Archive for the ‘National’ Category

EFP Brief No. 263: The Future of Aging in Upper Austria

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

The foresight study aimed at exploring what technological solutions and social innovations for ambient assisted living (AAL) can offer widest coverage in a demographically-challenged rural area such as the Mühlviertler Alm (Upper Austria). To increase the acceptance of the identified findings among the local population and the success of the implementation of the AAL solutions in a potential follow-up project (e.g. as a model test region), strong emphasis was put on the integration of potential users and other stakeholders throughout the whole study.

Active and Assisted Living (AAL): Intelligent Technologies for the Elderly

The social foresight was part of the project
“WEGE2025: Our ways to an age-appropriate region 2025 – Living independently in the Mühlviertel” as part of the Austrian national funding programme “ICT of the Future: benefit – Demographic change as a chance” (project no. 846222).

For the last decades life expectancy has been increasing continuously throughout Europe due to improvements in life conditions and healthcare. Meanwhile, the share of elderly people (aged 65 and over) among the total population has reached an average of 18.5% across the EU-28 and 18.3% in Austria (EUROSTAT 2015). For 2050, it is expected that these numbers will double. This demographic change often goes along with changing family structures (e.g. reduced family sizes with fewer potential family carers for the older people at hand) and limited numbers of available local care facilities. Consequently, new and innovative solutions are necessary to ensure an independent living of the elderly in their own home for as long as possible.

Intelligent technical solutions have a huge potential to meet the upcoming healthcare challenges of aging societies and become an important pillar in the personal healthcare and care of elderly people in the years to come. Active and Assisted Living (AAL), an emerging multi-disciplinary field, specifically aims at providing technical aids and technology-assisted services to the elderly as well as care givers by exploiting information and communication technologies (ICT). However, the overall success and acceptance of AAL systems in practice will crucially depend on how well the new technological solutions can address the needs of the elderly and maintain or improve their quality of life. Therefore, it is vital to know the specific needs of the elderly in their respective living environments and how innovative solutions can be tailored to both the needs and the living environment.

AAL in a rural region

So far, AAL solutions have mainly been developed for users with a focus on specific indications, independent of their place of residence and hardly ever for an entire region. In particular, for rural areas there are hardly any visions on how to improve the attractiveness of the region for an independent life for senior citizens and their needs in their third and fourth phases of life. Rural areas and the people that are growing old there have to cope particularly with the rural depopulation of young people and are confronted with a general decrease in public utility infrastructure.

Mühlviertler Alm

The Mühlviertler Alm is an association of ten municipal communities situated in the north-east of Upper Austria. Agriculture is the predominant economic sector. Each community consists of between ten and 20 villages, each of which consists of a densely populated village centre as well as numerous individual, scattered farmsteads far from the village centres. Consequently, the region is characterised by long supply routes and require high mobility in the daily life of the residents.

The Mühlviertler Alm is currently undergoing a process of demographic change. An increasing number of elderly people is opposed to a decreasing share of younger people. The highest pressure is expected in the coming decades when the baby-boom generation retires. At the moment, about 18.000 people live in the region Mühlviertler Alm. Some 4.000 of them are already older than 60 years. Until 2030, it is expected that this number will rise by 50%.

Active and independent aging is an important topic in the region. Since 2010, the communities have been actively facing the demographic change with local projects. They consider the demographic change a chance for a new social interaction.

Aiming to Become Model of the Future

The project WEGE2025 analysed what AAL solutions can offer the widest coverage in a rural area such as the Mühlviertler Alm. The major question was therefore what AAL technologies and social innovations can be implemented for a maximum of end-users and will also be applied by secondary users, such as managed care organisations.

As a result of the project, the region Mühlviertler Alm is expected to become a model for the future development of a test region for active and assisted living solutions.

Exploring the Potential for AAL in a Rural Region

A major focus of the project was on the methods used for the exploration of AAL test regions. While ongoing test region projects in Austrian are mainly technologically driven, the WEGE2025 project pursued an interactive stakeholder approach. Within a comprehensive future-oriented stakeholder process, both project partners, AIT and Verband Mühlviertler Alm, together with some 100 stakeholders (end users, medical staff, and providers of services in the general interest and other stakeholders) from the region worked together to explore future needs for an attractive life during old age and to assess by means of scenarios, a roadmap and a vision of the future the potential for implementation of the suggested solutions in real life. The interactive approach included personal interviews and large group settings (workshops) with stakeholders and was preceded by a qualitative background research.

This project provided the unique opportunity to include a whole region in the preparation for a test region and to make allowance for the needs and views of their residents on active and independent living and aging. This approach should increase the success and the participation rate in the follow-up test region.

Exploring the Framework Conditions of the Region

A series of qualitative interviews with 15 residents of the Mühlviertler Alm working either professionally or as volunteers in healthcare and care for the elderly were made to explore the framework conditions and major needs of the region. The interviewees highlighted the following key challenges of the region Mühlviertler Alm:

  • Peripheral geographic location
  • Demographic change
  • Lack of awareness of the aging
  • Increasing number of people suffering from dementia
  • Increasing professional activity by all family member (resulting in a lack of family member carers)
  • Increasing need for new forms of neighbourly help
  • Lack of social activities for people with physical impairment
  • Decrease in the public transport
  • Lack of comprehensive provision of medical care (e.g. medical specialists)
  • Lack of available places in institutional care and support facilities
  • Lack of a network of providers of care and nursing institutions
  • Lack of a central contact point for information (e.g. regarding healthcare and other care)

With respect to the potential implementation of AAL solutions in the region, the interviewees expressed reservations as regards technologies in general and pointed out the lack of suitable infrastructure (e.g. poor mobile phone coverage, lack of access to high-speed broadband services).

Future-Oriented Stakeholder Process

To identify the needs of the elderly in the region and to define the requirements for AAL solutions, a foresight exercise was implemented. In four workshops, potential end-users, representatives of companies, for services of general interest, and research organisations discussed together what it needs to be able to lead an independent and age-appropriate life in a rural region such as the Mühlviertler Alm.

Stakeholder Workshop I – Visioning

In this workshop the participants worked on the megatrends of the future and developed a common vision 2050 of the Mühlviertler Alm. Megatrends are influential, global developments with long-term effects, which can change the future and should therefore be considered in strategy and policy development processes. Among the megatrends discussed in the project were climate change, demographic change (aging), social and cultural inequalities, urbanization, digital culture and knowledge-based economy. Guided by these megatrends, relevant external factors (drivers), which impact the living at Mühlviertler Alm were discussed for five areas: social, technological, economical, environmental and political developments (STEEP factors), and the most important influencing factors were identified. The findings were summarised in seven fields of actions:

  • Autonomy and health
  • Occupation, education and recreation
  • Communication (social, ICT)
  • Accommodation and public space
  • Mobility
  • Infrastructure (traffic, energy and ICT)
  • Environment and resources

For the development of a common vision of the Mühlviertler Alm for 2050, the workshop participants worked in small groups on the fields of action as well as on additional “disaster” fields of action and drew together representative pictures. In follow-up discussions, objectives were derived for each field of action and prioritised. A visual facilitator compiled the most important objectives in a new picture, which now depicted the common vision 2050 for the Mühlviertler Alm.

As a preparation for the second workshop, small groups developed three different types of scenarios: a) business as usual, b) sustainability, and c) disaster. To anchor the scenarios in daily routine activities the groups built their scenarios around a selection of different personas:

  • 35-year old top manager and mother of a handicapped child
  • 87-year old, wealthy widow
  • 53-year old, nursing male relative
  • 24-year old, female student in Cambridge

The project team subsequently added to the scenarios the trends and drivers that had been previously identified by the workshop participants.

Stakeholder Workshop II – Scenarios and Roadmap

Some volunteers among the workshop participants worked out the central turning points of each of the scenarios and presented them by means of improvisation theatre to the plenary audience.

Based on the visual and emotional impressions that the theatre play created in the audience, further objectives were derived and discussed within the frame of four key topics: health awareness, services of general interest & coordination office, diversity & inclusion and change process (politics & infrastructure).

As a result, for each key topic up to three main objectives were selected. The necessary actions for their implementation were defined and the most relevant actors singled out. These sets of measures were placed along a timeline and compiled to a roadmap according to the estimated time of implementation.

Stakeholder Workshops III & IV – Services & Action Plan

During an evening event the roadmap was presented to and discussed with regional service providers and other economic operators in order to add practical ideas for AAL solutions in the following areas: social interaction, information & education, occupation, mobility, health & wellness, hobbies, care at home, supply of everyday consumer goods & support with household tasks, and safety & privacy. Ultimately, four key topics could be identified as the core topics of Mühlviertler Alm:

  • Mobility
  • Social inclusion
  • Health incl. telemedicine
  • Comfort & living

In the fourth stakeholder workshop these topics were taken up and defined more specifically concerning objectives and contents in action plans. By means of “collaborative mapping” all relevant services and actors of the region that could be relevant for a follow-up project were gathered and visualized on a map.

Approaching the Needs of the Elderly

Mobility

Remaining mobile even in old age is of uttermost importance in rural areas that are characterised by long-distance ways for daily routines. Mobility is often also a prerequisite for social inclusion of old and impaired people and participation in social life. There is a need for a wide variety of individual transport for elderly and impaired people. Transport services need to be flexible in terms of booking services and availability, e.g. with short waiting times. Building up a network of transport service providers is therefore essential. Information on the availability of barrier-free busses, their timetables and existing boarding aids and wheelchair accessibility on vehicles as well as shared taxis for quick and flexible trips (e.g. to physicians or for leisure time activities) could be provided via mobile apps and ICT-supported lift-sharing exchange. All offers could also be collected on a simple internet platform for mobility offers.

Social Inclusion: Information Platform & Coordination Office

The local communities want to have access to and be able to exchange information in the best possible way. For issues concerning care and nursing, a coordination office (e.g. for multi-professional services) would ensure an optimal information transfer to the public, when needed. The office should be located centrally and could also serve as a hub for telemedicine services. A web-based platform could constitute another source of information for the population. It can serve as a market place for supply and demand of various sorts, e.g. meetings for senior citizens, midday meals organised as social events, or other cultural, sportive leisure time activities. Such an events calendar ideally embeds functions for registration for the events as well as for mediation of shared lifts in private cars or shared taxis and buses that offer also transportation of wheel-chairs, etc. It can also provide information and booking facilities for mobile care and nursing services, experts and delivery of goods. A crucial prerequisite for the acceptance of such a platform is the simple operation and intuitive handling of the platform by the users.

Health incl. telemedicine

Establishing structures which ensure the care and medical surveillance / monitoring of health data and alarm functions for threatening deviations is also important for the region. Such structures would particularly help people with chronic diseases to live longer in their own homes. To benefit of telemedicine services it will be important to develop a system that integrates already existing measuring devices such as blood pressure monitors, blood glucose meters or warning devices in case of falls. Simple operation of such telemedicine devices is again the key to widespread use. Tying in with the idea of a coordination office the residents of the region also wish for immediate help in emergency situations. A competent medical phone service with decision-making competency that is available around-the-clock and linked to a medical care network could be based in the coordination office and compensate for physicians off duty.

Comfort & Living

Autonomous living with comprehensive care in one’s own home is of major importance in the region. Medical care should be available across the region and flexible enough to cater for the needs of the residents. There is also need for social networks of neighbourly help, including support for household tasks and help in the garden. Supply of everyday goods should be ensured by means of service providers that could be contacted via mobile app. In addition, homes should be “smart” and provide a system of automatic components, such as door openers, automatic night lights, fall alarms, as well as assistance systems for automatic notification of attendants in emergency situations. IT professionals and other service providers should be available in the region to ensure installation, maintenance and repair work when needed.

Authors: Manuela Kienegger    manuela.kienegger@ait.ac.at
Sponsors: FFG – Austrian Research Promotion Agency
Type: Social Foresight as part of an exploratory study for a test region for ambient assisted living
Organizer: AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, Verband Mühlviertler Alm
Duration: 2015 Budget: € 126,000 Time Horizon: 2025 (2050) Date of Brief: August 2016

 

Download EFP Brief No. 263: The Future of Aging in Upper Austria

Sources and References

This foresight brief is based on the final report of the Project WEGE2025.

Kienegger, M. et al. (2016). WEGE2025 – Unsere Wege in eine altersgerechte Region 2025 – Selbstbestimmt leben im Mühlviertel. Endbericht zum Projekt Nr. 846222 im Auftrag der FFG. AIT-IS-Report, Vol. 119

EUROSTAT (2015). Population age structure by major age groups, 2004 and 2014 (% of the total population). [Accessed 28/07/2016]

EFP Brief No. 260: Building Regional Foresight in Antofagasta, Chile

Friday, March 25th, 2016

The foresight programme was part of a broader joint project, which had an overall objective to enhance innovation-driven sustainable economic development of the Antofagasta region. The main purposes of the foresight project were 1) improving the foresight capability in the region, especially for the partner organisations, 2) enhancing collaboration between the industry, government and research organisations and 3) supporting the creation of a strategic research agenda for the region on a topic chosen by the partner organisations.

Pact for Regional Development and Innovation in Antofagasta Region

In March 2008, various public and private actors signed the “Pact for Regional Development and Innovation in Antofagasta Region” answering to the challenge of regional economic development. The main objectives of the agreement are to generate economic growth and equality, generate better jobs, and pave a path towards a sustainable development in the region. Those who signed the pact recognize that this can be achieved only by increasing human capacities in the region, particularly in organizations that support research, development and innovation activities.

Chilean Foreign Ministry selected Finland as one of six countries to be studied in the “Like-Minded Countries Project”, which started in 2005. Especially the transformation of the Finnish economy from a resource-driven economy into knowledge-driven economy was considered a source of inspiration to Chilean national and regional aspiration. Chile considers Finland as a prime global example on how resource-driven economies can develop into knowledge-driven economies when development strategies and policies are correctly selected. Eventually Chile will exhaust its natural resources, as did Finland, in the case of copper. Antofagasta region will need to develop significant alternative industries.

Extreme risk area for ecological changes

In addition to the structural economic shifts, Antofagasta Region is an extreme risk area for ecological changes. Global climate change and contamination from the mining activities have had a high and lasting effect especially in the regional water supplies. Melting glaciers and overuse of groundwater will require a significant redesign of water use and many other aspects that affect the environment. However, responding to the challenges, the region will need to rely on foreign expertise.

