By Björn Stigson

There is both a need for and an interest in cooperation between science and the global business community. There are many options that we can consider on how IIASA can interact more with the private sector, creating a special business advisory panel or via cooperation agreements with companies or the World Business Council.

Bjorn Stigson at the IIASA Conference 2012

IIASA advisor Björn Stigson calls for cooperation between science and business.

In October 2012, I participated in IIASA’s 40th Anniversary Conference. We discussed the need for new partnerships between the science community, academia, business, and governments. If science and business communities stand together, then policymakers will be forced to listen.

The science community has developed a lot of knowledge, and can put this knowledge to better use in global policymaking. Part of this will be in cooperation with the business community.

The business community is way ahead of governments in terms of understanding challenges such as climate change and the environment. We are also way ahead of governments in taking action. But what we struggle with is understanding the nexus issues and systems analysis, which IIASA specializes in. How do we deal with the nexus between energy,  food, water, land use, and similar issues? These are the areas where we need more engagement between business and the scientific community—and IIASA can provide that key focal point. But the cooperation between science, business, and governments has to overcome some challenges.

One major issue is the disconnect in the time frames that different sectors focus on. Scientists work with a long time frame, and so do businesses—investing for up to 50 years into the future. However the financial community is very short-term oriented and often focuses on the next quarter or year at most. The political system works with the syndrome “my term in office,” which normally is three to four years. This is a major disconnect when looking at long-term investments for sustainability.

Another challenge is that the scientific community often does not see business knowledge as real knowledge because it is not published and reviewed in the same way. If we can improve communication between science and business, we can join hands and go to the politicians together to say this is what is really needed and we will have a much bigger impact than we have today.

Global business has come to engage in policy issues because we depend on them. If scientists really want to influence policy then they cannot sit on the sidelines, but should be suggesting possible solutions. Both science and business must do a better job of explaining to the politicians what the solutions are—not only the problems. I am looking forward to working closely with IIASA to see how we can address many of these issues as a partnership between science and the private sector.

This article first appeared in IIASA’s Options Magazine, Summer 2013.

Björn Stigson: On 27 November 2012, Björn Stigson was named special advisor to IIASA Director and Chief Executive Officer Professor Dr. Pavel Kabat to advise on how collaboration with the business world can increase the impact of IIASA research on policy. Björn Stigson is the Chairman of Stigson and Partners AB; former President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD); and IIASA private sector advisor.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Nexus blog, nor of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.