“I’ve called this experience: the science diplomacy force awakens”

Monday, March 27, 2017
Ambassadors for Science: Ödön Pálla and Xavier Moya. Economics and Science

Embajadores para la ciencia: Ödön Pálla y Xavier Moya. Economía y ciencia.

The scheme “Ambassadors for Science” began in May 2016 in the United Kingdom with nine couples of scientists and diplomats, who shared a few days together to learn about their different professional worlds, and to share their experiences in a last session in October 2016

Ödön Pálla, commercial counsellor of the Economic and Commercial Office of Spain in the United Kingdom, and Xavier Moya, Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Department of Materials Sciences and Metallurgy of the University of Cambridge, were paired together in this scheme. 

How did their visits go?

Xavier went with Ödön on the 29th September to the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) in London, for a meeting that Ödön acted as Council president. There, Xavier witnessed negotiations between countries and he even suggested presenting in the future one of his studies into the material properties of cocoa. 

On the 3rd October, Xavier visited the Economic and Commercial Office, where Ödön explained him the different activities in support of Spanish companies, as well as the possible impact of Brexit in their internationalisation process. At midday, they met with the Director of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, Igor Irru, and they explored together potential collaborations between Spanish companies and the University of Cambridge. Next, they went for lunch to Iberica restaurant in Marylebone, where Xavier had the opportunity to learn about the Spanish gastronomic investment in the UK and its growth plans. To bring the day to an end, they went together to the Galicia Gourmet Extravaganza fair, where some Galician producers were promoting their gastronomic products. 

On the other hand, Ödön visited Xavier in the Department of Material Sciences and Metallurgy in the University of Cambridge on the 1st October. There, Xavier explained his research about the thermal properties of different materials to develop better refrigerators. When Xavier guided Ödön through the traditional colleges and landmarks of Cambridge, Ödön’s academic experience was full. For instance, they visited The Eagle pub, the place where the press announcement for the discovery of the double stranded DNA was made. Xavier used these means to explain Ödön everything about the scientific culture of the town and the main scientific findings there discovered. 

Lastly, on 12th November, Ödön returned to Cambridge as Xavier invited him to attend a formal dinner with other fellows of Churchill College. Ödön was able to live one of the most emblematic experiences in the academic life in Cambridge. 

What have they learnt?

Both of them highlighted “how enriching” their shared experience had been, as it allowed them to get exposed to places and situations that they are not accustomed to. Xavier stated he had learnt about all the support given to Spanish companies in their internationalisation expansion, in special to those from gastronomic and hostelry sectors. On the other hand, Ödön valued highly Xavier’s research mentioning that “big companies could be very interested in his research”. 

How can their own fields interact with each other?

The material scientist said about the scheme, “I have called this experience: the science diplomacy force awakens”, feeling quite proud of having been one of the first scientists to be enrolled in it. He put forward the idea of “creating a forum to encourage continuous exchange of ideas between diplomats and scientists”. Together with Ödön, they recommended to create “a database of academics to serve as expert consultants for Spanish companies”. 

As concrete actions, they are already working towards promoting Spanish gastronomy in colleges in Cambridge. Additionally, Xavier suggested “launching scholarships for brilliant Spanish students to spend summer stays in British labs”. 

Click here to listen to Xavier Moya’s speech during the last session of “Ambassadors for science”. Audio only available in Spanish.

About “Ambassadors for Science”

“Ambassadors for Science” is organized by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) and the Office for Cultural and Scientific Affairs of the Spanish Embassy in London, with the support of the Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom (SRUK/CERU). This programme fits within the FECYT’s priority lines of increasing science outreach and science culture, and supporting the internationalization of Spanish science. The scheme is a pilot experience with the aim of extending it to other diplomatic missions and even to the Congreso de los Diputados and other scientific institutions in Spain. 

The scheme has been covered on Twitter with #Amb4Sci.


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