A collaborative project called “Innovation Capacity in the Antofagasta Region” was set up in 2011 between Mining Technological and Scientific Research Centre CICITEM in Chile and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland with the aim of transferring international best practices to strengthen the capacity of CICITEM to support economic, social and environmental devel-opment in the region. The main objectives for the pro-ject were:

  • Capacity building in the field of institutional leadership and knowledge management, innovation culture, and innovation capabilities.
  • Create self-sustained innovation capacity at CICITEM.
  • Capability to create strategic vision for the re-gional innovation activities and facilitate joint innovation activities in the mining cluster.

Foresight activities were an integral part of the project. They were aimed to increase the foresight capability of CICITEM and other regional actors by conducting a collaborative foresight exercise between industry and regional stakeholders and demonstrating how fore-sight can promote regional co-operation. The activities included gathering training material, designing fore-sight approaches suitable for the region, holding a foresight training and conducting a foresight pilot called “Water in Antofagasta 2040”.

Enhancing Foresight Capabilities

The foresight activities consisted of two parts. The first was a hands-on training on futures thinking and the methods of foresight. This was done as a three-day workshop in Antofagasta. A learning package with glossary was distributed beforehand to the participants, and a website was set up to facilitate communication and exchange of information. The workshop included brief presentations by VTT experts on key methods such as scenarios, roadmapping and Delphi, as well as exercises, where the participants had a chance to briefly test the methods with key issues of the region. The workshop ended with a group work of planning a foresight project that could be implemented in the region.

Based on the group work results a topic of “Water in Antofagasta 2040” was chosen for a foresight pilot project in a planning meeting between VTT and CICITEM. The topic was chosen based on its importance and relevance for different stakeholders. In addition to planning meetings, the activities of the foresight pilot project included scenario and roadmapping work that consisted of a conference, two stakeholder workshops, a stakeholder survey, interviews with mining companies and a reflection discussion with the CICITEM experts.

VTT experts provided guidance and support for the process, but the main emphasis was on learning by doing for the CICITEM experts. In addition to people from VTT and CICITEM, the process also included researchers from the local universities, representatives from local SMEs, government officials and mining companies.

Four-layer Framework

Although the foresight activities were mainly aimed at increasing the foresight capability in the region, they contributed also to the creation of new knowledge about alternative futures and to the networking between key actors in the regional innovation system. Based on the process and existing foresight literature, we developed a multi-layer framework for analysing these contributions of the process. The layers describe the level in which foresight contributes: landscape, innovation system, organisation and individual. We describe the main findings from the process using the layers as a structure.

1.Landscape layer: connecting to the global context

Although the overall focus of the project was on enhancing the innovation capacity of the Antofagasta region, it was important to understand the developments in the global level: how the region is connected to the rest of Chile and the world, how global developments influence the region and how that might change. The aim was to help the participants to see the region as part of a larger, global system and come up with the pathways to increase the capacities of the region to find its niche in the global market.

2.Innovation system layer: building shared vision

The foresight activities were part of a larger process which aimed to enhance the innovation capacity of the region. Their role was to support the joint strategy formulation and the creation of a shared vision for the region. During the process different perceptions to the proposed foresight project topics were explored through stakeholder analysis. Anticipating the different expectations of stakeholders helped choose a suitably controversial topic that would be interesting and beneficial for all the stakeholder groups, which in turn would aid in committing the stakeholders to the foresight process.

3.Organisational layer: building organisational future-orientation

CICITEM researchers were closely involved in the design and implementation of the foresight activities. This resulted in new ideas about the role of CICITEM and its mission. As the organisation was fairly small and young, the foresight pilot project influenced the social dynamics within the organisation. Not every researcher at CICITEM saw the benefit of the project and some were reluctant to participate. Thus there was a risk of creating an “in” group of persons more heavily involved in the process. What is needed in a situation like this are “bridge builders” between the “foresighters” and the “reluctants”. This is a good example of how a foresight process is connected to the organisational dynamics, even though the focus might be on enhancing the innovation system.

4.Individual layer: learning by doing

The foresight activities aimed to give the skills to do foresight via “learning by doing”. This includes the specific methods, but also experience in scoping, designing, implementing and documenting the foresight process. A CICITEM researcher commented during the final reflection, that he learned how to bring the ideas high up in the sky down to earth and make them actionable. In addition to specific skills and methods, the process enhanced the capability for future-oriented thinking by challenging existing worldviews and mind-sets and understanding others’ viewpoints and perceptions.

Individuals are the Key

We can draw the following implications for policy making:

  1. Design with multiple layers in mind; especially individual

For practitioners designing and conducting foresight the layers provide a checklist on the effect and influence of foresight. In our experience the layers help design foresight exercises that 1) are relevant and interesting to the individuals involved, 2) contribute to the capabilities of the organisation, 3) shape the system to enable the desired future and 4) capture the most recent advances and create new knowledge on the topic. We especially want to emphasise the individual layer, since effects of foresight are often not thought about on the level of individuals participating in the process. However, individuals are the key to creating a change within an organisation and subsequently on the innovation system. This can be a consequence of changing mindsets and worldviews through learning.

  1. Take into account that the nature of foresight effect varies from layer to layer

The layers emphasise different foresight contributions. On the landscape and system layers there is a bigger emphasis on the knowledge produced, whereas the individual and the organisational layer put more emphasis on the capabilities gained during the process. This is because the focus of knowledge is usually on the developments in the operational environment and the users of that knowledge are individual members of an organisation. Therefore the content and effects of the foresight exercise gain more attention on the innovation system and landscape layers, whereas the learning i.e. gaining of capabilities during the process is seen as important especially on the organisational and individual layers.

Foresight, however, contributes to knowledge also on the individual layer and to capabilities on the landscape layer. On the landscape layer the capability of the society as a whole to adapt to changes might be enhanced by foresight. On the individual layer, the knowledge produced is tied to the learning process and may include the translation of alternative futures to own worldviews, reflection on the perspectives of other participants and the interpretation of trends and weak signals to the day-to-day life. The layers thus provide alternative views to the knowledge, capabilities and relations created in a foresight project.

  1. Use the layers to structure the effects of foresight

A foresight process might have different emphasis on which layer is seen as the most important, but often foresight contributes to all layers, either by design or unintentionally. However, what is more important than the individual layers is the movement of focus across the layers. Looking at the layer “above” and ”below” aids in understanding what the layer consists of and what it is a part of. For example, an innovation system is embedded in the inter-systemic developments of the landscape layer, and consists of different organisations, which in part consist of individuals. The layers demonstrate that there is more to foresight than just the immediate tangible outcomes. A successful foresight process might change the capacity of an organisation or a community to anticipate the future and through that even create a regional transformation.

 

Table 1. Description of layers and the contribution of foresight

Layer Description Foresight effects
Landscape The external developments that affect the innovation systems but are hardly affected by any single measure Anticipating global developments, trends and/or wild cards, and enhancing future-orientation of the society
Innovation system The structure and dynamics of  intertwined innovation sub-systems consisting of organisations Increasing the capacity to reconfigure the innovation system to respond to future developments by exploring alternative futures and supporting networking between stakeholders
Organisation The organisational culture and allocation of resources Creating organisational future-orientation and triggering the creation of organisational responses to the anticipated changes in the operational environment
Individual Individual capacities and capabilities Enhancing future-oriented thinking and increasing capacities and capabilities related to anticipating possible futures

 

 

Authors: Mikko Dufva                  mikko.dufva@vtt.fi

Totti Könnölä                totti.konnola@if-institute.org

Raija Koivisto                 raija.koivisto@vtt.fi

Sponsors: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
Type: Regional foresight exercise
Organizer: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Juha Oksanen, juha.oksanen@vtt.fi
Duration: 2011 – 2013
Budget: € 470,000
Time Horizon: 2040
Date of Brief: March 2016

Download EFP Brief 2016: Building Regional Foresight in Antofagasta, Chile

Sources and References

VTT & CICITEM, 2015. Desafios de innovación en la Región de Antofagasta / Innovation capacity in Antofagasta Region.

Dufva, M., Könnölä, T. & Koivisto, R. 2015. Multi-layered foresight: Lessons from regional foresight in Chile. Futures, 73, 100-111.

EFP Brief No. 259: Austrian Materials Foresight

Friday, February 26th, 2016

The Austrian Material Foresight study was carried out in order (a) to underline and strengthen the awareness by the most important stakeholders for materials research and materials production in Austria, (b) to initiate and support innovative actions in structural material developments, and (c) to open new ideas and concepts beyond the already supported topics so that the research site and manufacturing base in Austria receive more foundation.

Challenges in the Austrian Manufacturing Industry

The Austrian manufacturing industry has been faced with off-shoring of production sites, low growth rates in Europe, limited availability of raw materials, and increasing costs of resources, with a simultaneous dumping on the domestic market. All these factors have been accompanied with changes in the value system of the society and with stricter legal regulations in recent years. To avoid these obstacles, a stronger focus on research and innovation is required.

Traditionally the Austrian economic power depends on the production and processing of materials, and a big share of the value chain is influenced by materials technology. Materials belong to the so called “enabler technologies” and lay the basis for innovations in automotive, aviation, machine engineering, ICT, medical technology and many other industries. Especially the steel industry plays a key role in Austria, represented through a highly specialized foreign trade with a focus on machines, production facilities and vehicles.

High-performance Materials  and Products in the Future

The Austrian Ministry for Transport Innovation and Technology initiated the study “Austrian Material Foresight” in order to examine possible strategies to support Austria’s position in the segment of high-performance materials and products in the future. Main objective was to develop future scenarios (horizon 2030) for the high-tech materials sector in Austria involving the expertise of universities, industry and organizations. Following aspects were particularly considered:

  • Identification of key factors and drivers for the progression of the materials industry and materials research in a national, European and global context.
  • Characterization of robust trends in the materials industry and research.
  • Illustration of Austria’s special role in future materials industry and research.
  • Building a basis for the co-creation of future European materials industry.

Future Scenarios as the Core of the Process

The Austrian Society for Metallurgy and Materials (ASMET), the Montanuniversität Leoben, and the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH designed and accomplished the project “Materials Foresight” for developing scenarios for the manufacturing bases in Austria. The challenge was to address all four structural materials such as steel, non-ferrous metals, polymers, and ceramic each regarded together with their composites for high-tech technologies along the whole value chain.

 

The methodology for the project (see figure 1) was based on the organizational structure with the core project team, the advisory board, the expert team, the procedure for the whole project and the process applied in the workshops, and the involvement of a broader community via conference and the media.

Figure 1: Organizational structure of  „Austrian Materials Foresight“
259_Bild1

The work was organized in three phases. Figure 2 presents the main tasks in each phase. It shows the development of future scenarios as the core of the process, accompanied by an environmental analysis, by constructive discussions with the advisory board, and the future conference and constitutive work with stakeholders.

  1. The preparation phase contains the collection of future trends and challenges within an environmental analysis. The Austrian situation with terms of implementation, the results of a roadmap of high performance materials, the participation of Austrian institutions in the seventh EU Framework Program, and the current national funding program on intelligent production (FFG Funding Program Production of the Future) were described and key factors were identified. To structure the key factors of the project team works with a STEEP analysis. Based on the results of the preparation phase, the scenario workshops are designed.

 

  1. In the main phase, scenario workshops on steel, nonferrous metals, polymers, ceramics and their composites were conducted together with representatives from the materials industry, materials science, the economic chamber and clusters, and the government. The previously identified key factors with the highest value for influence and uncertainty were chosen for the projection process, where the workshop participants in smaller groups worked out the projection of the selected key factors for 2030. For each materials group, the future products and the research topics were derived from the scenarios. Additionally, measures necessary to achieve the future perspectives were suggested by the participants of the workshops.

 

  1. In the shaping phase, the results of the workshops were analyzed and summarized in order to prepare for the discussion with experts in the first Austrian Future Conference on Materials. More than 300 participants of the conference were informed and attended discussions, which helped to disseminate awareness, results, and new ways of thinking. A press conference aimed to create awareness of the problems and results in the media. In a last meeting with the advisory board and some further experts a plan for the next steps was worked out.

 

Figure 2: Three phases of „Austrian Materials Foresight“

259_Bild2

Key Factor: Energy

The assessment of the key factors as a summary of all four materials fields shows that energy (in availability and hence in price) is the most important factor for the materials industry. The cost effective availability is the second most important factor, which influences research and production of materials technologies. Rank three is a political issue, namely the public support in research. The next important factor is the value development of society. The values of a society have thus a big influence on the materials technologies. The fifth rank goes to economic growth, followed by factors like environmental legislation, qualification, financial market, globalization, and production and manufacturing.

 

The cross-section research topics play an important role in each of the four materials fields (steel, non-ferrous metals, polymers, ceramic). Advanced materials 2.0 means a next generation of materials with new features, also new hybrid materials with new applications. Advanced materials 2.0 presents the biggest share of all cross-section topics, followed by sustainable materials and recycling. The third rank goes to continuous materials improvement followed by innovative flexible manufacturing processes and then energy efficiency in production. Testing for materials and production and modeling and simulation are also important cross-section topics.

 

From Concept to Impact:Strengthening the Materials Community

 

Besides the long-term verified scenario planning, this specific foresight proves that a very well‐developed concept can be a key success factor for the whole process. The excellence in each of the three aspects of the concept, methodology expertise, materials expertise, and network and knowledge about the stakeholders in materials industry, in materials science, as well as in politics and how one can get support from the most influential people is one of the building blocks for the success of this project.

Figure 3: Scheme of project concept

bild3

The three aspects in figure 3 were well represented in the project with the Austrian Society for Metallurgy and Materials (ASMET) with focus on experts and stakeholders networks, the Montanuniversität Leoben with the competence in materials, and the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology with methodology experience. However, the cooperation of all three organizations and the willingness to learn from each other made the project successful and strengthened the “materials” community.

 

Furthermore, the project could help to create awareness in this community as well as in the funding agencies and the ministry for what is already funded and supported by the national funding system, and also for what is still missing in the funding programmes. A follow-up project will be dealing in particular with working out and assessing research and project ideas with the potential for disruptive innovation. The addressed community during the foresight is also supporting the impact for disruptive innovation in the future.

