European Knowledge Top 10

Nieuws | de redactie
10 mei 2007 |

1.      Manuel Castells, who else, a scientist wrote succinctly to ScienceGuide. To many, the Catalan thinker is hors concours. A former professor of the University of California in Berkeley, José Manuel Barroso asked him to solve the deadlock around MIT together with  EUA-boardmember Frans van Vught. Barroso needed a wise, visionary advice, that would convince even the most stubborn of EU- government leaders.

Castells is so to speak the Adam Smith and Karl Marx of the knowledge economy in one person, the most prominent philosopher of the information age. His well-acclaimed sociological research was focused on the development and impact of bigger cities as the centres of worldwide changes. With Pekka Himanen – number 8 of the Eurotop 10 – he wrote The Information Society and the Welfare State. The Finnish Model . Six years afterwards, it turns out that the policy strategy of every European country has been influenced thoroughly by his analysis. ‘Who else’, indeed.

2.      Blair and Barroso, Tony and José. Despite their different political backgrounds, they have more in common than would seem at first sight. Both known as jeune premier of their country and eloquent in tearing down political taboos. A policy watcher in Brussels nominated Blair “for his guts to tell his colleagues ‘we must go from milk to brains in Europa’ and Barroso ‘because he dared to implement that against all odds’.

To ScienceGuide, Barroso said in an interview: “We are going from ‘brown’ economy and technology, of coal and oil, to a ‘brains’ economy. Europe’s economy is transforming towards a ‘Europe of knowledge’. That is only the beginning.”

3.      Innovation tends to be associated with new, smart high tech solutions and ICT. But the highest Dutchman and innovator in the Top 10 is an architect. Rem Koolhaas used to be famous for never-built brilliant designs.

Yet, an artist-policymaker wrote to ScienceGuide: “Koolhaas has determined the benchmark for the 21st century.” That is no exaggeration. Whether in Rotterdam, China or even Las Vegas: buildings, public spaces, facelifts for cities and culture centres without Koolhaas have become unthinkable. Without state-of-the-art ICT- solutions and the use of creative industries, his designs would not be realizable. Therefore, Koolhaas really is a knowledge icon of today’s Europe.

4.       An economist of the Universities of Maastricht and the UN, Luc Soete is a European and a global citizen. The director of Merit has raised the reflections on economic revolutions to a higher level. His students are very enthousiastic about his work, and so are policy makers in Europe and at the UNO. Would he not be a good man to succeed Wolfowitz at the World Bank?

5.      First and foremost, the ‘nieuwe leren’ is a reinvention of classical teaching. In the past few years, Plato’s Academy and the primordial university of the Middle Ages and Renaissance have found their 21st century varieties in new educational arrangements like University Colleges. With his Kaospilots, Uffe Elbaek is very inspiring to this new culture in higher education. Creativity, the application of knowledge and the old uomo universale  back on center stage. For that reason, the Danish innovator deserves to be part of the ScienceGuide Top 10.

6.      In Europe, the Ladies Programme will never be what it used to be. Even the idea that science is as reverent as it is irrelevant, seems to belong to the past. To both, a taciturn, modest professor in quantum chemistry at the Humboldt University in Berlin has been instrumental. Undoubtedly, Professor Joachim Sauer does not like it to figure so prominently in the Top 10.

This honour, however, is well-deserved. Few know of the wisdom, engagement, support and the critical perspective of a colleague in chemistry with which he counsels the number 1 political leader in Europe, Angela Merkel, his wife. Two chemists in the front row of Europe, the G8 and the Bayreuther Festspiele, who would have predicted that only two years ago?

7.      “He is so bad as to be almost comical.” For that reason, ScienceGuide received many sick jokes on president Lukashenko of Belarus. Unwittingly, the ‘last dictator of Europe’ turns out to be very inspiring, although in his own way. His brutal violence against young people hungry for democracy, his stupid uproar, the annihilation of free thinking, free academic education and research: Lukashenko is on this list, not so much because of himself (as he might think) but to honour the brave students under his dictatorship who continue their battle for democracy with guts and wit.

8.      His enormous beard, his shabby clothes, his visionary texts: Pekka Himanen would be the perfect cast for an Old Testament prophet. The Finnish professor is one of the most original thinkers on knowledge, information and talent today. He is in favour of businesses that do not sue young people hacking their network, but hire them. He has not much patience with Euroskeptics who prefer to betray their own ideals and values rather then creating room for new insights as a fruit of those ideals. No wonder Manuel Castells picked him to co-author his groundbreaking book on Finland.

In an interview with ScienceGuide, Himanen said: “The only thing we can be sure of, is that we cannot compete on cost-reduction. The script I see for Europe is a combination of creativity and care. No one else can offer that combination the way we do. The Chinese won’t do it, the American script is about exclusivity and inequality. Both are not the tradition of the European social model. We must see that we do have a choice. But we will only see that provided we have a dream of the future.”

9.      In 2009, Frank Vandenbroucke is planning to host a conference meant to determine what Europe should do beyond the implementation of the bachelor-mastersystem. The succes of ‘Bologna’ calls for the kind of imagination that is one of the core qualities of the Flemish minister. Having modernised the Flemish higher education, he pursues a new wave of emancipation for the talented youth. “We need new ladders of succes to break through the vicious circles of drop out and the prejudices on educational careers of youngsters from ethnic minorities. They should be enabled to book specific succes on every step of the ladder.”

10.   Central and Eastern Europe show a dynamic which is instrumental to all of the European Union. Especially smaller nations like the Baltic states prosper as new knowledge economies. Latvia’s president Vaira Vike Freiberga is the icon of this movement. Having fled to Marocco in her youth, she became a professor in Montreal, and even the vice-president of the National Research Council Canada. At the same time, she continued to publish about her home country, for example on the literary value of Latvian folksongs. In 1998, she returned to Latvia to help build it up to new freedom and prosperity after the Soviet era.

She was so succesful in doing that, that she was elected President within a year, and again in 2003. Emphasizing the development of culture and identity of the Baltic states, she did not miss the opportunity to lead her country into the EU and NATO. The cultural, touristical, technological and commercial prosperity reminds  of the Hanze era. For that reason, President Freiberga definitely belongs to the top of the European knowledge sector.

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