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COMMENT BEYOND20


TheG7needsan ‘R&D7’ to beatChina


THE TIME HAS COME FOR THE G7 TOMOVE BEYOND ‘SCIENCE DIPLOMACY’ AND UPGRADE TECHNOLOGY AGREEMENTS


There always has been heterogeneity among


the G7 in terms of policies, market structures, cultures and norms. In recent years, however, some of these differences, especially the charac- ter and functioning of the ‘nation-state R&D enterprise’ – companies, universities, and gov- ernment laboratories – as well as the mecha- nisms for commercialisation of innovations, have become not onlymore evident, but are also exposing these states to risks of being unable to compete effectively in the global economy and of eroding their national security. This turn of events stems from the fact that,


HARRY BROADMAN


T


he G7 countries, the globe’s most advanced democracies, engage in com- merce with each other based on long-


evolved, elaborate and remarkably efficient superstructures – international trade agree- ments and investment treaties – that lubricate their cross-border relationships. These institu- tions have served the populations of the G7 rel- atively well, allowing their consumers to buy goods and services that are less expensive or not readily accessible at home, and their busi- nesses to attract capital from foreign markets and into which their products and services can be exported. But when it comes to mechanisms to col-


laborate on research and development (R&D) in order to advance knowledge and stimulate innovation, the G7’s cross-border rules of the road are relatively primitive: the sovereign-to- sovereign science and technology (S&T) agree- ments governing these relationships are inade- quately systemised, incorporate weak incentive structures, and are rarely harmonised to vigor- ously promote collective action that produces outcomes in the commercial realmfromwhich all can readily benefit. That these agreements are commonly referred to as mechanisms to further ‘science diplomacy’, says a lot about their focus and objectives.


42


like much of the rest of the world, the economic fortunes of the G7 increasingly have become tethered toChina, themost populous nationand one that is neither democratic nor operating according to market principles and the globe’s rules-based institutions. Indeed, the Chinese are exploiting the differencesamongtheG7in their R&D architecture. Much is at stake for the G7 to take steps tomitigate these risks. This year’sG7Summitin June, chairedbythe


UK and taking place in Cornwall, presents the opportunity to do just that. A key item on the summit’s agenda should be the establishment of astandingG7working group– the ‘R&D7’ – simi- lar to other G7 working groups focused on other important issues. The charge of the R&D7 should be to reform


the structure underlying the negotiation and execution of international S&T agreements among the G7 and to form a standalone body whose charge is to ensure these agreements intensify and recalibrate intra-G7 R&D collabo- ration. There is no reason why these elements cannot be operational before the end of 2021, with an inaugural progress report delivered to the fullG7 within that timeframe. As is true on other fronts when dealing with


huge complex trans-boundary challenges such as that posed by the spillovers of the ‘value cap- ture’ from R&D investment being exploited by potentially antagonistic parties, the most mean- ingful and durable solutions require collective action. In this case, the focus should be on con- crete ways in which the G7 can collaborate and bridge aspects of the heterogeneity in their national R&D enterprise systems to harness what are the best elements of them. The overarching goal should be to develop a


robust mechanism through which the G7 can formulate a new superstructure of international


www.fDiIntelligence.com February/March 2021


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