 

Authors: Marianne Hörlesberger                      marianne.hoerlesberger@ait.ac.at

Bruno Hribernik                                bruno.hribernik@voestalpine.com

Brigitte Kriszt                                   brigitte.kriszt@unileoben.ac.at

André Uhl         andre.uhl@ait.ac.at

Sponsors: FFG (The Austrian Research Promotion Agency) on behalf of Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology
Type: National Foresight Project
Organizer: ASMET (Austrian Society for Metallurgy and Materials); Bruno Hribernik
Duration: 2013 – 2014
Budget: € 150,000
Time Horizon: 2030
Date of Brief: February 2016

Download EFP Brief No. 259: Austrian Materials Foresight

Sources and References

This brief is based on the following article, in which the findings are discussed in more detail:

Hörlesberger, M., Kriszt, B., Hribernik, B. (2015). Foresight for the Enabling Technologies Materials. In: Pretorius, L., Thopil, G., (eds.)  Graduate School of Technology Management, University of Pretoria, Proceedings of the 24th International Association for Management of Technology Conference, 08th – 11th June, Kapstadt, pp. 449-464.

Hribernik, B.; Kriszt, B.; Hörlesberger, M. (2014). Foresight für Hochleistungswerkstoffe zur Stärkung des Wissens- und Produktionsstandortes Österreich. Study on behalf of BMVIT. (http://asmet.org/austrian-materials-foresight/)

References

Cuhls, K. (2012). Zukunftsforschung und Vorausschau. In: FOCUS‐Jahrbuch 2012. European Foresight Platform (efp). ForLearn. http://www.foresightplatform.eu/community/forlearn/.

Geschka, H.; Von Reibnitz, H. U. (1983). Die Szenario‐Technik ‐ ein Instrument der Zukunftsanalyse und der strategischen Planung. In: Töpfer, A. und Afhelt, H. (Hrsg.): Praxis der strategischen Unternehmensplanung; Frankfurt/Main: Matzner; S. 125‐170.

Keenan, M. (2002). Technology Foresight: An Introduction, Institute of Innovation Research, University of Manchester, UK.

Martin, B. (2001). Technology foresight in a rapidly globalizing economy.

Martin, B., R. (2010). The origins of the concept of ‘foresight’ in science and technology: An insider’s perspective. IN Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 77, 1438–1447.

Miles, I.; Keenan, M. (2003). Overview of Methods used in Foresight, in [UNIDO 2003].

Von Reibnitz, H. U. (1992). Szenario Technik: Instrumente für die unternehmerische und persönliche Erfolgsplanung, Wiesbaden: Gabler Verlag.

EFP Brief No. 258: Perspectives on Use of Expertise in Futures Studies

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Numerous foresight activities rely on gathering expert knowledge, using e.g., the Delphi method. A crucial question for the quality of the exercise is who the relevant experts are. The question is particularly difficult when studying so-called wicked problems, which elude exact definition. Inclusive definition of expertise is called for in this brief, particularly because of the social power experts have. This brief tackles the complex issues of characterising expertise and taking full use of it in expert-based futures projects. Transparency of the chosen expertise must often be combined with upholding anonymity.

Facing Complex “Wicked” Problems with Methods Using Expert Knowledge

Numerous foresight methods are based on expert information, such as Delphi studies. In practical applications of these methods, the researchers have to make judgements on who is an appropriate expert.

This is particularly difficult in the case of the so-called wicked problems (Rittel and Webber 1973). Such problems are very complex with many definitions, and each definition seems to carry a presupposition of a solution. The solutions are based on a variety of theories, assumptions and values. Therefore, in many foresight applications an interdisciplinary approach is chosen, and experts are invited from different domains. In this way, both knowledge about different facets of a problem (such as technological, economic, and societal) is represented, and the different theories and concepts behind them are included.

For example, if climate change is seen primarily as a technological problem resulting from fossil energy use, the responses are likely to be expressed in technological or economic terms. If the problem is seen to result fundamentally from global inequalities, the results focus on international agreements and funding mechanisms. If the problem is seen to result from population growth and modern lifestyles, the answers are to be found in the cultural and social spheres. No single framework could encompass the ecological, economic, social, cultural and technological dimensions of climate change.

Obviously in futures research, a temporal aspect further complicates the issue. It is not enough to know what the state of the problem is; we would also need to know how the situation may change.

If we want to know how things are right now, or how they will be in the near future, often it makes sense to ask those who can be defined to be on the top of their field. This approach often means asking middle-aged or older people with long work histories. However, the aims of foresight processes are often about opening new visions, finding new trends or unexpected turn points, considering trends and changes on long time scales, and finding ways to reach futures we define as desirable. Then, narrowly defined expertise may not be an optimal solution.

 

Objective

In this brief I will outline certain definitions for expertise, and discuss their implications for the use of experts in futures studies. The aim is not to provide definite answers, but rather to inspire discussion and make foresight processes more sensitive to alternative forms of expertise.

Defining Expertise

  1. Expertise as cognitive property and a social construction

Expertise can be seen as both cognitive property and a social construction. From a cognitive perspective, expertise refers to knowledge and skills of a domain of activity. It can be acquired through education, experience or any other form of cognitive refinement. However, it is not necessarily linked to the social status of an expert. The social status often follows from formal degrees, higher professions and leading organisational positions. These properties are considered to indicate expertise, but they do not guarantee it, and similarly, a person without a socially acknowledged expert status may possess similar skills to an authorised expert.

Defining the content of expertise, i.e. the appropriate cognitive resources, or skills that matter in a domain of practice, is a social process (Turner 2001). The content of valid expertise changes over time and cultures. For example, medicinal practices that were considered valid in the 16th century Europe are very far removed from those practiced today in the western world, and different from traditional Chinese medicine. The content also depends on the definition of the problem at hand. With wicked problems that elude definition, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine what kinds of expertise should be included in a futures project.

 

  1. Different types of knowledge

Bogner and Menz (2009) distinguish between three different types of knowledge. First, there is technical knowledge, which we typically gain through education. Then, there is process knowledge, which is close to tacit knowledge. It is knowledge that is gained through working in a field, and consists of knowledge regarding the practices and modes of operation within a field, such as patterns of interaction and organisations.

The third type of knowledge Bogner and Menz (2009) call interpretative knowledge and it means a person’s subjective assumptions, views, interpretations, rules, etc. The key idea here is that all we learn through education or practice is interpreted and assimilated through our previous knowledge, values, and experiences. Therefore even identical education and work history could not produce two identical experts.

Such subjectivity has often been considered a problem that detracts from expertise, which is commonly thought to be objective. It is, however, quite impossible to avoid. Selinger and Crease (2002: 245) note that expertise is built upon the person, and the “prejudices, ideologies, hidden agendas, or other forms of cultural embeddedness that person might have” do not disappear during the process of becoming an expert.

More importantly, subjectivity may not even be a problem. It is through subjectivity that many important aspects of expertise emerge into foresight processes, such as ethical consideration, empathy, and sense of responsibility. They all derive from experts’ ability to personally engage with problems and their solutions.

If we accept that expertise itself is affected by the person, and reflects the social environment in which it has been accumulated, it becomes important to search for variety not only in terms of multidisciplinarity but also, for example, in terms of gender, age, and ethnicity.

 

  1. Why does the definition of expertise matter?

Defining someone as an expert gives him/her social power to define problems and suggest their solutions. Experts are therefore important actors in society. Expert knowledge is a vehicle for maintaining or changing the existing patterns of thought and action. While experts do not alone determine the future, they are powerful in defining what is real and possible in a society. In addition, expert knowledge is not entirely transparent, and there is limited possibility to hold experts accountable for their power.

In sustainability discourse, in particular, the widening of the definition of expertise has been called for. There may be a need to look at “counter-expertise” i.e. expertise beyond the establishment (e.g. non-governmental organisations). It is not only a matter of democracy; different backgrounds also produce different expertise.

Because expertise is not dependent in a straightforward way on formal degrees or titles, it can be argued that there is no such thing as a “lay expert”. A person may either have relevant expertise or not, regardless of the status as a layperson. However, it may make sense to describe where the expertise springs from.

Using Exertise in Futures Studies

Why is expertise useful in futures studies? It is not just that experts know a lot. Information might be found through other means. Instead, in futures projects, such as Delphi studies, it is often important to make intuitive and quick estimates about future possibilities, and about the impact of changing drivers on the topic in question. Intuitive judgement has even been considered a central ability of an expert (Dreyfus and Dreyfus 2005). Careful consideration does not replace but improves the expert’s intuition.

  1. The expertise matrix

The wide definition of expertise that was discussed above poses a new challenge to the expert selection. If we assume that various types of expertise need to be included in the panel, there need to be tools for keeping track of the variety. Expert matrix (introduced by Kuusi et al. 2006) is a simple tool for both ensuring the variety and for making it more transparent for the audience of a foresight exercise.

In the matrix, the desired variety is detailed, and during the assembly of the panel, the expertise of the panellists is marked in it. For example, in a research project regarding renewable energy growth, we listed various energy sources and forms on one hand, and various roles within a value chain on the other hand. Then we searched for e.g., an expert being familiar with biogas and energy transfer (Varho et al. forthcoming).

It is also possible to make a longer list of expertise characteristics. In another project, we wanted to have variation in terms of topics affecting the future of transport (such as fuels, engine technology, land use, and behaviour), transport modes, field of education, level of education, background organisation, age, and gender. These were listed in a table, in which each expert was characterised (Varho and Tapio 2013).

It is not necessary to have perfect cover in a matrix. Finding different people for all combinations of our transport project expert table, for example, would have meant thousands of experts. However, we were able to get significant variation, and the table also increased the transparency of the process considerably.

 

  1. Facilitating expert deliberation

As we all, also experts may get too focused on conventional wisdom and current or past situation. As we discuss the future possibilities, there is often a need for people who think “out of the box”. Some people are more able to do this, but it is possible to encourage this type of thinking in the whole panel.

One way to do so is to ask experts to describe both a probable and a preferable future (Amara 1981). This approach does not only accept but embraces the subjectivity of experts. It helps the experts to recognise their preferences (in preferred future) and also to aim for objectivity (in probable future). Even if total objectivity is impossible, it is an ideal that many experts strive for, and they may feel more comfortable when they have these two views to distinguish between.

Different methods for gathering data from experts may encourage the expression of new views. For example, the use of expert interviews allows new ideas and interpretations to be incorporated into the futures project. Usually in e.g. Delphi studies it is the research team that formulates the questions. New or alternative interpretations of the problem at hand may not emerge during questionnaire rounds. In addition, some experts may not feel comfortable giving numerical estimates of the future development. The combined use of numerical, visual, and verbal answers can encourage different types of experts to express their views (Varho and Tapio 2013).

Anonymity of expert panels is usually sought for. It is useful, among other things, for encouraging also those with less obvious (social) expert status to express their views. However, face-to-face meetings such as workshops can be introduced at some point of a project, for more thorough communication and co-learning.

Discussing the Use of Expertise

In this brief I have outlined some perspectives on experts and the use of expertise in futures projects. Some questions arise from these, although definitive conclusions cannot perhaps be drawn.

 

  1. What are experts good for?

Using expert views is often valuable in futures projects. It can be an “economical” approach, as experts are able to give estimates regarding complex systems. When the futures project aims more at estimating how the future unfolds than at creating new visions, conventional expertise is naturally important. But the further we look into the future, the less the existing knowledge may be relevant. Do we really need experts, or more specifically, those we define as experts?

In a recent project (see Tuominen et al. 2014) we asked both transport experts and high-school students to describe the future of Finnish transport. It was interesting to see that the students were able to describe in their essays very diverse futures that, in most part, reflected the alternative future visions of the experts. However, they were not able to give plausible numerical estimates that would have reflected the qualitative visions. It seems that expertise on a subject is valuable – at the very least – because experts are more able to give numerical estimates. Numbers, in turn, are often very useful for distinguishing the future views apart and for comparing them with existing or targeted levels. In addition, transport was a subject that all students have some experience on. A more esoteric subject might not have gained equally valuable answers from them.

 

  1. Are experts “experts” at all?

Given the subjectivity of experts that was discussed in this paper we need to ask if they should be defined as experts, or are they e.g., stakeholders. There may not be a conclusive answer to this question. It is likely, however, that when people are invited into the futures project as experts they aim more at objectivity than when they are defined as stakeholders. In the stakeholder position, they may even feel obligated to defend the interest of those they are invited to represent.

It is possible to include in an expert panel people who would not define themselves as experts. For example, we have included a high-school student in a project that otherwise addressed experienced professionals (Varho and Tapio 2013), because we believed that she would have valuable experiences and viewpoints to share from the perspective of today’s youth. This was considered valid, in particular, because the timeline of the futures project extended several decades into the future.

Collins (2013) has discussed three dimensions of expertise, namely “esotericity”, “accomplishment”, and “exposure to tacit knowledge of a domain”. Being a teenager is hardly expertise according to the first two dimensions, but to some extent it does fulfil the third dimension. Being immersed in a subculture gives a person the ability to see and interpret the world in ways that are not obvious to others.

  1. Is an expertise matrix useful?

An expertise matrix or another equivalent tool is important for finding appropriate experts for a futures project. In addition, participating experts should be described to increase the transparency and internal validity of the project (Kuusi et al. 2015), even when anonymity is maintained.

 

Authors: Vilja Varho        vilja.varho@luke.fi; vilja.varho@fidea.fi
Sponsors: n.a.
Type: Methodological discussion
Organizer: Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) www.luke.fi
Duration: n.a.
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: n.a.
Date of Brief: October 2015

Download EFP Brief No. 258: Perspectives on Use of Expertise

Sources and References

This brief is based on the following article, in which the findings are discussed in more detail:

Varho, V., Huutoniemi, K. 2014. Envisioning solutions – Expert deliberation on environmental futures. In: Huutoniemi, K., Tapio, P. (eds.) Transdisciplinary Sustainability Studies: A Heuristic Approach. Routledge, London & New York. pp. 140-157.

References

 

Amara, R. (1981) ‘The futures field. Searching for definitions and boundaries’, The Futurist, 15(1): 25–29

Bogner, A. and Menz, W. (2009) ‘The theory-generating expert interview: epistemological interest, forms of knowledge, interaction’, in: Bogner, A., Littig, B. and Menz, W. (eds.) Interviewing Experts. Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, UK. pp. 43–80.

Dreyfus, H.L. and Dreyfus, S.E. (2005) ‘Expertise in real world contexts’, Organization Studies 26(5): 779–792

Kuusi, O., Kinnunen, J., Ryynänen, O.-P., Myllykangas, M. and Lammintakanen, J. (2006) ‘Suomen Terveydenhuollon tulevaisuudet’, in: Terveydenhuollon tulevaisuus, Eduskunnan kanslian julkaisu 3/2006.

Kuusi, O., Cuhls, K. and Steinmüller, K. (2015) Quality Criteria for Scientific Futures Research. Futura 1/2015: 60-77.

