Science and technology contribute new innovations that are essential to Europe's international competitiveness. Just as Europe cannot do without competitiveness, it cannot do well without including the citizen in the process – the process that is to produce and maintain the best match possible between the immense potential achievements, and the needs and aspirations of citizens (such as peace, employment, security, health and sustainable development of the planet).
On 26 June 2001, European research ministers adopted a resolution inviting both EU Member States and the European Commission to become more active in bringing science and society closer.
As a follow-up to the Commission staff working paper of November 2000 'Science, Society and the Citizen in Europe' , which established the basis for the debate on the relationship of science and technology with society, and as a response to the June 2001 invitation, the European Commission published a Communication on 4 December 2001 setting out the Science and Society Action Plan.
The Science and Society Action Plan was subsequently adopted making the 'Science and Society' theme under Structuring the ERA in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) the first ever initiative of its kind on a European scale. With its budget of EUR 80 million, the initiative helped increase awareness among research and industry of the need to bring a range of research-related societal issues to the top of the policy agenda.
In March 2005, the European Commission organised the Science in Society Forum to take stock of the developments and achievements under the new theme. The forum marked a watershed in thinking about Science and Society. It showed, among other things, that it is not enough to simply inform the public about scientific advances, but that there should be a real engagement of civil society and the public.