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09.03.2021

Blasting Past Boundaries

Globalization means competition. But it also encourages active information sharing, which promotes understanding and progress in both research and business.

Two years ago, a Russian, an American and a Canadian - Oleg Kononenko, Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques – arrived at the International Space Station (ISS). It was a normal moment in a world hat has freed itself of the shackles of the Cold War. The construction and operation of the ISS, which has now been manned for twenty years, has been a global joint effort. The space programs of Japan, Canada and Europe collaborate with their Russian and American counterparts.

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Global Co-Workers: Anne McClain, Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques spent the first half of 2019 on board the ISS. © NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

So far, the ISS has been a temporary home for space travelers from nineteen countries. Kononenko, McClain and Saint-Jacques were part of the 58th expedition to the space lab, and it took scientists from 103 countries to create the experiments just for that mission. Despite all the inter-country disagreements, this kind of transnational cooperation works. An international division of labor and cost sharing allow participants to do valuable material research and gain medical and biotechnology insights. NASA is convinced there is a return of two dollars for every dollar that flows into space programs.

Joint Research and Publication

Transnational cooperation is proving to be fertile ground, especially for researchers. According to the Web of Science literature database, international co-publishing increased sharply between 2007 and 2017. In Europe, specialized texts and articles are now mostly written by authors from several countries. The figure rose from 28 to 41 percent in the United States and from 24 to 33 percent in Japan over that period. Researchers’ response to the corona pandemic is a good example of how they share their findings in papers, thus adding to everyone’s knowledge. Speakers from 100 countries have been announced for this year’s World Health Summit in Berlin where the pandemic will be a topic of discussion. The meeting has been a platform for open dialogue for a decade. Conferences of this type are ideal for networking and announcing new findings. This is true for classic trade fairs as well. For example, the 2019 Mobile World Congress attracted about 110,000 visitors from 198 countries. Similarly, bauma, the world’s leading trade fair for construction equipment and vehicles, hosted an extraordinary number of visitors — 620,000 from 200 countries – in Munich in 2019. A total of 3,700 exhibitors from 63 countries provided information.

Scientists from 103 countries develop the experiments for the 58th ISS expedition.

Dismantling Borders, Broadening Horizons

Students are also seeking opportunities for international educational and cultural exchanges. In 2017, nearly one out of every two students at Luxembourg’s universities came from abroad. The figure was almost one in four for Australia, and almost one in five for the United Kingdom. The European Union (EU) has been promoting foreign study for students since 1987. They become acquainted with a different educational environment and acquire everyday experience in a foreign country.

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A perfect example of globalized cooperation: a Soyuz rocket before takeoff to the International Space Station (ISS). © NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

The program is now open to trainees, interns and young entrepreneurs, so that 10 million young Europeans have pursued part of their higher and continuing educations in other EU countries so far. International partnerships between cities are also creating spaces for exchanges and becoming more popular. Cities had formed about 20,000 of the partnerships by 2018. In any case, the EU highlights the kind of benefits that multinational collaboration can bring. What began with economic and political cooperation by six countries in the 1950s has now expanded to 27 member-states. There have been no armed conflicts among them for 70 years. It has been the kind of peaceful era that had not been seen for centuries. Differences are resolved at the negotiating table.

Managing Globalization

Organizations such as the OECD also stand for global dialogue. Founded in 1961, its membership includes 30 countries that fund it. The goal: To increase growth and prosperity, fight poverty and manage globalization. It conducts studies and consults with governments, revealing shortcomings and pointing out solutions. The OECD has several thousand employees, many working abroad at its headquarters in Paris and in liaison offices in Europe, Asia and the Americas. This makes them a reflection of a global reality: Around 40 million people from OECD countries work abroad at another member-state. One of the most innovative locations in the world – Silicon Valley – is a true melting pot. While 14 percent of the population as a whole in the United States was born abroad, the figure is nearly triple that in Silicon Valley. Mathematicians and computer experts are especially in demand. A full 65 percent of them come from abroad, as do 63 percent of the Valley’s engineers. World metropolises such as London, New York, Tokyo, Singapore and Shanghai all attract top minds from around the world as well. For many people, it’s normal to have a job abroad. And some choose a very special one. If everything goes as planned, one Japanese, two Russians and four Americans ought to be circling the globe on board the ISS right now.


This article originally appeared in ESSENTIAL, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies’ corporate magazine that covers trends, industries and new ideas. To read more stories like this, click here.

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