Rittel, H.W.J. and Webber, M.M. (1973) ‘Dilemmas in a general theory of planning’, Policy Sciences, 4(2): 155–69.

Selinger, E.M. and Crease, R.P. (2002) ‘Dreyfus on expertise: The limits of phenomenological analysis’, Continental Philosophy Review 35: 245–279.

Tuominen, A., Tapio, P., Varho, V., Järvi, T. and Banister, D. 2014. Pluralistic backcasting: Integrating multiple visions with policy packages for transport climate policy. Futures, 60: 41-58.

Turner, S. (2001) ‘What is the Problem with Experts?’ Social Studies of Science 31(1): 123–149.

Varho, V. and Tapio, P. (2013) ‘Combining the qualitative and quantitative with the Q2 scenario technique – the case of transport and climate’, Technological Forecasting & Social Change 80(4): 611–630.

Varho, V., Rikkonen, P., Rasi, S. (forthc.) Futures of distributed small-scale renewable energy in Finland – A Delphi study of the opportunities and obstacles up to 2025. Under review in Technological Forecasting & Social Change.

EFP Brief No. 256: F212.org Online Platform. Imagining the Future through Social Media as a Tool for Social Innovation

Friday, December 6th, 2013

F212.org is a virtual think tank of university students interested in sharing ideas on how to face main future challenges. It describes the results of a comparative study about the images of the future found among young students from Haaga Helia University of Applied Science (Finland) Tamkang University (Taiwan); and University of Alicante (Spain).

The Study of Images of the Future

The studies focused on images of the future date back to the second half of the twentieth century and have their origins in the fields of sociology and psychology. After the growing interest in this area which arose during the early 1990s, the study about images of the future –and more specifically about images of the future among young people– has consolidated within the framework of social sciences in general and, particularly, in the context of Sociology during the late 1990s and the first years of the twenty-first century.

According to Polak’s definition, “an image of the future is made of associated memories and expectations. It is a set of long-range goals which stress the infinite possibilities open to a person. Thus, an image of the future can be defined as a mental construction dealing with possible states. It is composed of a mixture of conceptions, beliefs, and desires, as well as observations and knowledge about the present. This affects a person’s choice both consciously and unconsciously and is derived from both reality and from imagination. It ultimately steers one’s decision-making and actions”. Therefore, the reflection about the expected impact of these images on the determination of our present actions and our attitude towards the future allows us to see the need for a systematic approach to study such images.

Nevertheless, the research into such images carried out during last century tended to be relatively sporadic and never had a predominant role in the context of futures research. As far as Sociology in particular is concerned, many works which attempt to identify and explain the concerns most commonly found among this population segment basically seek to answer the following question: how do young people expect their future to be?

However, it is far from easy to find studies where the approach consists in trying to find an answer to the question: what do young people want for their future? Therefore, there is arguably a lack of new approaches which can integrate aspirational parameters and enable a greater involvement of youths in the process of defining alternatives for the future.

For this reason, public and private institutions are now apparently taking a greater interest in identifying and understanding citizens’ expectations and wishes, which has led them to promote actions in line with the new paradigms of Social Innovation and Open Innovation that provide a more active, direct and continuous citizenship in governance, close to the concept of participatory democracy. In fact, this is something which currently seems much more feasible than not so long ago thanks to aspects such as technology development, the spreading of internet access and the increasingly high popularity of social online networks.

Therefore it is perfectly feasible to complement the descriptive approach to a ‘diagnosis of the future’ with images of the future and creative proposals directly defined and developed by young people, giving voice and prominence to them thanks to:

  1. the proliferation of communication channels that allow for immediate and continuous feedback (2.0 platforms, social networks) with the user/citizen; and
  2. the development of ‘participatory’ foresight methodologies in both institutional and private sectors.

The conceptual basis behind this approach leads participants to consider themselves as key actors in the task of defining their own future –through an active participation in the construction of shared images of the future. It could consequently prove much more motivating for young people to interact within these processes if participants are given some space to share and create.

Tool Set for the Future

The project presented here is based on a previous study (Guillo, 2013) which involved a total of 56 university students from the Haaga Helia University of Applied Science (Helsinki, Finland) and the University of Alicante (Alicante, Spain).

Based on the overall results and on the feedback provided not only by participants but also by the students and teachers involved, it was possible to highlight the following 4 points with the aim of achieving an improvement in subsequent studies:

  • Hard-to-understand / answer questionnaires: the students found the process hard to complete (too many categories and questions) and sometimes even confusing.
  • Lack of interaction: the platform suffered from a lack of technological tools, which always make it easier for users to interact with one another.
  • Overlap between groups: the selected categories proved useful to organise the responses to some extent but participants found numerous overlaps between the topics discussed in every category.
  • Hard to analyse: the scenario format gave us (as researchers) very valuable material to analyse. Nevertheless, a more precise way to express expectations, fears and wishes about the future is badly needed to improve interaction.

Taking into account the 4 points mentioned above, a new study was designed which included three significant changes with respect to the previous one, all of them oriented to improve users’ experience within www.f212.org:

Removing the division into categories: the categories from the previous study (economy, culture, politics, ecosystem, security) were abandoned in order to build an easy-to-complete questionnaire. Since the information-collecting tool was going to be an online survey (embedded in the platform), it became essential to provide a short, clear and quick-to-answer questionnaire.

Changing narrative scenarios by keywords: In this case, the change also had to do with the difficulty found by participants when completing the process. Therefore, a decision was made to replace the initial idea of describing a future scenario (150 words) with the choice of keywords to describe their future scenario (10 words). This would additionally allow us not only to process participants’ responses much faster –almost in real time– but also to update the tag clouds inserted in the platform, which could largely improve the level of interaction within the platform too.

Using a clearer language: the feedback received from the previous study led us to modify the instructions given for the completion of the different questionnaires –using a more straightforward language. Various levels of information were offered, including more detailed information (tutorials and FAQs) in case users needed a higher degree of detail.

Thus, the design of our new study started by restructuring the platform in the following sections:

  1. RATINGSFeelings about the future in 2030. Participants were asked the question “are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?” in this section. This allowed them to position themselves in terms of pessimism/optimism, on a scale from 10 (totally optimistic) to 0 (totally pessimistic). Three different dimensions were taking into account: World (global level), Country (national level) and Myself (personal level).

 

  1. FORECASTS – Probable future in 10 words.Participants had to write a maximum of 10 words about the main features which, in their opinion, will characterise the world in 2030.

 

  1. SKILLS – Self-evaluate your references about the future in 2030.The ratings and forecasts given by participants were subjected to self-evaluation through these three questions (to be answered on a scale from 0,  the worst,  to 10, the best):
    • Are you concerned about the future?
    • To what extent are you prepared to face the future?
    • What is your level of knowledge about global change processes?

    Participants were additionally asked to complement their self-evaluations by naming some of the sources (books, webpages, magazines, journals, etc.) that they usually consult and on which their visions of the future are based.

  1. WISHES – Future you want in 10 words.In this section, participants had to write a maximum of 10 words about the main features that, in their opinion, should characterise the world in 2030.

 

  1. IDEAS – Open Discussions.This section was included as a meeting place to share creative ideas on how to face future challenges.A total of 378 university students (between 20 and 32 years old) took part in this study by accessing the open platform.

Images of the Future of Spanish, Taiwanese and Finnish Students

RATINGS – How do you feel about the future in 2030?

A remarkable difference exists in the images of the future found at a national level among the participants from Spain (median 4), Taiwan (6) and Finland (7). In the case of Spain, the differences become even more evident when comparing the three levels considered: global (7), national (4) and personal (7). However, such results should actually “come as no surprise” within the current context of social and economic crisis in Spain, which also shows a high degree of inconsistency as far as images of the future are concerned. Another interesting finding is the widespread high degree of optimism with regard to the personal level (7).

FORECASTS – The probable future in 10 words: Females show more optimism

Seeking to make the platform as interactive as possible, tag clouds were generated with the participants’ responses in this section. These tag clouds – including the 50 words with the highest repetition frequency among respondents- were available online, and a allowed us to draw some general conclusions:

− High consensus on the key factors that define the probable future by 2030. The words which show a higher repetition frequency were technology, globalisation, competitiveness, artificial, connected, energy, ecology and war. These words can be regarded as part of the main speech about the future, presented in the general, mass media as part of a globally shared image of the probable future.

− Females show more optimism than males. A marked difference could be perceived in the degree of optimism shown by females and males among participants from Spain and Taiwan (and also among those from Finland, though to a lesser extent). That is why participants from Spain and Taiwan show a higher repetition frequency in words such as opportunities, hope and ecology.

SKILLS – Self-evaluate your references about the future in 2030_ Homogeneous use of TV as information source

The results in this section show a high level of preparation and knowledge, along with a lack of diversity in the sources considered (mainly TV and general-information newspapers). On the whole, participants from Spain, Taiwan and Finland see themselves as ‘experts’ in the topics under discussion: the median is 5 or higher in every case. Nevertheless, when asked about the kind of sources that they usually resort to, only a few of them mention access to specialised journals, reports, databases, etc. Information availability also helps us understand the aforementioned conclusion about the globally shared image of the probable future.

One important finding when comparing across countries is that participants from Finland showed the worst self-evaluations, a point below self-evaluations of participants from Spain. These results contrast with the overall Education results observed in both countries during the last years.

WISHES – The future you want in 10 words: Different perceptions on ‘Love’ and ‘Community’

Significant differences regarding how they describe their probable futures. Words like technology, global and connected, which had a strong weight in Forecasts, are now losing repetition frequency. This can be interpreted as reflecting an attitude of rejection towards today’s ‘hyper-connected’ world (a shared vision for the probable future). On the contrary, words like opportunities or work have a stronger weight in these desired futures, which can be explained by young people’s professional aspirations.

A lack of specific, creative terms to describe the desired future. On the whole, no breaking ideas are found in the words given by the students. Thus, the most often repeated words within this section are equality, peace, respect, ecology or freedom, which, in our opinion, form part of what can be described as a utopian and very broad vision about the society of the future. This lack of specific and breaking ideas can also be related to the fact that young people find it hard to visualise all the possibilities ahead of them.

Few differences between males and females. The biggest visible difference between males and females refers to the word love (whereas no males mention this word as part of their desired future, it stands out as one of the words with the most weight among females).

Few differences between countries. The most interesting finding in this respect is the word communal, only present among Finnish respondents. In the cases of Spain and Taiwan, despite the appearance of words such as equality or peace –which clearly suggest an idea of cooperation with one another in their meaning– the complete absence of this specific word seems very meaningful to us, and could be interpreted as a weak signal regarding social life in the countries represented.

Online Participatory Foresight Processes

The comparison between the results obtained in this study and those from the previous experience (Guillo, 2013) leads us to highlight the findings below:

  • Simplicity encourages participation. A decision was made to remove the division into categories in our study this time, which made it easier and faster for respondents to complete the whole process. This resulted in a much higher participation: 378 respondents (as opposed to 56 in the previous study).
  • More interaction means enriching our own images of the future. Respondents consider the possibility of exchanging ideas about the future with young people who have different cultural backgrounds very interesting. Thus, the international connection with other students from different parts of the worlds was seen as an extremely positive factor. Moreover, the integration of the section Ideas makes it possible for them to directly interact with other correspondents, which was also highlighted as a very positive point (more than 300 replies were registered in the open discussions started in this section).
  • Motivation is a key point. Two different mechanisms were designed for the purpose of involving people in the platform. One of them was the development of future workshops, where students received explanations on the basics of futures thinking and were encouraged to participate in the process. The other mechanism was the creation of a brief presentation, available on the platform and easy to use for e-mail communications. In this sense, a higher degree of participation was found among the students who took part in futures workshops and were personally motivated to sign up for the platform.
  • A more straightforward language and better design elements help understand large amounts of data. Technologically speaking, tag clouds were the best way available for us to show the results from Forecasts and Wishes to respondents. These graphs allowed users to have a slight –but also very clear– idea about the image of the future generally shown by respondents. The same approach was applied to other aspects of the platform, such as the design of the slide presentation and the presentation dossier or the instructions contained in every section of the platform, among other things.

As a general conclusion, it could be stated that improving interaction tools, designing better communication elements and opening the platform to an international university-student context have all had a strong positive impact on this study. Thus, the results collected in www.f212.org helped us achieve a better understanding of the mechanisms behind social media involvement.

 

 

Authors: Mario Guillo (PhD Candidate)    mario.guillo@ua.es

Dr. Enric Bas                           bas@ua.es

Sponsors: FUTURLAB – University of Alicante

FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science & Technology

Type: International think tank
Organizer: FUTURLAB – University of Alicante, Mario Guillo, mario.guillo@ua.es www.futurlab.es
Duration: 2011-2012
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2030
Date of Brief: October 2013

Download EFP Brief No. 256_F212.org Online Platform

Sources and References

  • Guillo, Futures, Communication and Social Innovation: Using Participatory Foresight and Social Media Platforms as tools for evaluating images of the future among young people, Eur J Futures Res (2013) 15:17. DOI 10.1007/s40309-013-0017-2
  • Reinhardt, (ed.) United Dreams of Europe, Primus Verlag, Darmsdat, 2011.
  • Bas, Future Visions of the Spanish Society, in: U. Reinhardt, G. Roos, (eds.) Future Expectations for Europe, Primus Verlag, Darmsdat, (2008) 214-231.
  • Ono, Learning from young people’s image of the future: a case study in Taiwan and the US, Futures, 35 (7) (2003) 737-758.
  • Rubin, The images of the future of young Finnish people, Sarja/Series, Turku, 1998.

EFP Brief No. 254: New Trends in Argentina’s Science, Technology and Innovation Policy

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

The brief describes the historical evolution of the national policy of science, technology and innovation (STI) in Argentina, identifying major turning points from the period of the import substitution model that lasted for 40 years to the current development pattern still in the making, with a sharp shift during the 1990s to a harsh market-led path. Domestic learning processes and emerging international trends led Argentina in the new millennium to adopt a new more proactive, flexible and participatory model of STI, which was further pushed by the creation of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation in 2007. The National Plan of STI 2012-2015 reflects on-going efforts to deepen the redesign of research, technology and innovation policies.

The Redesign of STI Policies and Institutions

Science, technology and innovation policies and institutions in Argentina constitute today an evolving system whose configuration is the result of a several-stage process involving discontinuity regarding priorities, approaches and intervention modalities.

