Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

EFP Brief No. 245: Trend Database Design for Effectively Managing Foresight Knowledge

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

In 2010, the German Federal Government launched one of its largest research initiatives in the area of logistics and supply chain management with the central aim to secure tomorrow’s individuality, in the sense of mobility and distribution, with 75% of today’s resources. One of the projects, the ‘Competitiveness Monitor’ (CoMo) develops an innovative, webbased foresight platform, which supports strategic decision-making and contingency planning as well as competitive and environmental intelligence.

Sophisticated Architecture to Support Foresight Processes

The development of an innovative Trend Database (TDB) is part of an extensive cluster initiative that was launched by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research in June 2010. The ‘Effizienz­Cluster LogistikRuhr’, synonym for leading-edge cluster in logistics and mobility in the German Ruhr area, aims to boost innovation and economic growth in Germany by bridging the gap between science and industry (BMBF 2010). The cluster involves 130 companies and research institutes that cooperate in a strategic partnership in order to shape a sustainable future for the region and beyond. The determined challenges of future logistics (e.g., urban supply) are currently being addressed in more than 30 joint research projects. In this way, the cluster contributes to finding new ways to growth and employment that gear not only Germany’s but the European Union’s economy towards greater sustainability (see, e.g., Schütte 2010).

One of the joint research projects is developing an innovative foresight tool, the Competitiveness Monitor (CoMo), which will contribute to the validity and robustness of foresight activities by digitally combining quantitative and qualitative forecasting methods. The CoMo aims to enhance cooperation in multi-stakeholder environments through a fully integrated web-based software solution that utilises existing knowledge and users’ conceptions. The tool links several applications for forward-looking activities as well as the development, processing and storage of foresight knowledge. The goal is to provide decision-makers from business, academia and government institutions with a valid knowledge base for future-robust decision-making.


The CoMo consists of three innovative foresight tools – Trend Database, Prediction Market app and a Future Workshop (“Zukunftswerkstatt”) app – which are implemented in an IT-based Futures Platform (Figure 1). The Futures Platform will serve as login portal in form of a dashboard and can be adapted by each user according to his or her individual interest. Within the TDB, future-oriented numbers, data, and facts on specific logistics-related topics or technologies can be stored or collaboratively developed by its users. Furthermore, the TDB shall not only include trend-related data but also handle weak signals, wildcards and disruptive events. The high practicability of the Trend Database is planned to ensure filtering of the query results through an intelligent algorithm.
Figure 1: Conceptual framework of the Competitiveness Monitor

Development of Trend Database Requirements

In the beginning of the TDB development process, we analysed and evaluated eight relevant TDBs in order to identify the state of the art. After that, we conducted several creative workshops and interviews with more than 40 interdisciplinary cluster partners and futures researchers to identify further requirements.

First of all, we compiled an extensive list of requirements and constraints in several participatory workshop sessions, which are considered relevant to our TDB. After conducting a requirement analysis according to the ‘Volere Requirements Specification Template’ (Robertson and Robertson 2006), we derived four categories and adapted them to the CoMo project concerns: (1) functional requirements, (2) non-functional requirements, (3) design requirements and (4) constraints. Whereas functional requirements describe the fundamental functions and processing actions a product needs to have, non-functional requirements are the properties that they must have, such as performance and usability. We clustered the final long list of 160 collected requirements in 9 categories as presented in the following:

In the next step of the TDB development process, we conducted a stakeholder analysis in order to generate possible use cases. Different use cases were defined according to the specific needs and organisational structures of the CoMo project partners and members of the EffizienzCluster involved. In doing so, we were able to conceptually test and complement the identi-fied requirements and constraints.
Finally, we revised the results of the trend database analysis and specification analysis and summarised our research results in a specification sheet, which now provides a clear and structured collection of TDB features for the programming process of a prototype.

