Science Diplomacy – An International Comparison

Conference Day: 
Day 2 - November 2nd 2017

Organized by: Urs Obrist, Embassy of Switzerland

Speakers: Shiho Fujiwara, First Secretary, Embassy of Japan in Canada; Urs Obrist, Senior Science and Technology Counsellor, Embassy of Switzerland; Antoine Rauzy, Science and Higher Education Attaché, Embassy of France; Marcus Stadthaus, First Secretary, Sustainable Development, Energy, Embassy of Germany

Moderator: Mehrdad Hariri, Founder, CEO & President, Canadian Science Policy Centre

Takeaways and recommendations: 


  • In Japan, S&T diplomacy is supported by the Science and Technology Basic Law of 1995; one of its objectives is to “contribute to the progress of S&T globally in the world and the sustainable development of human society”.

  • Japan established an S&T advisor in 2015: provides advice to the Foreign Minister and relevant departments on the utilization of S&T in various foreign policy makings. It also reinforces networking among S&T advisors and scientists/academics.

  • The S&T advisor’s first policy, released in 1996, stressed the importance of diplomacy for S&T but there was no mention of S&T for diplomacy; the term “S&T diplomacy” (which includes both S&T for diplomacy and diplomacy for S&T) was incorporated into policy in 2011.

  • Japan has bilateral S&T agreements with 47 countries and institutions; the one with Canada has been in place since 1986.

  • Japan also participates in multilateral meetings that involve S&T: recent examples include the G7 S&T Ministers’ Meeting (agreed to cooperate on global health) and the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (stressed importance of S&T promotion).

  • It is important to have common goals when collaborating bilaterally or multilaterally.

  • Future opportunities for S&T diplomacy include:

    • Working together to solve global programs (i.e. support data/evidence-based policy decisions and the UN Sustainable Development Goals).

    • Deepening relations between partner countries by promoting opportunities for collaboration (e.g. S&T Research Partnership for Sustainable Development – SATREPS) and strengthening networks among scientists.


  • Switzerland has 20 S&T counsellors around the world and 5 Swissnex offices (the first Swissnex office opened in Boston 17 years ago)

  • The Swissnex model’s strengths include:

    • Flexible outreach mechanisms (i.e. the network includes main offices and smaller satellite offices globally, as well as mobile offices)

    • A mechanism for supporting Swiss education, research and innovation institutions with their internationalization endeavours.

    • Mixed funding and flexible partnerships (public, private, academia, foundations, local partners).

    • Open collaboration.

  • Switzerland’s biggest natural resource is its “grey matter”, thus the importance of participating in multinational organizations like CERN and the Arctic Council.

  • Switzerland has been ranked world’s leading innovator for 7 years in a row according to the INSEAD/WIPO Global Innovation Index and, like Canada, has 7 universities ranked in the top 200. This ambition for academic excellence and the structural similarities with multilingualism and federalism are a good basis for enhanced scientific relations between the two countries.

  • Two government departments are directly involved in science diplomacy: the FDEAER, which oversees the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation, and the FDFA (where embassies and consulates have scientific counsellors who work for foreign affairs department).

  • Flexibility is key to Swiss scientific diplomacy.

  • Main tasks for science diplomacy include:

    • Monitoring and anticipating developments in science policy.

    • Establishing and maintaining contacts.

    • Organizing events and multidisciplinary activities.

    • Stimulating and supporting cooperation projects in the areas of university or industry research (with an emphasis on priority areas for Switzerland).

    • Promotion of Switzerland as a cooperation partner in STI.

    • Support of internationalization efforts of universities, start-ups and spin-offs.


  • Several bilateral agreements provide a foundation for cooperation between Canada and France, including: the Enhanced Cooperation Agenda; the Declaration on Innovation; the France-Canada Research Fund; and the Youth Mobility Agreement.

  • The French diplomatic and scientific network includes: ministries of foreign affairs and higher education and research; 80 scientific advisors or attachés; foreign offices of major research institutions (e.g. CNRS, Pasteur Institutes); and researchers (e.g. international labs of major research organizations; R&D labs of large French companies; foreign-based branches of French universities).

  • France built the world’s second international network for scientific and cultural cooperation: its two main objectives are excellence and influence.

  • Priorities for supporting French science’s excellence at the international level:

    • The international deployment of the national research and innovation strategy.

    • The organization of French research abroad.

    • The attractiveness of France for foreign researchers.

    • The intelligibility of the French research structure.

    • The participation of French researchers in very large research infrastructures, and promoting the installation of such infrastructures in France.

    • The internationalization of French social and human sciences.

  • France and Canada have strong bilateral S&T linkages between institutions of higher learning, research clusters and centres of excellence.

  • The France-Canada Research Fund, an agreement between the Embassy of France in Canada and Canadian universities, promotes and develops scientific and academic exchanges, particularly among young researchers.

  • There is a natural interplay between traditional diplomacy and science on global issues such as climate change, sustainable development, health, biodiversity, cybersecurity and energy.

  • It is important to maintain S&T links between countries that have difficult relations.

  • Diplomacy also means participating in policy development through involvement in international scientific and cultural organizations, such as: the European Space Agency, WHO, UNESCO, Arctic Council, CERN and the International Space Station.

  • The “French Touch” in science diplomacy includes: core values (e.g. freedom of research and the scientific approach); promotion of gender equality, diversity and accessibility; study of human and social sciences; MOPGA initiative (resident permit for scientists).


  • 50 German embassies and consulates have science departments; half of those S&T attachés are diplomats; the other half are from Germany’s ministry of education and research.

  • Centres of excellence and innovation houses have been established around the world (none in Canada yet).

  • Germany’s underlying principles of its approach:

  • Freedom of science: is enshrined in German’s constitution. Germany has only one funding institution for science (DFG) and its only criteria is academic excellence. Scientists decide where to spend money; there is no earmarking from the political level.

  • Attracting and advancing the brightest minds.

  • Institutional architecture for broad-based scientific enquiry.

  • Internationalization: Germany has implemented an internationalization strategy (have more than 300,000 international students in Germany).

  • Strong science culture: includes science literacy.

  • Germany’s non-university research organizations support the full spectrum of research, from fundamental to applied.

  • 68% of Germany’s R&D comes from industry, with the remainder coming from government and universities. (Germany has doubled its investments in R&D since 2005.)

  • Canada is the #1 partner in the DFG; Canada hosts 11 out of the DFG’s 39 international research training groups. (e.g. NSERC CREATE program)

  • DAAD: Awards 1000 scholarships for Canada-German academic exchanges annually; DAAD has an information centre in Toronto.

  • The Germany embassy in Canada assists in hosting science delegations – to Canada from Germany, and from Canada to Germany. Its role is to facilitate, inform and connect.

  • The German embassy also hosts its own events in Canada (e.g. Future of Energy, Future of Mobility).

  • Future opportunities for scientific collaborations with Canada include: artificial intelligence, big data and advanced manufacturing.

  • As the German and Canadian governments “are on the same track when it comes to science policy, the time is ripe to deepen our collaboration”.

  • For more information on funding your research in Germany, visit: