knowledge transfer to industry, in particular through an "IP Charter" to be adopted before the end of the year and encouraging open access to knowledge and open innovation."

The text provides a clear acknowledgement that creativity and innovation are no longer locked into some closed institutional frameworks. Moreover, to bring the masses into the creative processes they need access to knowledge and the leaders stated very clearly "encouraging open access to knowledge and open innovation". This is the language that the top EU political elite would use for Web 2.0 participatory innovation and the open access movement.

Last but not least the European leaders agreed with the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janšathat communication infrastructures, the high speed internet, is an essential infrastructure where innovation and creativity take place today. European leaders are calling for every European school to be connected to high speed internet by 2010. And for an increasing percentage of the citizens to have high speed access.

The vessel I wrote about in the beginning is big. Quick turns are not possible. In the EU context one is not seeking the highest but rather the lowest common denominator. Nevertheless, the messages are there. They are the right messages. But the member states, regions, cities and companies would do well if they would take these ideas further. And member states, not all 27, but smaller groups could get together and proceed with different speeds on different issues.

Disclaimer: This is a personal view of the author and not an official position of the Slovenian government or its minister.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Modernising European Universities

Some notes for the speech to the European University Business Forum in Brussels last week. Key messages:

  • universities were designed for a paper based communication technology which is outdated;
  • the prevailing position that the universities have had on education and research and their other functions is coming to an end;
  • universities need to change;
  • updated Lisbon strategy is sending some messages in this respect, but there is a limit to what politics can do;
  • the change must be initiated from within the universities; for this they need more freedom, but also more competition and market orientation;
  • universities should be less of an industrialized mechanism to crank out graduates and more of a community of teachers an students, shaping minds rather that transferring knowledge.

Dear X, dear y, ladies and gentleman,

It is a pleasure etc. etc. …

I was lecturing design communication, how professionals communicate when they design and build. And there is something interesting if you look at the history of architecture, important also for our discussion here today. In building structures what is difficult is to create big spans, big domes and volumes. And if money is not an object, this is what rulers and architects went for.

For a long long time the largest dome was Hagia Sophia in the capital of Eastern Roman Empire, 31 meters, built around year 500. About 1000 years later the city then called Istanbul was a capital of perhaps the richest country in the region and they managed 26 meters with the Suleymaniye Mosque. A few years later, however, they managed 42 meters with the St. Peter's in Rome.

What happened in between was communication revolution - the paper communication revolution. During the middle ages parchment was available to few for selected topics such as copying the bible and a few greek classics, think name of the rose! After the technology how to make cheap paper and principles of print come, via the silk route from China to Europe. Paper becomes available to many, for day-day tasks.

The first communication revolution made a transition from communication available to few to communication available to many. Impact not only in printing books, drawing designs for buildings, specialization of professions, collaboration but also innovation process, science&technology, ways to do business (globalization), society in general and of course the universities. It paved the way for a scientific and technological monopoly of the west.

This monopoly is coming to an end. United States graduated roughly 70,000 undergraduate engineers, China graduated 600,000 and India 350,000. ½ of software developed in India, ½ of Fortune 500 outsource software work to India, new R&D centers of Microsoft, Cisco, Google, IBM … are in Asia, not Europe. By 2020 majority of scientific papers in sci&tech will be written by Asians. Out of top 10 universities only 2 in Europe, none on the continent. In the top 50 Europe is not doing well at all. Last but not least, I'm sure in this conference there will be a mention of the Shanghai rankings. Shanghai as in Shanghai, China! Not Bologna rankings or Oxford rankings. Shanghai rankings.

Today's universities are founded on paper based collaboration, not only textbooks, written assignments. The paper 'philosophy' makes knowledge static / printed on paper. There is a clear role separation of teacher-learner. Because of the paper as the communication medium the teacher-learner are close together in time and space. Pedagogy model is that of transmission of knowledge.

However, we are living at a time of the second communication revolution. Electronic communication has been around for more than a century, like some kind of paper was available for millenia. But though the internet, electronic communication is democratically available to all, for all kinds of uses and there is more to the Internet than just fast, electronic paper and videoconferencing and screen sharing replacing the phone calls.

In particularly the technologies around Web 2.0. Web-technology that aims to facilitate participation. It is two way, bottom up and top down. It is about getting people involved. Things happening outside the wall. Ideas outside the box. It promotes creativity of the masses.

Web 2.0 is leading to University 2.0

There are new roles for teachers: coaches and mentors of students, facilitators for learning, media and tool design, virtual tuition, examiners and advisers. There are also new roles for students: active learning, collaboration among them and with teachers, team work. So universities again becoming more of a community of teachers and students!

There are some other megatrends as well in addition to 2nd Communication Revolution: 3rd Industrial Revolution and low carbon economy, Conceptual Age, Globalisation. They invite us into rethinking the traditional functions of the university as well. According to literature, the functions include:

  • Education & research: today knowledge increasingly obtained outside universities, companies have on-line courses, materials on the internet, research is done outside universities, in business. The paradigm of open innovation places innovation outside the borders of institutions, outside the box.
  • Raising and socialization of elites. Universities are where most of population now ends up. It is not about the elites any more. The socialization is also happening on-line.
  • Creation and maintenance of values. In the positivist tradition, universities have increasingly evolved to teach about facts and knowledge, not about values. But Europe's care for people and Europe's care for the environment could get more room.
  • Development of civil society. This too is increasingly organised on-line.
  • Support of the nation state. What nation state. Universities are increasingly international and nation states are part of the European Union.