Challenges and Differentiators

For the identification of the key challenges, we evaluated best practices and innovative features of existing TDB concepts regarding their applicability and efficiency. For this purpose, we focused on the surrounding conditions and primary objectives of the presented TDB, determined by its purpose within the CoMo and the cross-project objectives of the leading-edge cluster. We identified four main challenges of utilising a TDB, which we will discuss in the following: (1) extent and quality of trend information, (2) cooperation within the TDB community, (3) linking mechanisms and (4) creating incentives for users.

Extensiveness and Quality of Trend Information

Most of the TDBs analysed provide an extensive set of opportunities to describe and evaluate a certain trend or future signal. Since it is hardly possible to decide without further knowledge about the user’s purpose or what the right amount of information is, we continued to compare the ways in which future knowledge is contributed to the TDB. We see two main strategies within the examined sample of TDBs: (1) input from experts and futures researchers or (2) active participation of the user community. In the latter strategy, information is revised and complemented by the community, which more accurately meets the CoMo objectives of realising cluster potentials. However, in case of low interest in a certain trend, the information may remain fragmentary and lack reliability.

The combination of both strategies seems to be promising since it ensures certain quality standards as the information provided is subject to scrutiny from two sides: an expert review process, on the one hand, and user participation, on the other. Against the background of all our analyses, we propose that providing a certain amount of trend specifications (e.g., short description, key words, time horizon etc.) should be obligatory when entering a trend into the TDB. In addition, the CoMo TDB is planned to offer a regulator for the ‘level of aggregation’, which will enable users to constrain the trend search results regarding time, geography, economic scale and further aspects.

Cooperation within the TDB community

The so-called “wisdom of the crowds” is based on the logic that many people (a “crowd”) know more than single individuals (Surowiecki 2004). Consequently, the sharing of knowledge can improve the knowledge basis of different stakeholders as well. Therefore, it is useful – particularly in dealing with future-relevant knowledge – to motivate users to co-operate and to develop their knowledge further.

Regarding our TDB architecture, users shall therefore evaluate trends in terms of impact or likelihood, participate in surveys or add further evidence or aspects to existing future-oriented knowledge (Kane and Fichman 2009). Especially the stakeholders of the leading-edge cluster, who are aiming to improve their competitive situation through collaboration, are interested in sustaining topicality, validity and relevance of future-relevant knowledge in the trend database. Our TDB is expected to contribute to an improved quality of data and provide a more accurate basis for decision-making processes.

Linking Mechanisms

The CoMo TDB will be linked in three dimensions. First, the trends within the TDB will be linked among each other. This supports users by providing a more comprehensive causal picture of the future and allows decision-makers to identify early warnings and weak signals. Second, the trend database is linked to two other CoMo apps: the Prediction Market and the Future Workshop. Both apps require raw data from the TDB for purposes of evaluation (i.e. prediction markets) or analysis (i.e. future workshops). Furthermore, they define data sources by providing new or evolved future-oriented knowledge, which needs to be re-imported into the TDB. Third, the trend database will be linked to external data pools. Facilitating the idea of linked data, relevant external information can be included, increasing the basis to be drawn on in making future-relevant decisions (Auer and Lehmann 2010). Thereby, we aim to link our dataset intelligently by attaching metadata using the Semantic Web approach. This not only facilitates the process of finding relevant and recent data but also enables identifying related topics.

Motivation of Users

In contrast to the traditional World Wide Web, the application of a Semantic Web offers information that can be sorted by relevance, topicality and quality (Berners-Lee, Hendler et al. 2001). However, the Semantic Web requires the linkage of datasets first. Therefore, users have to be encouraged to tag, for instance, the trend information as good as possible, and the community needs to be motivated to edit and complete the tagging process.

