OECD Science and Technology Policy Ministerial

Opening Plenary: International co-operation and competition

Apr 23, 2024 | 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM



In room CC15.

International co-operation and competition
Main issues

Patterns of international collaboration in science, technology and innovation (STI) are changing. Recent decades witnessed a significant increase in international collaboration in science, as evidenced by the rising trend in international co-authorship of scientific publications. However, this decades-long pattern of increasing collaboration now shows signs of weakening. While collaboration continues, the networks and partnerships that compose it are changing. Specific strategic research areas have seen a deceleration in collaboration, particularly between the United States and China, reflecting growing geopolitical tensions and related security concerns in technology and some scientific domains.    
Product shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated concerns around supply chain vulnerabilities and strategic dependencies, as has the threat that geopolitical tensions could pose to the supply of certain materials (such as rare minerals) and components critical to some key technologies (e.g., semiconductors). Furthermore, many emerging technologies and areas of science are central to future competitiveness and national security, which has ushered in a new era of intensified strategic competition, particularly in critical technologies. 

These conditions have led to new policy measures to enhance resilience and aspects of self-sufficiency. Concepts of “technology sovereignty” and “strategic autonomy” have emerged as frameworks for STI policy. Many countries have recently introduced initiatives to strengthen domestic STI capabilities, including policies that (i) limit foreign access to some technologies, (ii) invest in ambitious industrial policies, and (iii) strengthen international technology alliances and/or promote the international mobility of scientists and engineers with key partners. 

 Ministries with responsibilities for research and innovation, as well as funding agencies, have played a role in this re-orientation, although it has most often been led by ministries in other policy domains such as trade, foreign affairs, defence, and industry. The risk exists that an increasingly inward turn jeopardises some of the gains from specialisation, economies of scale, and the diffusion of information and know-how. It could also undermine future co-operation on global challenges. A major test for multilateralism will be to reconcile growing strategic competition with the need to collectively address global challenges, like climate change.