Industry knowledge, private sector innovation, and science advice to government – ESOF – July 2018

On Monday 9th July 2018, INGSA partnered with Brussels-based, SciCom – Making Sense of Science ( to architect a summit-style workshop hosted by the Chamber of Commerce & Innovation of Toulouse as a curtain-raiser to ESOF 2018. This initiative brought together a small number of senior and experienced members of INGSA with private sector attendees from the Haute Garrone region and abroad.

The private sector is the major source of much of global R&D and drives much technological and other innovation. Therefore public policy needs to have a close interaction with the private sector, particularly given the pace of growth in scientific knowledge  and technological innovation. However this interaction is not straight forward – there are obviously different incentives and interests in play for different stakeholders, and issues of trust and social acceptance of commercially-sourced knowledge especially in some fields. There are also issues of ethics, transparency and bias: yet the knowledge and expertise of the private sector is critical. The issues of trust in private sector research have been challenged by events such as the diesel emmissions scandal. Beyond that, companies can lose standing because of the ways they conduct and promote their science (eg infant formula, genetic modification) and there are many past issues (eg tobacco companies). The consequence is that private sector researchers can be excluded from important fora, publications and grant processes. And there can be reflexive distrust of the validity of private sector research. This is a concerning situation as private sector research is critical to global progress. Logic tells us that bans simply do not work. 

In a world where trust in institutions and experts is under threat and reliable and unreliable knowledge are not easily distinguished, the need to fund better and trusted ways to use private sector knowledge becomes even more important. Policy making is increasingly having to confront this interface and a set of principles furthering the work already done by the Brussels Declaration 2016 to underpin the relationship betwen private sector derived evidence and policy making is of great importance.

INGSA is committed to exploring this issue without preconception and together with SciCom the discussion was conducted under Chatham House Rules.