In the process of developing the CoMo TDB, we discussed several concepts and ideas to address the challenges involved in motivating users. One concept that is planned to be applied in the CoMo is the lead users approach (Leimeister, Huber et al. 2009) in which users are incentivized by an awareness of the measurability of their contributions. Considering that most of the existing trend databases use an expert-based concept instead, we infer that this was thought to be the only efficient way of providing and processing future-oriented knowledge so far. However, current tendencies, such as the disclosure of previously protected data (i.e. open source/innovation) or the increasing activity in social networks, suggest that existing concepts need to be adapted to the new requirements forward-looking activities must meet.

Metadata Approach Using the Semantic Web

Future-oriented knowledge as a basis for decision-making is always critical due to its inherent uncertainty. Therefore, innovative concepts and tools need to be developed in order to provide users with the most valid, relevant and up-to-date information possible. With our new TDB concept, we try to acknowledge current challenges such as motivation and collaboration of users, usability of information and modern linkage methods. To meet these challenges, we aim to link our dataset intelligently by attaching metadata using the Semantic Web approach. This not only facilitates finding relevant and recent data but also enables identifying related topics. However, the linkage of the data has to be conducted manually. Thus, motivating users to share their knowledge within the community is essential to provide an accurate and comprehensive picture of the future reflecting the wisdom of the crowd. Finally, we will design our TDB to present future-oriented knowledge in a sufficiently comprehensive and detailed manner with an emphasis on clarity and thereby aim to contribute significantly to the robustness and quality of future decisions.

Authors: Christoph Markmann      

Stefanie Mauksch           

Philipp Ecken                 

Dr. Heiko von der Gracht

Gianluca De Lorenzis      

Eckard Foltin                 

Michael Münnich             

Dr. Christopher Stillings              

Sponsors: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research
Type: National foresight project
Organizer: EBS Business School / Center for Futures Studies and Knowledge Management (CEFU)
Duration: 2010 – 2013
Budget: € 2,300,000
Time Horizon: Long-term
Date of Brief: October 2011

Download EFP Brief No. 245_Foresight Trend Database Design

Sources and References

Auer, S. and J. Lehmann (2010). “Creating Knowledge out of Interlinked Data.” Semantic Web Journal 1.

Berners-Lee, T., J. Hendler, et al. (2001). “The Semantic Web.” Scientific American 284(5): 34-43.

BMBF (2010). Germany’s Leading-Edge Clusters. Division for New Innovation Support Instruments and Programmes. Berlin, Bonn, Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung / Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Kane, G. and R. Fichman (2009). “The Shoemaker’s Children: Using Wikis for Information Systems Teaching, Research, and Publication.” Management Information Systems Quarterly 33(1): 1-22.

Leimeister, J. M., M. J. Huber, et al. (2009). “Leveraging Crowdsourcing: Activation-Supporting Components for IT-Based Ideas Competition.” Journal of Management Information Systems 26(10): 187-224.

Robertson, S. and J. Robertson (2006). Mastering the Requirements Process, second edition. Amsterdam, Addison-Wesley Professional

Schütte, G. (2010). Speech by. Germany’s Leading-Edge Cluster Competition – A contribution to raising Europe’s profile as a prime location for innovation. State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research framework of the European Cluster Conference. European Cluster Conference. Brussels.

Surowiecki, J. (2004). The Wisdom of Crowds, Random House.

Note: The content of this publication is based on the joint research project “Competitiveness Monitor”, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (project reference number: 01IC10L18 A). Joint research project partners are Bayer MaterialScience, BrainNet, dilotec, EBS Business School. Responsibility for the content is with the author(s).

EFP Brief No. 240: BMBF Foresight

Friday, December 21st, 2012

The aim of the BMBF Foresight process that ran from 2007-2009 was to identify long-term priorities for German research and innovation policy with an emphasis on crosscutting systemic perspectives. The foresight process was meant to complement the German High-Tech Strategy, which had defined mission-oriented priority fields with a medium-term horizon. After the finalisation of the foresight process in 2009, an implementation phase with several interacting activities was launched in order to feed the results into other strategic processes. As a next step, BMBF set up an embedded, continuously learning foresight system with dedicated phases that will be repeated by all subsequent processes. Within this framework, the second foresight cycle was launched in early 2012.

Complementing the High-Tech Strategy

Before the first cycle of BMBF Foresight started in 2007, the German High-Tech Strategy (BMBF 2012a) had established a number of priority fields for research and innovation policy with a time horizon of 5-10 years. The foresight process was launched by the BMBF strategy department with the following main objectives:

· complement the High-Tech Strategy with a longer-term perspective on emerging technologies and potential priorities,

· identify emerging issues across established research and innovation fields,

· explore in which areas strategic partnerships might be required.

At this point in time, BMBF had not carried out any overarching foresight process since the FUTUR process (Giesecke 2005), which had been finalised in 2005. As some actors within BMBF had a rather critical view of FUTUR, an important additional objective of the new foresight process was to (re-)establish trust and confidence in foresight within the ministry. Accordingly, high emphasis was placed on communication within the ministry and early-on involvement of all BMBF departments that were potentially affected by the foresight outcomes. The foresight process was accompanied by a process and impact evaluation carried out by the Institut für Technologie und Arbeit (ITA).

Adopting a Technology Push Approach

As described in detail by Kerstin Cuhls in the preceding brief No.174 and in recent publications (Cuhls et al. 2009a), the methodology of the foresight process combined several elements. The most prominent approaches were

· environmental scanning including a literature survey and bibliometric analysis and

· expert interaction through interviews, workshops and a national online survey.

In parallel, a monitoring panel composed of international top experts was interviewed twice in the course of the process.

As requested by the ministry, the foresight process adopted a ‘technology push’ approach. In the first phase in particular, the process concentrated on identifying emerging technologies with long-term relevance to the German economy and society within the established realms of research and innovation. The criteria to assess ‘relevance’ were established in interaction with the ministry.

In the second phase, the emphasis of the foresight process was placed on a second set of objectives: the identification of key issues emerging across these established technology fields. For this purpose, the results emerging from the technology push analysis were systematically reviewed and mirrored against major societal challenges such as sustainability and health. In this way, the seven ‘new future fields’ were developed as described in the previous brief. These fields are characterised by a highly dynamic development at the interface of emerging solutions and societal demand.

Sharpening the Research Dimensions


In line with the science and technology push orientation of the foresight process, the participants were mainly research and technology experts, however, from diverse organisational and professional backgrounds. Along with the numerous national experts, ca. 20 highly renowned international experts from the key science and technology fields under investigation were involved through the international monitoring panel. In one of the conferences that focused on innovation policy instruments, practitioners and researchers in the realm of innovation policy were gathered. In the final phase, when developing the ‘new future fields’, more and more social scientists were involved. So, for instance, in the case of ‘humantechnology interaction’, a workshop with philosophers and sociologists, on the one hand, and engineers and programmers, on the other, was carried out to sharpen the research dimensions (Beckert et al. 2011). Finally, there was intense interaction with actors from various BMBF
departments particularly in the later phases of the process in order to validate and enrich the foresight findings.

Intended Users

The first cycle of the BMBF Foresight process addressed two main user groups. First of all, the process sought to maximise its usefulness to the various departments within BMBF that are responsible for steering the BMBF support to research and innovation in their respective domains. The main benefits envisaged for the departments were the possibility to mirror their own perceptions against the foresight findings, gain an overview of each other’s activities, develop overarching perspectives, and identify potential linkages and possible blind spots. Secondly, the foresight was meant to serve the wider innovation system by providing long-term anticipatory intelligence for orienting strategy building within and among diverse organisations.

Crosscutting New Future Fields

The tangible output of the foresight process consisted of two core reports (Cuhls et al. 2009b and c). One report listed the selected themes with high long-term relevance in fourteen established research and innovation fields. The other report spelled out the seven crosscutting ‘new future fields’ and provided an analysis of key actors in the German innovation system as well as recommendations for policy action within these fields.