STI policies over most of the 90s implied a significant shift with regards to the pattern prevailing during the four-decade model of import substitution industrialisation (ISI). In a nutshell, this shift involved a drastic move away from state support to the development of basic science and of human resources, as well as from direct public intervention in some sectors deemed strategic or at the technological frontier. The new pattern, framed within a economic policy stressing the opening and deregulation of the economy and the privatization of public assets, strongly emphasized the modernization of the private sector under a quasi-market rationale and made the first moves towards a greater articulation and coordination of STI public institutions. In line with this pattern, a demand-driven approach, under the assumption that firm knowledge requirements set research and development (R&D) lines, and sectoral neutrality (i.e., massive horizontal policies favouring stronger links of individual firms with the supply of advising and training services) set the tone of STI policies.

By the end of the 90s, a more complex set of policies was implemented in order to address the increasingly heterogeneous capacities of the private sector to generate and absorb scientific and technological knowledge, the different “stages of the innovation cycle” and the need to target support by sectors. This shift towards greater policy differentiation and directionality as well as deeper integration and coordination of the national system of STI was invigorated since 2003. Particularly, the creation of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation (MINCYT) in 2007 was a big push in that direction as it gave room to a process of increasing prestige and institutionalization of the STI; this process fuelled, in turn, an important redirection of the rationale for policy intervention.

Three main aspects distinguish this rationale shift: the greater emphasis granted to a systemic vision of support to innovation based on the construction of stronger links with the science and technology dimension; the deepening of the shift from horizontal to more focalized policies; and the gradual move from support targeting individual actors (firms or institutions) to support stressing different types of associative behaviour (value chains, consortia, networks, etc.). This reorientation of the rationality for policy intervention was grounded in the need of the MINCYT to adapt its strategic goals and policies to the particular traits of the context in which it operates, in particular the mounting relevance of technological change and innovation for international competitiveness and the need to upgrade the increasingly complex domestic production structure, the nature of the problems and opportunities calling for public intervention, and the need of a systemic approach in order the enhance the effectiveness of STI policies. This conceptual reorientation has been matched at the instrumental level by the “restyling” of the existing policy instruments as well as the design of new ones in the policy axes that shape today public interventions (see below).

The Conceptual and Empirical Drivers of Policy Changes

The current reorientation of the rationale for policy intervention is in line with STI policy trends in developed countries and in middle-income countries within the developing world. It also echoes academic debates and policy recommendations from technical cooperation agencies.

Limits of the Linear Model

The deepest motive of this reorientation, which comprises three main threads with different degree of progress and articulation, is the awareness of the limits of a static or lineal view of the relationship between science, technology and innovation. In fact, believing in a lineal view means that the new scientific and technological knowledge (usually created through R&D) is easily adopted by producers, without any significant participation or feedback about real needs of knowledge production.

Turning to Customized Production

Several traits of the present production situation reinforce the on-going redefinition of policy rationale. The first is the increasing heterogeneity of the production tissue, which cuts across sectorial and even sub-sectorial boundaries. Concretely, in the same sector and macroeconomic context, firm competitive strategies and practices differ along several dimensions, for instance the way they use technology and behave with regards to innovation. This heterogeneity turns horizontal and non-discriminatory policies, usually grounded on “broad range” market failures (complementary financing, imperfect information, coordination deficits and the like) largely ineffective to tackle down producers’ specific constrains to develop scientific and technological capabilities and to innovate. What it is rather required are policies geared to the provision of “customized” public goods (or “club” goods), in order to attend different needs at different levels of economic activity (firms, clusters, value chains, etc.).

In the same way, it is also important to foster a greater policy focalization through the identification of strategically significant areas as main targets of STI policies. Of course, this does not imply a return to old-fashioned practices of “picking winners” but instead the previous definition of activities and agents to be specifically targeted because of its relevance for upgrading and diversifying the production structure.

Endemic Uncertainty

The second relevant feature of the current production dynamics is not just the increasingly rapid pace of scientific and technological changes and, pari pasu, of the innovation process but the uncertainty of their direction that has led many people to talk about “endemic uncertainty”. Indeed, in an increasing number of production activities as well as in other areas of public interest (for instance, climate change, food safety or health care to mention just a few) it is more and more difficult to predict the next market demand, or, in the same vein, the next natural disaster, animal or plant disease, or virus variety, which will require to create and apply “new generation” scientific and technological knowledge that, in addition, can be rapidly turned into product and process innovations.

This giant uncertainty calls into question traditional notions of progress such as “technological frontier” or “technological catching up”. Knowledge production in these socio-economic and natural contexts calls instead for new policies and institutions that impulse the capacities of agents to search and detect new development opportunities by “de-codifying” them in response to the emerging needs, and to position themselves as providers of precompetitive knowledge for innovation.

The third driver of the reorientation of STI support policies or, to put it more accurately, of the intervention rationale is the fact that innovation – and much of the science and technology knowledge that nurtures it – is the work of inter-organizational networks including firms, public agencies, universities, research centres and other knowledge-producing organizations. Usually born spontaneously, although their emergence is more and more a public policy goal, the distinguishing trait of these public-private articulations is their role as instances of combination, coordination and synthesis of partial and complementary knowledge and resources coming from different disciplinary domains and fields of activity. These multidisciplinary networks tend to proliferate (though not exclusively) in high-technology activities in which it is highly unlikely that a sole agent have all the capacities and expertise to understand how those technologies work and how to apply them therein.

Specialisation of Argentina’s Production

Finally, on empirical grounds, Argentina is no alien to these trends towards increasing heterogeneity of production, acceleration of scientific-technological knowledge and network innovation, although the aggregate data on STI in the country does not properly reflect this. Indeed, in very distinct production activities (farm machinery, wine, technology-based agricultural inputs, nuclear research reactors, screening satellites, television scripts, sport boats, design-intensive clothing, software and boutique off-shore services, among the most relevant), firms or groups of firms have strongly grown, substantially upgraded production and achieved long-term competitive advantages in the domestic and foreign markets over the past decade on the basis of product and process innovation. These experiences share several features that link them to the above trends. Firstly, all involve the development of collaborative forms of production articulating public and private actors from different disciplines and institutional domains (final producers, part, input and service suppliers, science and technology agencies, universities and research centres in an relative reduced space (regions, counties, urban or semi-urban areas, etc.). Secondly, these networks share different but complementary resources (financial, human, etc.) and knowledge that allow them to identify the accelerating and changing innovation requirements and to generate the production responses to meet them. Finally, they include more or less institutionalized arrangements to coordinate knowledge creation, its application to production, the appropriation of the economic benefits accruing from its exploitation and financing that facilitate interest alignment among stakeholders.

Planning in STI Under the New Rationale for Intervention

STI planning in Argentina has shown a renewed vigour in the last decade and a particular concern at present to address the challenges posed by the emerging STI environment. In line with this purpose, the planning exercise for the 2012-2015 builds upon two main intervention strategies: the institutional development of the national system of STI and policy focalization.

Institutional development of the national STI system

The first strategy stresses transversal institutional development and changes required to achieve an effective intervention in the current STI conditions; it may be summarized with the productive innovation-institutional innovation formula under the understanding that the latter is a critical necessary condition of the former. This strategy involves the dimensions of capacity building, system linkage, process improvement and learning for network innovation. The assumption is that a system with strengthened endowments of resources and capabilities and, at the same time, better articulation allows to avoid the duplication of initiatives and actions (with the ensuing deficient resource allocation), to identify blind points, to contribute to align interests, to prioritize efforts and to generate synergies both within the public sector and between public institutions and productive and social actors, among other benefits.

Policy Focalization

As for the focalization strategy, the on-going planning effort has adopted a novel conceptualization cantered on the notion of strategic socio-productive nuclei (SSPN). This involves the identification of intervention opportunities in specific domains on the basis of the articulation of general-purpose technologies (GPT: biotechnology, nanotechnology, and ITC) with a bundle of sectors producing goods and services (agro-industry, energy, health, environment and sustainable development social development, and manufacturing). The rationale of this approach is to take advantage of the potential impact of GTP to generate qualitative improvements in terms of production competitiveness, people quality of life and the country’s standing with regards to emerging technologies and medium- and long-term foreseeable technological development. In other words, this approach seeks to go beyond the logic intervention driven only by the technological supply or demands requirements; looking forward to generate the conditions to adjust or adapt, if needed, transversal actions and policy instruments to the differentiated needs of selected SSPNs.

Both strategies comprise four operational work axes: coordination (inter-institutional, territorial, international), resources (human, infrastructure, information), processes (regulatory frameworks and monitoring & evaluation), and policy instruments and financing. The first three axes look at the new architecture, rules of the game, and agency/management capacities of the system of STI. The axe of instruments and financing concerns more horizontal tools to promote the expansion of the science and technology base, the search for selectivity and directionality in the public interventions to foster innovation as well as the impulse of the connectivity and coordination among STI actors and the mechanisms for funding support policies.

STI Policy Designed to Strengthen the Production Model

The history of STI in Argentina took several models of intervention or no intervention policy under different political rationalities. Nowadays, the development of STI has a greater potential because of the public planning strategies and concrete lines of action according to the production needs of the country. On the whole, this has meant a redesign of public policy institutions in order that science, technology and innovation strengthen the production model by generating greater social inclusion and improving the competitiveness of Argentina’s economy, becoming knowledge the backbone of national development.

Authors: Miguel Lengyel           mlengyel@flacso.org.ar

Maria Blanca Pesado bpesado@flacso.org.ar

Sponsors: n.a.
Type: national exercise
Organizer: Latin American School of Social Sciences
Duration: 2007 – 2010
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2015
Date of Brief: August 2011

Download EFP Brief No. 254_Argentina’s New STI Policy

Sources and References

Porta, F., P. Gutti and P. Moldovan, “Polìticas de ciencia, tecnología e  innovación en Argentina. Evolución reciente y balance”, Buenos Aires: Universidad de Quilmes y Centro Redes, febrero de 2010.

Sanchez, G., I. Buttler and Ricardo Rozmeberg, “Productive Development Policies in Argentina”, Washington DC: IADB, 2010.

Lengyel, Miguel, “Innovación productiva e innovación institucional: el vínculo virtuoso”, en D. García Delgado (comp.), Rol del estado y desarrollo productivo inclusivo, Buenos Aires: Ediciones Ciccus, 2010.

Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo (PNUD), “Innovación productiva en Argentina”, Buenos Aires: PNUD, 2009.

Sabel, C., “Self-discovery as a Coordination Problem”, forthcoming in C. Sabel, E. Fernández Arias, R. Hausmann, Andrés Rodríguez-Clare  and E. H. Stein (eds.), Self-discovery as a Coordination Problem. Lessons from a Study of New Exports in Latin America, Washington DC. IADB, 2011.

EFP Brief No. 253: Egypt’s Desalination Technology Roadmap 2030

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

This project was an activity within the framework of Egypt’s Vision 2030 project carried out by the Center for Future Stud-ies in the Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center, with the aim of identifying the future needs for desalination technology development, charting a series of research and development activities that will result in cost-effective, efficient revolutionary desalination technologies that can meet the national future needs, and providing short and long term action agenda to guide desalination research and investments in Egypt till the year 2030.

Investment to Meet National Needs

Water shortage is a worldwide problem, where 40% of the world population is suffering from water scarcity. In Egypt, the per capita water share was 771 CM/capita/year in 2005, which is below the international standards of “water poverty line” of 1000 CM/capita/year. Due to the long time horizon required to implement the Upper Nile development projects, directing efforts towards non-conventional water sources – such as; water recycling; reuse of drainage water; treated industrial and sewage effluents; rainfall harvesting; and desalination – provides a short term solution to the water shortage problem. Water desalination should top the agenda of developing non-conventional water resources, since desalination technologies have developed substantially over the last fifty years, especially with the development of “Reverse Osmosis” (RO) technology in the sixties leading to significant reductions in the cost of desalination. Therefore, due to the great advances which occurred in the field of desalination globally, and the noticeable increase in awareness of the importance of such a technology among decision-makers in Egypt, the Center for Future Studies (CFS) at the Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) has taken the initiative to develop a desalination technology roadmap for Egypt in the year 2030. The desalination roadmap is a program-planning document that identifies the most appropriate desalination technologies and their related R&D projects that Egypt needs to invest in to meet the national needs.

Developing and R&D Agenda

The desalination roadmap is a program-planning document that identifies different desalination technology alternatives and their related R&D projects, and the milestones for meeting future national needs of water resources. Due to its role in investigating the future of Egypt in different areas, the Center for Future Studies (CFS) at the Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) has taken the initiative to develop a desalination technology roadmap for Egypt. The project objectives are:

  1. To identify future needs for desalination technology development.
  2. To chart a series of R&D activities that will result in cost-effective, efficient revolutionary desalination technologies that can meet future national needs.
  3. To establish development activities that will accelerate the rate of improvement of current-generation desalination technologies, and therefore allowing these technologies to better meet the short-term national needs.
  4. To develop short-term and long-term action agendas for the required desalination R&D projects in Egypt till 2030.
  5. To improve communication within the R&D community and between this community and the end users.

Technology Roadmapping Methodology

The desalination technology roadmap project was divided into three main phases: roadmap initiation, technical needs assessment, and technical response development. The first phase was concerned with the preparation of the actual roadmapping process and involved agreement on the roadmap’s scope, leadership, participants and deliverables. This phase involved constituting the Desalination Steering Committee (DSC), validating the need to roadmap and clearly portraying this need in a clear vision statement.

The second phase was Technical Needs Assessment: which involved technical needs definition, by assessing current capabilities and identifying the capability gaps and associated R&D goals. This was carried out by the Steering Committee’s core research group who conducted research in the field of desalination, in general, and in Egypt, in particular to determine recent breakthroughs in desalination technologies and how far Egypt has reached in this field. This was followed by identifying and specifying the areas of technical risks/opportunities, and correspondent technical solutions that are either available, or currently under development through a series of brainstorming sessions to identify potential alternate solutions. This phase resulted in a number of critical objectives associated with each need highlighted in the vision statement, and which certain research projects are meant to fulfill. These targets aim at challenging the R&D community to pursue and achieve major technological breakthroughs to be used in future projects, and should only be developed if key projects are not scheduled to start for another 10 years or more.

The final phase of the project was the Technical Response Development, which involved identifying relevant technological areas and research projects (e.g thermal, membranes, alternative, reuse, and cross-cutting research areas) to meet the metrics of each critical objective, and involved brainstorming to identify all possible technical approaches which represent the mechanisms for achieving the critical objectives. This phase resulted in a Broad Strategic Action Agenda which serves as a guideline for the R&D projects required on the short and mid/long term by providing prioritized suggested R&D projects, their duration and an estimated budget.