Universities are loosing their near monopoly positions on these issues.

The political response is Lisbon Strategy.

In spring 2008 we are launching the second three year cycle. The key issues include:

  • Europe that cares for people: Implementation of a comprehensive flexicurity concept, flexible work arrangements, how about universities?, but with emphasis on education and human capital.
  • Europe that cares for nature: Transforming Europe into low carbon economy. R&D breakthrough needed in energy related fields.
  • For a more entrepreneurial Europe, Deepening the Single Market, Support growth of SMEs.
  • For a more creative Europe: Investing in people, knowledge, creativity and innovation.The creation of fifth freedom, the freedom of movement of knowledge.

Knowledge as 5th freedom is important to the discussion of modernisation of universities. It is about free movement of knowledge in the heads, on paper, on media, on the web; it is about open access to knowledge and open innovation. And in such an open European knowledge space there is a need for protection of knowledge like a European patent and the handling of IPR.

We must call for investing more and more effectively in research, creativity, innovation and higher education. We must foster scientific excellence, cross border mobility of talents - students, teaching staff, researchers, build up scientific e-infrastructure and enable high speed internet usage, call for modernization of the universities and implementing higher education reforms.

Creativity is the horizontal issue in the four themes. Innovation and creativity - not only scientist and engineers, everybody can be creative. Competitiveness is also about how to make talents entrepreneurial. The care for people should concentrate on how to educate, attract and retain talent, how to make talent entrepreneurial and how to flexibly employ talents. The care for environment is also expressed in making it into a value and into a business opportunity.

But there is so much more that can be done

A change is needed, but the question is who can bring this about this change. I have listed what the updated lisbon strategy has in stock. Governments are not good at creating excellent universities. In the Shanghai rankings the EU universities are not doing to bad for the 50-500 spots, where they are really bad is the 1-50 spots. Our system is egalitarian and is promoting the average university and seems to be killing the competition among the universities for the top spots. This suggests governments generally can't create the top universities.

These are either a result of a market competition of privately owned universities or efforts of elites in some exceptional universities that are willing and able to purse the path of excellence. As a professor I would dare to say that we need to change, that we are willing to change, but we must be given the power to change. To be free to hire and fire, to be free free to manage finances, free to set salary contracts, free to pursue entrepreneurial ideas. As a politician I would need to add that if taxpayer is providing the money autonomy is indisputable, but has to be limited by the accountability and it has to be given into the hands of the best, not to the average faculty.

In conclusion

Big changes out there are challenging the dominance of universities in providing education, research, shaping elites, maintaining values and supporting intellectual foundations of a nation state. There will be no going back, but universities remain to be essential in providing the very top quality of the above and to do so they must get back to their roots.

The term university originates from "community of students and teachers" and universities again must become more like this community. They must encourage thinking, asking, wondering. They must be less concerned with what the industrial revolution did to universities: thinking of inputs and outputs, cranking out students with a standard set of "knowledge", becoming, like Heidegger feared a "mind numbing trade school" but more concerned with shaping minds.

As William Inge put it: The aim of education is the knowledge not of fact, but of values. With the challenges of the mankind ahead, not forgetting about core human values may be the most important task of all.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

eGovernment 2.0

Here are some slides from the talk I gave in Berlin in January. In summary:



Communication revolutions change the way we live together. They change culture, innovation, technology and the political process. We are at the middle of the second communication revolution. Internet is unleashing the human potential, the creativity, and allows the participation of the masses. Governments should exploit this. Updated Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs is taking note.

eGovernment 2.0 is about two way communication. Internet is platform for public debate, exchange of ideas and problem solving. Government services are a springboard for community made services. Government AND citizens, business jointly provide services, information. Government mediates, rather than rules. Not just G2x but also x2G and x2y.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Comeback Continent?

This is fairly similar to the way I see the opportunities of Europe during the so-called Asian century:
The Comeback Continent - New York Times: "Today I’d like to talk about a much-derided contender making a surprising comeback, a comeback that calls into question much of the conventional wisdom of American politics. No, I’m not talking about a politician. I’m talking about an economy — specifically, the European economy, which many Americans assume is tired and spent but has lately been showing surprising vitality."
However, one wonders if this is the way:
Amazon's free shipping costing €1,000 per day in France: "Did you hear the one about Amazon? It offered free shipping in France, got sued for it by the French Booksellers' Union, and lost. Now it's choosing to pay €1,000 a day rather than follow the court's order. Ba-da-bing!"

Monday, January 14, 2008

Slovenian Semester at JRC in Ispra

One of the nice traditions of the Joint Technology Center of the European Commission is that they maintain "semesters" according to the schedule of the European Council presidencies. So the Slovenian semester started a few days ago.

I was asked to take part at the kick-off of the Slovenian semester at Ispra, Italy and gladly accepted the invitation. Last but not least, my Faculty for Civil Engineering has an on-going and fruitful cooperation with the JRC's ELSA lab and was even able to meet some of my former students there.

Of course there were a few speeches. Mine included. Below are the slides I made to use as talking points. Key message: Europe is about synergies among its parts. JRC's are a good example of that.