1. How to Get Started?
2. What Is Science Diplomacy?
3. Who Are the Science Diplomacy Stakeholders?
4. How Does the EU Practice Science Diplomacy?
5. What Are the National, Regional and Thematic Approaches of Science Diplomacy?
6. What Set of Skills Do I Need to Be a Good Science Diplomat?
7. Hands On! Case Studies
8. How Can You Dive Deeper into Science Diplomacy?
Satisfaction Survey

4.4.3 The EU Science Diplomacy Vision

In the last years, the European Commission has strongly embraced science diplomacy as a fundamental tool of external relations. Although the EU has been engaged in international scientific cooperation since the first research and development framework programme in 1984, it is around 2016 when both the European External Action Service and the General Directorate for Research and Innovation started identifying science as a fundamental asset for Europe’s foreign policy (de San Román and Schunz 2017).

As mentioned before in this module, one of the most relevant champions of current European science diplomacy at the executive level has been Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for research, science and innovation until 2019. As part as a wider policy framework, “The EU as a stronger global actor” (Junker 2018; European Commission 2019a), Moedas envisioned science diplomacy as a crucial means to foster international cooperation in global challenges and to use the universal language of science as a way to reach a common understanding in those problems that are often highly politicized and culturally sensitive.

In his vision, science diplomacy played a crucial role in post second world war Europe (with prominent examples such as the construction of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)). Also, the values and commitment to scientific endeavour enshrined at the EU guiding treaties prove how science is at the core of the integration process. In contemporary Europe, European research is an important resource for exercising the EU’s collective responsibility in a spirit of international solidarity, as part of its efforts to work with international partners to solve common and complex global challenges (Moedas 2016)

This science diplomacy approach to EU research and innovation was substantiated in the last of the three policy goals that have guided Moedas’s mandate: Open Science, Open Innovation, and Open to the World (Moedas 2015; European Commission, 2016):

  • Open Innovation: in spite of the EU being a research powerhouse, Europe too rarely succeeds in turning research into innovation, in getting research results to market. And here’s where the open innovation concept comes into play: opening up the innovation process to all active players so that knowledge can circulate more freely and be transformed into products and services that create new markets, fostering a stronger culture of entrepreneurship.
  • Open Science: it represents a new approach to the scientific process based on cooperative work and new ways of diffusing knowledge by using digital technologies and new collaborative tools. The idea captures a systemic change to the way science and research have been carried out for the last fifty years: shifting from the standard practices of publishing research results in scientific publications towards sharing and using all available knowledge at an earlier stage in the research process.
  • Open to the world: it means striving to ensure that EU research and innovation can work at a global level for all of us. Whether mobilising EU funding for a rapid and effective global research response to outbreaks like Coronavirus or Zika; contributing to the evidence base for the International Panel on Climate Change and COP21 negotiations as over a thousand results from EU-funded research projects have done; benchmarking innovative European solutions for green urban mobility in Latin America, or promoting scientific cooperation in the Middle East through the SESAME project. In other words: it means science diplomacy.

In order to explore how this vision could be implemented long term, the Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation set up the Research, Innovation and Science Expert group (RISE). The RISE report clearly identifies an opportunity to increase the European Union’s influence in the current nature of the challenges of the 21st Century (European Commission 2017, 2019b). It identifies, however, three major challenges:

  1. how to carve out a specific role for the EU that complements the Science Diplomacy policies of its Member States;
  2. how to draw together the scientific resources of the EU in support of the EU’s various externally facing policies, such as trade or development; and
  3. how to integrate that role in the overall EU’s Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy driven by EEAS.

Among their recommendations for the development of a EU science diplomacy, we can highlight:

  • The need to build capacity to give and receive science advice
  • Better coordination between the European Commission and EEAS that would enable more active exploitation of the science-based assets of EU soft power in relation to other countries and other regions of the world
  • The European Commission acting as a pioneer of S&T on the international stage by establishing strategic S&T bilateral agreements and high-level policy dialogues at the country and regional levels in the context of a Global Research Area

The current Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, published a blog piece for S4D4C in late 2020. In her article, Gabriel highlights the importance of science diplomacy for the European Commission in crucial challenges such as COVID-19. Also, she argues on the importance of science and technology in the global arena and uses the Japan-European Commission letter of intent to strengthen the S&T collaboration and the relevance of science and technology issues in the European Union Cooperation with Africa as an example (Gabriel 2020).  

What the experts think

We have asked two representatives of the EU science diplomacy cluster to share their visions for European science diplomacy.


Alexander Degelsegger-Márquez

Head of Digital Health and Innovation at Gesundheit Österreich GmbH (Austrian Public Health Institute). Former S4D4C project coordinator.

What is your vision on European diplomacy? What objectives should it have?




Leonard Laborie

Research Fellow, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), and Deputy Coordinator for the H2020-funded consortium “Inventing a shared science diplomacy for Europe (InsSciDe)”

What is your vision for the European science diplomacy?


Read more!
–       de San Román, Alea; and Simon Schunz (2017): “Understanding European Union Science Diplomacy.” Journal of Common Market Studies, 56(2), 247-266 (Link)
–       European Commission (2016): Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World – a vision for Europe. Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. Brussels, doi:10.2777/061652 (Link).
–       European Commission (2017): Europe’s Future: Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World. Reflections of the Research, Innovation and Science Policy Experts (RISE) High Level Group. Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. doi:10.2777/514910 (Link)
–       European Commission (2019a): The EU as a stronger global actor. Towards a more united, stronger and more democratic union. doi:10.2775/98393 (Link)
–       European Commission (2019b). “Final Reflections of the RISE Group.” Research, Innovation and Science Policy Experts Group. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. doi:10.2777/485168 (Link)
–       Gabriel, Mariya (2020). “Towards Science Diplomacy in the European Union”. S4D4C Stakeholders’ Voice, 29 October (Link)
–       Juncker, Claude (2018). “State of the Union 2018: Making the EU a stronger global actor – European Commission proposes more efficient decision-making in CFSP“. The EU as a stronger global actor. Towards a more united, stronger and more democratic union, Press Release, Brussels: 12 September 2018 (Link)
–       Moedas, Carlos (2015). A new start for Europe: Opening up to an ERA of Innovation. Brussels, 22 June 2015 (Link).
–       Moedas, Carlos (2016). “Science Diplomacy in the European Union.” Science & Diplomacy, Vol. 5, No. 1 (March 2016) (Link)

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