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.
The 'Science and Society' programme expanded in the seventh Framework Programme into a 330 M€ 'Science in Society' programme under the Specific Programme Capacities. It allowed keeping the discussions and debates alive among the various stakeholder networks in Europe and further refining our understanding of the relationship between science and society.
Lessons learnt gave birth to the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) that went tested and promoted during the last years of the seventh FP. RRI is now a cross-cutting issue under Horizon 2020. Furthermore the programme has grown again into a 462,2 M€ 'Science with and for Society' programme, giving the theme enough leverage to hope put into practice RRI in Europe, notably through 'institutional changes' of research and innovation organisations.
A full audio-information package on 'Science with and for Society' and Responsible Research and Innovation is available on this page.