Most activities associated with the roadmapping process were conducted through committees or workgroups, and a number of focus group meetings were sequenced and scheduled for all work groups to come together, share results, and reach consensus on the defined targets or critical objectives. In addition, a number of individual follow-up meetings took place.

The Desalination Roadmapping Team was composed of the Desalination Steering Committee (DSC) and the Desalination Working Group (DWG). The main responsibility of the DSC was to oversee the technology roadmapping process, and guide it in the direction of achieving the vision statement or the final goal. The DWG is a committee representing a group of experts in desalination technology, environmental engineering, water resources planning, and energy resources. Their main responsibilities were to brainstorm technology options responsive to the technology strategies provided by the DSC, as well as the costs, benefits and risks of the different options.

Good Water Quality Free of Charge

Upon identifying the steering committee, a meeting was held to highlight the main national needs facing Egypt’s water resources in the future till 2030. This meeting was held among a number of prominent experts in the field of water resources and desalination, and accordingly, the following broad vision for desalination was formulated and agreed-upon to cover the main national needs as below:

“Develop desalination technologies that aim to secure cost-effective, drinkable, fits for its uses and sustainable water for Egypt in 2030”.

National Needs and Critical Objectives to Meet National Needs

Following the extensive literature review carried out by the research team during the second phase of the roadmapping process, the technical needs of Egypt in the field of desalination were identified and were mainly focused on capitalizing on the availability of abundant renewable resources in Egypt, mainly solar and thermal energy. As determined by the agreed-upon vision, Egypt’s main national needs with respect to water can be categorized as:

  • Cost-effective water: In Egypt, as in many countries, there is no direct charge for water services provided for agriculture, while water provided for domestic and industrial uses is subsidized. Farmers receive water free of charges and are only responsible for pumping costs from the manual pump to the field. However, the provision of water free of charges to farmers began to pose an increasing burden on the government especially in the face of increasing costs for O&M and irrigation and drainage system rehabilitation, due to the increasing population and construction of mega projects. As with regards to the municipal and industrial sectors, it is estimated that government subsidies amount to 70% of water service in the industrial sector and 88% in the municipal sector. The rate for domestic water supply in Greater Cairo is about LE 0.13/m3, which is much lower than the cost of providing raw water (around 0.56/m3). Charging users for water and water services in Egypt is a sensitive issue, as it involves political, historical, social, and economic factors.
  • Drinkable water: Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is considered a basic human right, however providing this service and securing the required investments are a real challenge for the government. In Egypt, over 90% of Cairo’s drinking water is drawn from the Nile, which has provided high quality water during the 1970’s and 1980’s. However, the Nile’s water quality showed increasing deterioration in the 1990’s due to increased industrial and agricultural discharges, and also contamination from human sewage. In addition, water quality provision was increasingly threatened by the inefficient infrastructure and deteriorating distribution systems and water treatment plants.
  • Water fits for its uses: Given the worsening water situation in Egypt due to the massive and increasing demand by the agricultural sector, supplementary non-conventional sources including desalination of sea and brackish water, and reuse of waste water, represent very important sources to ensure maximum water allocation for its uses. In general, desalinated seawater costs about more than twice the price of freshwater used in irrigation and hence is considered too expensive for all types of agricultural production. However, desalination costs have decreased to nearly one-tenth of what it was 20 years ago, and are likely to continue falling due to continuous advances in the field. This declination in cost is likely to make the use of desalinated sea or brackish water feasible for wide use in both agricultural and industrial fields.
  • Sustainable water. Achieving the national need of providing sustainable water resources requires that policy makers widen their scope on the main users of water, to include the environment as well as the traditional industry, agriculture and household users. This measure is crucial in the future in order to overcome the unsustainable “hydrological” debt that Egypt faces today, as its future water flows are more or less fixed while consumption is increasing at an enormous rate leading to water depletion.
Quantifying the Objectives

These are the objectives for each national need that the different proposed desalination technologies are expected to fulfill. These objectives gained consensus by the experts who have participated in this study.

Near Term Critical Objectives (2015):

  • Reduce capital cost by 20%
  • Increase energy use by 10%
  • Decrease operating and maintenance cost by 20%
  • In-house manufacture of renewable energy (RE) units
  • Increase public awareness, education/training on the importance of desalination.
  • Water quality meets drinkable water standards identified by Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA)
  • Develop science related concentrate specific regulations
  • Microbial removal
  • Provide water for supplementary irrigation coupled with greenhouse irrigation
  • Water use in industry
  • Reduce cost of desalinated water by 20%
  • In-house manufacture of RE
  • Maintain stability of reclaimed water over time
  • Brine reuse for other purposes

 

Mid/Long Term Critical Objectives (2030):

  • Reduce capital cost by 50%
  • Increase energy efficiency by 50%
  • Reduce operating cost by 50%
  • In-house manufacture of multi stage flashing (MSF)/Multi Effect Distillation (MED) desalinating plants
  • Develop small desalination units for remote areas
  • Address cumulative issues related to concentrate and enhance regulations
  • Wider water for supplementary irrigation coupled with greenhouse irrigation
  • Wider water use in industry
  • Reduce cost of desalinated water between 60-80%
  • Development of new systems projects
  • Use of nuclear energy for large desalination plants using CANada DUterium Oxide Uranium (CANDU) technology.
Desalination Technologies to Address Critical Objectives: Research Areas with the Greatest Potential

The Roadmapping Team identified three main technology areas where R&D is needed in order to create the next-generation desalination technologies. These technologies and their associated research areas are:

  1. Solar/Thermal Technologies:
  • Design and manufacture of solar stills
  • Application of a reflection reduction solution to the glass of solar desalination units
  • continuous improvement in material enhancement for solar desalination unit
  • Multistage evacuated solar desalination system
  • Multiple effect humidification/ dehumidification at ambient temperature (solar)
  • Solar multistage condensation evaporation cycle
  • Enhancement of reverse engineering of national made (5000 m3/day) MSF (or MED) units (existing 5000 m3/day of Sidi Krir & Euon Mosa could be used for verification)
  • Solar PV-RO system
  • Develop solar ponds for energy and concentrate management
  1. Membrane Technologies
  • Enhancement of in- house manufacture of RO technology
  • Enhanced evaporation through Multistage Condensation Evaporation Cycle
  1. Other Technologies
  • Manufacturing of stand alone small desalination units (1.0 – 20 m3/day)
  • Integrated complex for water production (solar stills), electricity (wind, solar, bio mass), food (greenhouses self sufficient of irrigating water, rabbit, sheep and birds breeding), and salts (chemical salts, artemia & fish nutrients).
  • Ionization of salty water for irrigation
  • Secondary treatment of brine for salt production
  • Integrated complex for water production (solar stills), electricity (wind, solar, bio mass), food (greenhouses self sufficient of irrigating water, rabbit, sheep and birds breeding), and salts (chemical salts, artemia & fish nutrients )
  • The biology of salty water, including understanding of environmental impacts, using bacteria for beneficial treatment, etc.

Expectations of Impacts

Given that the critical objectives that are to be achieved by the roadmap are divided into short-term and mid/long term, it was seen as most suitable to divide the strategic plan for desalination into a strategic plan to achieve short term critical objectives and another strategic plan to achieve mid/long term critical objective

Mid/Long Term High Priority R&D Projects
  • Manufacturing of stand alone small desalination units (1.0 – 20 m3/day). Duration: 10 years, Expected Cost: L.E10 million.
  • Integrated complex for water production (solar stills), electricity (wind, solar, bio mass), food (greenhouses self sufficient of irrigating water, rabbit, sheep and birds breeding), and salts (chemical salts, artemia & fish nutrients). Duration: 5 – 10 years, Expected Cost: L.E 2.5 million.
  • Storage of brackish water aquifers all over the country. Duration: 10 years, Expected Cost: LE 5 million
  • Bio technology using Bacteria, micro, plants…etc, that reduce amount of salt in seawater (e.g. Man-Grove). Duration: 12 years, Expected Cost: 2 million.
  • Combined nuclear power & desalination plants. Duration: 20 years, Expected Cost: 50 million.
Authors: Dr. Abeer Farouk Shakweer

Reham Mohamed Yousef reham.yousef@gmail.com

Sponsors: Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC)
Type: National Technology Foresight Exercise based on desk research and expert opinion
Organizer: Center for Future Studies
Duration: 2006 – 2007
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2030
Date of Brief: June 2011

Download EFP Brief No. 253_Desalination Technology Roadmap 2030

Sources and References

Abou Zaid, Mahmoud, “Desalination in Egypt between the Past and Future Prospects”, The News Letter of The Middle East Desalination Research Center, Issue 9, March 2000.
El-Kady, M. and F. El-Shibini, “Desalination in Egypt and the Future Application in Supplementary Irrigation”, National Water Research Center, Ministry of Public Works and Water Resources, July 2000.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “Raising Water Productivity”, Agriculture 21 Magazine, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, March 2003, http://www.fao.org/AG/magazine/0303sp2.htm

National Research Council “Review of the Desalination and Water Purification Technology Roadmap”, The National Academies Press, Washington DC, January 2003.

EFP Brief No. 252: Egypt’s Water Security – Future Vision 2030 Using Delphi Method

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

This study was an activity within the framework of Egypt’s Vision 2030 project carried out by the Center for Future Studies in the Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center. Using Delphi Method, the study aims at identifying, analyzing and foreseeing potentials of Egypt’s water security as ground to thinking of pilot solutions aimed at evading problems and crisis as well as developing a set of procedures whereby Egypt’s water security is attained.

Increasing Gap between Water Supply and Demand

The Nile stands as Egypt’s main source of water whereby it secures 80% of Egypt’s water yield per year-according to the 1959 Nile Agreement, Egypt’s fixed quota of Nile water comes to 55.5 billion m3/year. In Egypt, water security tops the national agenda whereby studies reveal that estimations of available water and water needs for different purposes are heading towards an increasing gap between water supply and demand, not only because of the anticipated increase of water demand, but also due to the impact of other factors on the available quantity of Nile water. The study at hand contributes to foreseeing the future of Egyptian water security, by analyzing the impact of varied factors influencing Egypt’s water security in terms of the political, economic, environmental, hydrological, legal and strategic aspects,  developing an integrated vision, and forming a new approach for further research in this area and providing comprehensive knowledge.

Combining Forecasting and Delphi

The study applied the “Delphi Technique” – an important qualitative tool of future studies – which relies on collective intelligence and scientific forecasts, by deriving knowledge from a group of experts, directing them to consensus on aspects of the issue at hand, and providing verifications for the relatively extreme positions. This technique was used to identify the main factors of uncertainty that will affect the future of Egypt’s water security, and to forecast potentials of these uncertainty factors, their different expected impacts, and proposed recommendations. A Delphi web site was developed allowing access to 25 experts in the areas of water, economic and political science.

The study also used forecasting (futures analysis) which does not seek foreseeing or planning the future, but rather conducts a set of conditional forecasts or scenarios assuming either the reality or desired ones. Hence, the research does not conclude to achieving any of the aforementioned scenarios but aims at allowing societal players to learn about the requirements of achieving one of the desired scenarios according to their relevant preference in order to work on giving it precedence over other alternative scenarios.

Main Factors Affecting Water Security

Based on the theoretical review of the issue of Egypt’s water security, the most important factors affecting Egypt’s water security were identified by applying Delphi Technique as follows:

  1. Relations between countries of the Nile basin towards either cooperation or struggle:

The regional hydrological system of the Nile basin lacks a comprehensive legal or institutional framework deemed acceptable by all Nile countries because of their conflicting outlook on the legitimacy of the existing agreements and international conventions – the 1929 and 1959 Agreements in specific. Accordingly, countries of the Nile sources divide the River Nile’s water according to the area of River Nile basin passing through the given country, and the contribution of each country to the river’s water yield. However, Egypt and Sudan refuse reviewing the distribution of water quotas in the Nile basin based on calls for justice and equity.

Additionally, some of the Nile basin source countries are calling for enforcing the principle of international water sale on the Nile basin system including that Egypt and Sudan, pay financial compensation in return for their water quotas if they wish to maintain them, while Egypt and Sudan refuse this principle on the ground that water is a socio-economic commodity that should not be subjected to market mechanisms.

On another level, countries of the Nile basin sources reject the condition of advance notification when developing water projects or taking water measures within their national borders, which is seen as necessary by Egypt and Sudan.

  1. Impact of external powers:

External powers, mainly USA and Israel play a crucial role in affecting international water interactions in the Nile basin, and carry out a motivating role for struggle. In this regard, Israel adopts two main strategies: “Quota based system” considering projects involving water that eventually aims that Israel receives fixed water quota from the Nile and “Seizure Strategy” which implies surrounding the Egyptian policy and using water as a pressure card against Egypt and Sudan. European countries, specially Italy, Holland and some Asian countries particularly Japan are playing a motivating role for water cooperation in the Nile basin putting down inclinations towards water related conflicts by providing financial and technical support for a number of water related projects in the Nile countries.

  1. The impact of the separation of South Sudan:

Opinions vary on the impact of south Sudan separation on Egypt’s water security. Some opinions perceive minimum negative impact resulting from the separation on the Egyptian water yield from the Nile and others are seriously concerned about the potential impacts.

  1. Shifts to irrigated agriculture and minimizing pressure on the blue water:

All countries of the Nile sources wish to follow Egypt’s footsteps in terms of cultivating spacious irrigated agricultural areas. However, this type of agriculture requires costly technical expertise. In this context, funding and technical assistance provided through investors, local, regional or international entities might have a hidden agenda for helping poor citizens of the Nile countries, destabilizing some countries and creating tension in a manner that impacts development plans.

  1. Change in the economic:

As a main feature of the Nile basin countries- except Egypt- extreme poverty reflects on the capabilities in terms of providing water related infrastructure. According to 2007 World Bank data, Burundi had the lowest GDP (US$0.97 billion) among Nile Basin countries, whereas annual GDP per capita growth rate was highest in Ethiopia and Sudan at 8.4% and 7.7% respectively. Egypt comes next with a growth rate of 5.2%. Nevertheless, GDP per capita share decreased in Burundi by 0.3% and in Eritrea by 2.3%.

  1. Water reservoirs or control utilities:

If dams are constructed to serve as reservoirs, it is necessary to ensure that the stored water affects Egypt’s water quota in the long term.

