The last few years, because of a deep economic and social crisis, have highlighted the limitations and contradictions of the idea of linear and quantitative development and obsolescence and the vulnerability of production systems of most industrialized countries.
To process a shared and replicable answer on a large scale, already in the 2000, after Lisbon, with extraordinary foresight, the European Council placed himself, the aim of passing the member countries towards a new growth model transforming, by the 2010, the EU’ economy into a knowledge based economy.
After a little less than fifteen years, we are still far from achieving that goal and much remains to be done to prevent that the Lisbon strategy becomes synonymous of missed targets and promises not kept. In the meantime, however, the transformation of the economies of western countries has undergone a different transformation from industrial economy to financial services.
This change, on the one hand, has meant that emerging countries would become the key locations for the production, on the other hand, has accelerated their entry into the knowledge society. In fact, even maintaining all social and economic contradictions of traditional linear models and the development of industrialized countries, the so-called garage countries have passed easily and quickly the season of production with low- cost and low-profile, investing in knowledge, technologies, human capital, have become, in a relatively short time, competitors in the field of innovation and the most advanced production.
The success of their growth, the persistence of a production system built primarily on renewable energy and non-renewable materials, increasing disparities economic, social, cultural and political inequalities, as well as geo-climatic changes, have created new and more demanding challenges that, in scope and impact, investing not only national mature economies, but the entire Planet.
In addition, the thickness and weave that characterizes requires the integration of knowledge, multiple skills, more structured and qualified, an interaction between knowledge and exceeds that bypasses the old stereotypes that separate exploratory research from the role and application, or divide between scientific and humanistic culture.
Moreover, all research is scientifically valid, every single researcher, regardless of whether it is engaged in a mission- oriented or curiosity-driven, is a source of energy supplying new connections between ideas and provides knowledge that sooner or later someone, following unpredictable paths, will find a way to use it. It is emblematic, among others, the case of the Green fluorescent Protein (GFP) : in 1962 Osamu Shimomura isolated the protein because of the green fluorescence of the jellyfish Aequorea victoria. The, a substance seemingly useless but by subsequent studies and more than thirty years later became the perfect marker, able to illuminate the path of a single virus in a cell. So, if one day cancer or Alzheimer’s disease will be eradicated, it will be thanks to the “useless” jellyfish protein that makes up and light a jellyfish.
Even so, in order to imagine and build a better future than the one we seem confined by the current conservative and warm views, it becomes urgent to mobilize extraordinary talent of culture, science, technology, research and innovation, which is associated with a conviction and widespread adoption of changes, important and profound in all sectors of society, particularly in the way we think, act, produce and consume.
Having this in mind, it would be desirable to converge towards a new anthropocentric view that helps to rediscover the value of the person, its centrality in each process and the social, productive, political and cultural way of doing. A central role that draws on gender equality, reduction of all forms of exclusion and marginalization and push towards greater interaction and integration of knowledge and cultures, between technology and creativity, between sustainability and growth. At the same time, to put in a responsible way the issue of limits of development and their overcoming is no longer in terms of competitiveness and imbalance, but of cooperation, complementarity and subsidiarity.
This is a policy option, even before planning science and technology, to bring and consolidate within an ecosystem that, in harmony and balance, can activate the levers for a season of a cultural, scientific and productive rebirth.
With this aim you could go back, having as reference the Renaissance – eventually to propose again – if applicable, because that was a period in which the centrality of the person and the exploitation of the potential and creativity formed the key elements of a deliberate strategy to assert a new social, economic, relationships organization.
Five centuries ago, thanks to the sophisticated and desired balances between the person and environment, person and time, between imagining and doing, and to articulate an idea of knowledge as a synthesis and integration of knowledge exploration, technical and creative society expressed in many fields what today we could call disruptive capabilities, disruptive technologies, namely the paradigm cultural, technological, artistic and scientific shift intended to become a milestone in the history of mankind.
To propose once again, that example, trying to rebuild the hard science- technology -society harmonically balanced, constructive and proactive Renaissance, revised in the light of the changes and the progress of five centuries, could be a possible solution to the impasse we are sinking in.
Such a view would also help to overcome the over- specialization of vertical integration and separation of skills, knowledge and technologies, though until recently it could counteract and mitigate the negative effects of the crisis and competition, now showing signs of weakness.
In fact, just because science is no longer a “liberal profession ” practiced by a small number of onlookers – or the big science postwar reins firmly in the national government – but it is a complex undertaking involving large groups, we need build around it a stimulating climate, able to overcome the limitations and constraints of each sector and to relate more intelligence and creativity.
As well as for innovation, which feeds and propagates for interactivity. That is to say that innovation is no longer a sequence of steps isolated, but sustained interaction between the potential and market opportunities, technology, research and strategies of economic operators. Therefore in order to develop, innovation requires a collaborative ecosystem, which circulate and interact with the experience and knowledge, tacit and codified, owned by the people, but also those drawn imagined and developed in research centres by providing public and private funds and major international programs. To achieve this it is necessary to weld a new covenant, a covenant between Science and Society that go beyond the existing barriers and allows to make manifest “the light and the benefit ” of science, which is one of the highest expressions of human solidarity and between the more inclusive and democratic forms of mobility and social success. This is also why it would be desirable, along with a new-found social role of scientists, invest in a continuing and recurrent education, for young people and adults, countering the excesses in all areas of scientific illiteracy and carelessness, new forms of exclusion that can have a very serious impact in the present and future lives of every single person and of the community as a whole.