  1. Impact of climate change on water of Nile basin:

The most important climate changes affecting the Nile’s water are increasing temperatures which  will cause rising rates of evaporation, and changes in the rates, locations and seasons of water fall will cause the loss of quantities of rain that were to be used in agriculture and human consumption in the northern coast.

  1. Political stability of the Nile basin countries:

Continuous or aggravated forms and indicators of domestic instability in the Nile basin countries will push them to adopt struggle based foreign policies. It is projected that countries of the Nile basin sources will resort to adopting aggressive foreign policies towards both mouth and stream countries-Egypt and Sudan-every now and then. This is in an effort to divert the domestic public opinion away from internal problems and failures suffered in each country relatively.

Egyptian Water Security Scenarios

Given the aforementioned main factors affecting Egypt’s water security, the future of water in the Nile basin will likely be shaped according to three alternative scenarios as follows.

Business as Usual Scenario

The current situation of struggle relations between Egypt and the Nile Basin Countries, will continue but will not escalate to war because of political expertise,  and countries of the Nile basin maintain a reasonable margin of rationality with their neighbours. Furthermore, the domestic political, economic and social circumstances of the Nile basin countries will not permit potential escalation of conflicts.

According to the outcomes of Delphi survey, a change in the current situation of cooperation or struggle regarding water is unlikely (there were no sharp deviations regarding the potential full cooperation or struggles that may escalate to war over water), where 46%, 38% and 50% is the probability of increasing the normal yield of Nile water before 2030 via cooperation where Egypt develops projects in the Ethiopian Plateau, Equatorial Lakes Plateau and Bahr el Ghazal. But the probability of reaching an agreement on some of the conflict areas by amending the existing legal agreements of the Nile basin countries is 48%.

Also, lack of current sufficient funding will affect the ability of benefiting from green water and relieving the pressure off blue water in Nile Basin countries. And in light of the outcomes of Delphi survey, Egypt’s probability of developing projects -in cooperation with donor international organizations-aimed at assisting other countries in benefiting from green water is 49%, 52% and 53% respectively in the Ethiopian, Equatorial Plateaus and Bahr el Ghazal.

It is unlikely that the basin countries will experience an economic boom on the short term, since economic development requires stable political regimes and local, regional and international capital, capacity building, technical calibres and improvement of institutions and laws.

There is low probability of an impact from the separation of south Sudan on Egypt’s yield of the Nile water, as the new State will be bound by all past conventions related to the River Nile. Needless to mention, South Sudan is advantaged with abundant rain which spares it the need for this water. According to Delphi Survey, the probability of a relevant impact on Egypt’s Nile water supply is 45%.

It is likely that climate changes will continue without an impact on the normal yield of Nile water in Egypt, at least during the coming twenty years. According to a study by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2004, there is limited confidence regarding changes in amount and direction of rainfall on the future on the Nile basin countries. Based on the survey results, the probability that climate changes will move the rain belt far from the Ethiopian, Equatorial Lakes Plateaus or Baher Al Gazal are 40%, 35% and 44% respectively.

Optimistic Scenario (Regional Cooperation)

This is the scenario of optimization of available opportunities for developing shared water resources and building a regional water system capable of securing the needs of the region’s countries without undermining the fixed historical and legal rights of some of the countries.

This scenario involves the potential of expanding cooperation areas among Nile basin countries within the Nile Basin Initiative, which includes all ten Nile basin countries, provides an institutional framework for collective cooperation, receives governmental and political support, and pays great attention to projects and mechanisms aimed at building mutual trust among basin countries, as well as capacity building and training projects.

There is an increased possibility of establishing water related projects in collaboration with the basin countries via building and connecting dams on a unified electricity network in those countries, aimed at generating power for agriculture and industrial production purposes rather than storing water and assist in regulating water supply to Egypt. Survey results indicate that probability of completing Gongli Canal is 56%, in addition to the possibility of redirecting Congo River to benefit from its water is 60%.

Pessimistic Scenario (Conflict)

This scenario is based on the possibility that variables motivating struggle will lead to raising chances of conflict of national interests in the Nile basin countries to an extend of inter struggle. The struggle inclination might rise given the following variables:1) A strong and sharp inclination of the Nile basin sources countries towards enforcing the principle of “selling Nile water” to the two countries of the mouth and stream will cause an eruption of international water struggle and wars among the countries.2) Escalated role of the external motivating powers for Nile-Nile struggle based on the following considerations:

Israel will play a motivating role for water struggle in the Nile basin in addition to the indirect role of the USA, where it will work on besieging and pulling the parties of Egyptian policy, on the regional level, in a way that serves coining the American power on the political and strategic levels in preparation for an effective Israeli role.

Countries of the upper Nile basin will seek to constitute external coalitions aimed at changing the current situation; these are mainly Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Separation of south Sudan will be at the expense of projects dedicated to exploiting the wasted Nile water in the Egyptian and joint upper parts, such as the Gongli Canal project.

The political tensions in the Ethiopian Plateau will negatively affect the Egyptian water yield as well as failure to implement any proposed projects. According to the survey, the probability of the eruption of a civil war (due to ethnicity, religion, political or tribal affiliation) in the Ethiopian Plateau and bearing an impact on water projects and management is 53% and 57% respectively.

Based on the Delphi Survey outcomes, the probability of increased Nile basin countries’ demand for Blue water for agricultural, industrial, drinking, tourism, and fish wealth purposes by 2030 in the Ethiopian, Equatorial Plateaus and Bahr El Gazal Region are 60%, 61% and 59% respectively. As for the probability that those countries construct dams or other projects in the Ethiopian, Equatorial Plateaus and Bahr El Gazal Region-to meet the increased demand for water -that will eventual-ly affect Egypt’s Nile water quota by 2030 are 63%, 59% and 54% respectively.

Cooperation for Water Security

  1. Cooperation among the Nile Basin Countries

Regional cooperation should depend on balancing the distribution of benefits and duties in the context of a cooperative Win-Win Approach, which will eventually lead to optimizing the benefits among all Nile countries enabling a relevant improvement and development.

  1. Endorsing the Soft and Diplomatic Instruments

This ensures avoiding the struggle scenario, and can be supported by developing the mutual dependency mechanism between Egypt and Ethiopia via joint projects where Egypt provides the technical expertise in irrigation currently being provided by Israel.

  1. Enhancing Cooperation between Egypt and Sudan

The mutual dependency mechanism between Egypt and Sudan, in light of separation, can be achieved through establishing strong ties with both north and south via joint cooperation in agriculture, power production, health, education and industrial projects in addition to military. This entails developing railways, river naval lines and unified electricity networks, and that Egypt grants southern citizens all advantages equal to Sudanese citizens in terms of education, work, residence, and entry into Egypt, and redrafting the projects to exploit wasted water in the upper Nile in Bahr El Gabal, Bahr El Gazal, and Mashar Swamps situated in south Sudan.

  1. Benefiting from Green Water

This entails that Egypt: cooperates with the international donor organizations for developing projects in the source countries, transfers agriculture technologies to all Nile basin countries by availing technically qualified irrigation and agriculture engineers, and developing rain harvest technologies and introducing selected seeds and chemical fertilizers.

  1. Creating a social, economic, political observatory

This should be in charge of monitoring changes immediately, analysing indicators and presenting relevant plans. In the event of any internal political tensions in the Nile basin countries, Egypt should adopt a neutral position, stimulate mediations in ethnic and border conflicts taking place in the Great Lakes and African Horn regions to evade the potential sensitivities that might emerge due to aligning with any of the conflicting parties.

  1. Egypt’s Role in Developing Economies

It is recommended that Egypt carries out development projects in Nile Basin countries and cooperates with international organizations in areas of improving health care, and eradicating Endemic diseases that affect public health and consequently productivity.

  1. Forecasting the Impact of Climate Changes

Developing a local model for forecasting the impact of climate change on the Nile basin water yield, in cooperation with the British Meteorology Office.

Authors: Dr. Nisreen Lahham   nisreenlahham@idsc.net.eg

Dr. Mohamed Saleh   msaleh@idsc.net.eg

Sahar Sayed Sabry    saharsayed@idsc.net.eg

Sponsors: Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC)
Type: National Technology Foresight Exercise based on desk research and expert opinion.
Organizer: Dr. Nisreen Lahham, Executive Manager, Center for Future Studies, www.future.idsc.net.eg
Duration: 2009 – 2010
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2030
Date of Brief: August 2011

Download EFP Brief No. 252_Egypt’s Water Security

Sources and References

Ayman Alsayed Abdul Wahhab (editor), “River Nile Basin: Cooperation opportunities and problems” (Cairo, Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, 2009).

Mohammad Salman Taye`a, Water Security in the Arab Gulf in a Changing World: between Prerequisites of National Interest and Addressing External Threats, Middle East papers, National Center for Middle East Studies, Vol. 38 October 2007.

Atlas of international agreements on fresh waters, UNEP, FAO, and Oregon University, 2002.

H.J.Brans (ed.), The Scarcity of Water: Emerging Legal and Policy Issues, London, The Hague, Boston, Kluwer International, International Environmental Law and Policy Issues, 1997, 21-39.

Theodore J. Gordon, The Delphi Method, future research methodology – V2.0, AC/UNU Millennium Project.

World Bank, World Development Indicators, Washington, 2007

 

EFP Brief No. 249: Measuring Foresight Impact

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

This brief describes a new instrument for measuring the impact of foresight. The foresight impact measurement instru-ment consists of 54 measures covering a wide range of foresight activities and potential policy and other impacts. This instrument, developed primarily by Ron Johnston and the author, is the result of several sessions with leaders of many of the most active national foresight programmes and includes a variety of types of measurement categories – notably those that align with the policy cycle in terms of positioning foresight for future impacts on policies as they emerge or are developed. It also has been pilot-tested on two Canadian foresight programs – in both cases achieving strong participation rates, high frequency of written comments and positive assessments of most of the measures and very strong endorsements of several key measures. One of the cases, a national foresight project on animal health and food security is described in this brief. Essentially the instrument provides a baseline for interim evaluation – while the experience is still vibrant – and in so doing it can (1) provide a unique mix of qualitative and quantitative feedback for stakeholders, participants and sponsors; (2) be immediately applied if required to making the case for continuity, future foresight funding or new projects; (3) form a credible baseline against which more formal evaluation can be structured later; and (4) help create a key international benchmark data base entry and case example of public sector foresight impact measurements – and thus position the EFP well for the future.

The Impact-Value Challenge

A key recurring challenge for foresight initiatives – projects, programmes and pilots – has been how to actually demonstrate the value of foresight investments for government sponsors and stakeholders – who are mindful of accountability, are asked to justify the value of foresight investments for government mandates and are requested to provide cost-efficiency and cost-effectiveness analysis so that foresight can be compared with other prospective applications of limited government funds.

The methodology elaborated below is a response to this challenge, prepared by Professor Jack E. Smith with input from senior international foresight leaders from the US, Europe (UK, FR, NL, FN) Australia and Asia ( TH, CH, KR, SP). The methodology draws upon discussion papers presented by the author and Professors Jon Calof and Ron Johnston at five international meetings. The challenge was to assess how to effectively measure impacts of foresight for government sponsors, operating in the short to medium term of 1-3 years when ideally these foresight impacts occur over a (mid to long term) five- to fifteen-year time horizon.

Case Study on Animal Health and Food Security in Canada

In September 2011, the Fore-Can Project on Animal Health and Food Security completed a three year foresight-based assessment of major challenges and opportunities associated with the future management of animal health and food security systems in Canada. The project was well received, involved a wide range of stakeholders and effectively engaged key policy advisors and industry leaders. As with many foresight projects, questions of immediate and enduring impact were raised as the end of the project drew closer. Fortunately this timing has coincided with the development of a new series of long and short format impact measurement instruments as part of an international forum of foresight best practices (more below on this).

Accordingly, the Fore-Can management team decided to be the first project to apply the new instruments. The logic for starting to measure impact now is as follows:

  • Impact is a relatively imprecise and general term, which inspires almost as many distinct answers as there are participants – so having a new and fairly comprehensive instrument that can add precision and shape stakeholder thinking while they are still involved is both innovative and appropriate in addressing the diversity of interests.
  • Impact happens at all stages of a project, i.e., during, immediately after and beyond completion, especially if there is a follow-up of projects – often until much later: so a time-flexible and adjustable instrument- linked to current and recent activities and also designed to accommodate later impacts is needed.
  • The approach adopted uses a single instrument – as a long form where commentary plus scoring is solicited and as a short form where numbers of respondents will be larger; the narrative and the quantitative aspects are complementary.
  • It has been designed to apply upon completion when memories are fresh and the knowledge still current; it can also be applied at any point in the future or re-applied as a comparative measure of time dependent impacts.
  • In this way it can be applied today as a current measure of impact and simultaneously as a measure of positioning for future prospective impacts – as assessed by those most involved.
  • This is why it is described as a preliminary baseline impact measurement tool that captures expectations as well as examples.
  • Impact analysis is not the same as an evaluation but may provide needed input especially if baseline data has been collected during or just after completion since most evaluations occur much later.

The Impact Measurement Instruments

The deployment was quite straight forward as follows:

TFCI described the development process and demonstrated the two forms of the impact measurement instrument to the CFIA-led Fore-Can team. The project leader first sent the long form to 54 potential participants – of whom four declined to participate and four responded with many comments plus scoring. The short form was then sent to all, and ten more responses were received – mostly just with scoring of the 50+ variables; based upon the short notice and lack of solicitation before emails were sent, it is positive that 14 responses in total were received out of 50 potential ones. With more advance preparation, this rate of 28% could easily be doubled. TFCI then managed a dual analysis – combining the quantitative and the qualitative responses.

The Measures

The actual measurement, distributed amongst several different lenses (or measure groupings), consists of a total of 54 measures. The first lens or level of impact interest is in terms of general role effectiveness: wherein foresight is seen as generally playing or performing as many as five roles to differing degrees;

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The second set of impact measures, lens or grouping, consists of several general benefits, as perceived main-ly by those directly involved. As the impact data base and diversity of cases grows, differing patterns of pro-tagonist and stakeholder appreciation may emerge.

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A third set of measures is obtained by using a success factor lens, which is especially relevant for foresight process designers and planners:
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A fourth set of lenses consists of seeing foresight main-ly as a macro or meta process, focused on foresight as essentially a learning process and that each foresight project educates someone, and usually all participants. Here the evaluation team collected testimonials, anec-dotes, personal stories etc. In the category “training & skills development” the evaluators acknowledged that foresight is often motivated by sponsors wanting to strengthen readiness, resilience and preparedness skills.
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These categories also give credit to the notion that fore-sight is a key tool for risk assessment and the man-agement of uncertainty.

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And finally, foresight is closely aligned with design and planning. Accordingly, the participants of the evaluation had the opportunity to give account of the changes induced by the foresight exercise such if their organisa-tion achieved new strengths, there was any evidence of foresight in adopted priorities or of new directions with foresight-derived origins.

Alignment with Policy Cycle

Further, in the impact design, three groups of measures were developed – related to successive stages of the policy cycle: pre-policy; policy implementation and post policy. Here the participants had to give a score (# score represents average out of 5 including all scores other than no response).

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The Response

Overall, these preliminary impact results indicate that the project had both a significant impact on participants from a present time vantage point and a well-positioned potential for future impact as expressed by the clear and consistent trend in the results toward impact endorsement in most of the variables examined. The conclusion to be drawn is not only that the project was quite successful in operational terms, but also that its full impact may only be known some years hence, given the strong prospects for future impact that were cited by most respondents.

The lists of the top and bottom five impact elements provide a snapshot both of domains where there is strength or weakness but also reflect a high degree of alignment amongst the respondents. Also of note is that 2/5 of the highest and lowest impacts are from the critical success factors elements (questions # 6-13), and this suggests that the CSF list is a key differentiator of impact – as was intended by Calof and Smith when they undertook their study in 2007.

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Room for Improvements

The findings and the comments together present a consistent picture of a project that was both successful in achieving its intended near-term objectives and is well positioned for future impact and development opportunities. The ratings questions worked well to elicit stakeholder differentiation, which is normally regarded as indicative of a good engagement process, and many of the excellent comments reinforce this.

Because of the clear and generally enthusiastic responses, prospects for continued support from the participants for follow-up activities appear positive.

The combination of a long form and short form for impact assessment was viable, but both formats could be improved. The long format should be tailored to interviews, with some additional guidance provided. While it worked very well to elicit substantive commentary, it clearly was too daunting in terms of the time commitment required for most, particularly in that the impact analysis was an unanticipated additional time commitment for all stakeholders. Given the generally responsive attitudes, it is reasonable to assume that with more lead time, improved instruments, structured impact discussions built into the last meeting and a clear link to next stage development ideas, a response rate of over 60% can be anticipated – double what was received with almost no advance notice and no context preparation. The short format worked very well but likely missed a relatively easy opportunity to obtain short commentary on each of the eight sections of enquiry – thus enabling participants to elaborate the basis for their scores. The next version of the impact instruments will embody these improvements.

Overall, the post project preliminary impact baseline measurement has been very productive: baseline data and a set of premises for future development and evaluation/assessment have been established, and much of the impact experience has been captured in comments and scores that validate the benefits of the project – notably while still vivid and current.

Key Issues Raised Relevant to Policymaking

The main implication is that policy authorities can now have access to a reliable interim foresight impact measurement instrument aligned with stages of the policy cycle – and as experience accumulates with its application, governments can begin to benchmark their foresight project impacts against other projects, nations, fields etc.

Finally, the measures used for examining foresight impacts could be equally applied to most policy staging – so that at least the perception of potential impacts of policies could be measured during the development process rather than waiting for full implementation – when it is likely too late to adjust them.

Authors: Jack Smith, TFCI Canada Inc. and Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, Canada. (JESMITH@TELFER.UOTTAWA.CA)
Sponsors: Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Type: FORE-Can: national foresight project on animal health and food security – measurement phase
Organizer: Dr. Shane Renwick (CFIA SHANE.RENWICK@INSPECTION.GC.)
Duration: 2011
Budget: € 10,000
Time Horizon: 2011
Date of Brief: July 2012

Download EFP Brief 249_Measuring Impact of Foresights

Sources and References

Jonathan Calof, Jack E. Smith, (2012) “Foresight impacts from around the world: a special issue”, foresight, Vol. 14 Iss: 1, pp.5 – 14

EFP Brief No. 246: Foresight and STI Strategy Development in an Emerging Economy: The Case of Vietnam

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

With the purpose of supporting the definition of the Science and Technology Strategy 2011 – 2020 by the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam, a novel approach to policy and strategy development was introduced, combining foresight techniques alongside traditional strategy programming tools. This novel approach is considered useful for application in developing countries with strong planning traditions.

Challenges to STI Policy Definitions in a Developing Country

Vietnam has one of the fastest evolving economies among developing countries. GDP growth was around 7% in the last decade and should continue growing if the country moves beyond the current model based on low labour costs and intensive capital investment. In spite of advances, strengthening competitiveness and productivity presents a key challenge. In social terms, poverty decreased from 58% (1993) to 14% (2008), indicating the capacity of the country to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. There remains, however, a large and increasing income gap. Advances in education and health have been important, but problems of coverage and quality associated to the services provided also remain as challenges.

Recognising the importance of science, technology and innovation (STI) as instruments of development, Vietnam has given them high priority and has defined and implemented corresponding policies and strategies for several years. The process followed an approach consistent with the country’s political context, i.e. based on a strong planning culture, a top-down policy approach and weak monitoring and evaluation systems.

The outcomes of this approach have been mixed. Demanding policies and strategies were defined but had a varying degree of success in terms of extent and quality of implementation and impact.

Recognising the challenges imposed by today’s accelerated technological change, the growing complexity of research and innovation, and obvious limitations of traditional approaches used in policy and strategy formulation, Vietnam requested support from UNIDO to formulate the 2011/2020 STI strategy and better meet its development goals.

The Novel Approach to Policy and Strategy Definition

Responding to the above request, the project developed and applied a novel approach to policy and strategy definition by using foresight as a focusing and policy informing tool, aiming to support, step by step, the preparation of a fully-fledged national STI strategy (UNIDO 2010a) and facilitate the institutional embedding of the foresight and strategy process. Very few cases of foresight exercises are known to focus explicitly on the future shaping of the whole STI system.

The application of the novel approach to shape the STI system requires its components and functions to be explicitly identified. On this basis, it is of crucial importance to ensure, first of all, an effective and efficient operation of the STI system in structural terms (“structural priorities”). More specific priorities can only be tackled if the main STI system functions operate properly.

A second element playing an important role in the context of the definition of policy and strategy are three types of thematic priorities on which to concentrate efforts beyond structural ones: key science domains, technology areas and application fields.

A third element concerns time. Any policy or strategy should target a given time frame, and the targets defined within this horizon should be both challenging and achievable while steps towards defining them need to be clearly defined.

Finally, foresight and STI policy strategy development should be embedded in a comprehensive framework of policy definition.

The approach combines thematically focused and systemic-structural foresight activities, on the one hand, and STI strategy propositions, on the other, implemented in a co-evolutionary manner:   

  • Foresight activities with the purpose of exploring the future development of the STI system at the national level and for specific key technologies, combining exploratory and normative approaches, and devising options and roadmaps for future action.
  • STI strategy propositions to “translate” the findings of foresight into position papers that can be easily fed into the development and formulation of the actual STI strategy. In turn, insights generated in the context of the STI strategy can be fed back into the foresight exercise.

In this approach, foresight activities and the development of the STI policy and strategy are closely intertwined, as shown in Figure 1.

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Figure 1: Proposed Methodological Approach

To ensure a timely transfer of the knowledge generated by the foresight activities into the STI strategy development process, interfaces between the two processes must be carefully designed. Cross-membership between the working groups in charge of foresight and strategy development respectively is an important transfer mechanism, as is the preparation of well-fitted and targeted input papers (position papers) to feed strategy development at key points in time. For the application of the novel methodology five phases can be foreseen, as follows:

Phase 1: Analysis, positioning and exploration of the STI system

In this phase, the relative performance of the STI system is analysed, a preliminary SWOT analysis constructed, and the main current policies and strategies assessed in order to capture the country’s present situation. This phase also explores trends related to contextual local and international developments and drivers that are likely to affect the country’s STI system in the coming years; from these trends and drivers, first exploratory scenarios can then be constructed.

 

On top of these exploratory scenarios, a so-called “success scenario” needs to be developed in order to obtain a first normative orientation and a set of criteria to determine what a desirable future for the country’s STI system might look like. The success scenario also provides the basis for specifying criteria for the selection of technology areas to be analysed in more depth later in the process.

The result of this phase is resumed into a first informing position paper”, which is then fed into the strategy team.

Phase 2: Deepening of the exploration of the STI system using Delphi methodology

The second phase deepens the exploration of the STI system by way of a Delphi enquiry, which is used as a means to interact extensively with the expert and stakeholder communities and to collect further inputs and feedback on three main aspects: a) the trends identified, b) the exploratory and success scenarios developed for the STI system together with their main structural characteristics and deficits, and c) main technology areas of importance to the country.

The Delphi can be implemented in four main blocks: a) scenario assessment and perspectives on success in STI, b) national and international context of the STI system, c) structural challenges in the STI system and d) potential technology areas. As Delphi surveys are difficult to carry out in many developing economies, other types of consultative foresight techniques may be used as alternative options.

The assessments from the Delphi can then be analysed and interpreted in the light of the currently envisaged objectives and targets of the national development plan and strategy in order to trigger a debate to what extent there is actually the systemic capacity in place to achieve what has been formulated as targets.

This phase serves as the basis for preparing a second position paper to provide a deepened SWOT analysis of the STI system, together with first views on possible technology areas to focus on in the next module.

Phase 3: Exploring key technology innovation systems

This phase takes a limited number (5-6) of promising technology areas as its starting point. Based on suggestions from the second position paper and close interaction with the STI strategy drafting team, these areas can be defined with a view to achieving important socio-economic development goals. Apart from identifying and assessing key technologies in these areas, this analysis aims at exploring the systemic requirements that the area-specific STI systems in which these key technologies are embedded have to meet in order to ensure their successful development and application.

The key technology (4 to 5 per area) analysis can be based mainly on panel work and possibly on interviews with additional key experts. Depending on a country’s specific situation, criteria for the selection of key technologies could be, for instance, their relevance to industrial application and to the positioning of the country in international production networks, the relative strength of the country in this key technology or the potential to become an autonomous leader in this key technology as contrasted with being dependent on critical imports.

A third position paper takes into account the findings of this phase and elaborates on the opportunities and requirements in a selected set of key technology innovation systems

Phase 4: Vision and roadmap for STI systems

This phase moves from the analytical and exploratory perspectives adopted in the previous phases towards a more normative perspective on what a desirable future of the STI system could look like, and what steps may be needed to get there.

The panels established in the previous step develop visionary outlooks for the key technology innovation systems they have been dealing with. Building on the insights on requirements for key technology innovation systems, they sketch how these systems should look like within a given time horizon. Similarly, a previously established crosscutting panel should work on a vision at the level of the STI system.

Some harmonisation of the different visions is achieved by a joint workshop of the different panels because the STI system visions should build on sector visions and the sector visions should be framed by the STI system vision. The different visions can finally be compiled in a single document.

A final and fourth position paper can then be prepared to feed the visionary and roadmap-related elements into the policy and strategy development process.

Phase 5: Future-oriented agreements and their implementation

The final phase of the process deals with the conclusion of concrete agreements between actors and stakeholders to undertake specific joint action in line with the STI policy and strategy developed. This phase is already about making first steps towards the implementation of the strategy.

Application of the Novel Approach to the 2011 – 2020 Vietnamese STI Strategy

The main results of the application of this novel approach to the Vietnamese case, between 2010 and 2011 can be resumed as follows:

Phase 1: A STI system and policy diagnosis was obtained (UNIDO 2010b), and a trend analysis and scenarios completed (UNIDO 2010c). A first position paper informed the strategy drafting team on the main results of this phase, emphasising the internal trends and challenges to Vietnam.

Phase 2: A Delphi inquiry was conducted by e-mail, which received little response and was not used for further analysis. This situation restricted the exploration of key technology areas and technology innovation systems to be undertaken in Phase 3, but did lead to their discussion in the strategy panels as reflected in the first draft of the strategy prepared by the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam (MOST) in mid-2011.

Considering the above limitations, position paper 2 put its emphasis on exploring the possibility of realising a success scenario and provided guidelines on how to achieve it.

Further considering that a draft strategy had already been developed by this time, position paper 3 provided inputs that would allow to better embed it into the Five-year National Development Plan (NDP) (2011–2015) that was being prompted for approval.

Position paper 4 identified key STI inputs needed to advance prioritised economic and social sectors, based on a set of priorities put forward in the draft version of the STI strategy of September 2011. The main idea of this position paper was to ensure that the STI strategy would be embedded in the NDP, drawing on the “vision” that had been constructed as part of the latter.

MOST adopted the STI Strategy in April 2012 with some of the limitations that were characteristic of previous strategies, such as its still too general character and lack of more specifically targeted priorities. Nonetheless, the novel approach to policy and strategy definition introduced in the project did incorporate several elements of importance into the final version of the document.

Parallel Foresight and Policy Design Process Most Promising

The social and economic developments that have taken place in Vietnam in the past years have provided a facilitating framework for a novel approach to STI decision-making, combining foresight tools with traditional programming methods.

The rather strong cultural context for policy definitions in Vietnam has limited the full application of the adopted methodological approach, but the process served as a powerful learning technique in the institutions dealing with policy and strategy.

Because of the complexity in the definition of public policies in fostering and strengthening indigenous capabilities to use, adapt, modify or create technologies and scientific knowledge, a parallel foresight and policy design process seems to be one of the most promising approaches to improve decision-making processes in developing countries.

Authors: Carlos Aguirre-Bastos   csaguirreb@gmail.com

Matthias Weber            matthias.weber@ait.ac.at

Sponsors: United Nations Industrial Development Organization, National Institute for Science and Technology Policy and Strategic Studies, Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam
Type: National foresight exercise
Organizer: UNIDO and AIT Austrian Institute of Technology
Duration: 2010 – 2011
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2020
Date of Brief: December 2012

Download EPF Brief No. 246_Foresight and STI Strategy Development for Vietnam

Sources and References

UNIDO (2010 a) Inception Report – Doc. STI-WP0-MOD2-001-v7-010610; 01 June 2010 (prepared by Matthias Weber)

UNIDO (2010 b) The Science, Technology and Innovation System and Policy Analysis – Doc. STI-wp1-MOD3-001-V.4-020610; 02 June 2010 (prepared by Carlos Aguirre-Bastos)

UNIDO (2010c) Trend Analysis and Scenario Development of the Vietnamese STI System – Doc. STI-WP1-MOD5- 012-V.1 – 151210 (prepared by José Miguel Fernandez Güell)