The reports were first disseminated within the BMBF and later widely throughout the innovation system starting with a large public conference. Within the ministry, the uptake of the findings was actively supported through dedicated workshops where the project team members presented the findings and discussed the implications with the departments.

Implementing Strategic Dialogues

In order to further facilitate the uptake, two follow-up projects were launched: The first was the ‘strategic dialogues’ where innovation system actors who had been identified in the foresight report jointly discussed options for implementing the findings. In one case (Production-Consumption 2.0), several other ministries, such as the ones dealing with the environment or food and agriculture, were involved in this debate. In a one-day workshop with more than 30 participants, diverse stakeholders debated the transdisciplinary research around the transition towards sustainable production and consumption that had been proposed by the foresight process. Secondly, the ‘monitoring system’ was set up in order to keep track of the evolution of the new future fields and inform the ministry in case further action was needed.

Direct Impact

Within the ministry, the uptake of the foresight results differed according to the type of outcome. In case of the future topics in the established fields, there was initial reluctance within the ministry’s departments as these findings seemed to trespass on their own domains of activity. In several cases, however, the departments perceived the availability of findings from an independent process as a mirror for their own strategic thinking as useful. Several of the topics proposed by the foresight
process were taken up by subsequent BMBF funding initiatives.

In the case of the ‘new future fields’, there was a general appreciation of the ‘bird’s eye view’ across established domains of ministerial activity that the process provided. Several attempts were made to take up the proposed perspectives. As the new fields did not match the existing organisational structures of BMBF, the implementation was not straightforward. This, however, was seen as an asset rather than a problem by the strategic department as the crosscutting perspectives were viewed as long-term guidance for strategic thinking within the ministry rather than an agenda for immediate implementation.

In case of the future field ‘human-machine cooperation’, a new department was created in order to pursue the transdisciplinary perspective proposed by the foresight process. For ‘ProductionConsumption 2.0’, a few smaller seed projects were launched to explore some of the core issues. In both cases, several aspects inspired the BMBF programmes in domains such as production,
environment, security and ICT. Finally, several of the core findings of the foresight process were fed into the strategic debate around the renewal of the High-Tech Strategy, which was taking place in parallel.

In addition, several of the foresight’s suggestions entered the strategic debates in the wider German innovation system. The project team received numerous requests from the governments of the Länder (German states), research institutes and companies to discuss the implications of the ‘new future fields’ on their own strategies.

At the European level, the ‘new future fields’ were recognised with interest as well. At the time, the European Union was seeking to orient its research and innovation activities towards the grand challenges of our time in a systemic manner. In a special event that was organised by the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) foresight group, findings from several foresight processes that sought to connect key technologies and grand challenges in a systemic manner were reviewed, among them the German case (EC 2011). In the context of an EU expert group on the future of Europe 2030/2050, suggestions for such systemic priorities from several countries were compared (Warnke 2012). The review revealed that the German ‘new future fields’ were among the most far-reaching suggestions for integrating technological and societal dynamics into systemic ‘transformative priorities’. At the same time, it was noted that exercises in other countries, such as the ‘Netherlands Horizon
Scan’, had defined some areas that were well in line with some of the ‘new future fields’, such as sustainable living spaces and human-technology cooperation. Nevertheless, the analysis suggested that there are no ‘onesize-fits-all’ systemic priorities as each cultural contextrequires its own specific framing of the issues at stake.

Furthermore, the foresight process attracted considerable international attention, partly due to the fact that there had been substantial involvement of international experts through the monitoring panel and two conferences with international participation. After the process was finished, several countries around the world expressed their interest in both content and methodology.

Finally, within the academic community concerned with the governance of research and innovation and forward-looking activities, the German foresight experience was widely published and presented. In particular, the challenge of generating truly systemic sociotechnical perspectives and feeding such perspectives into governance structures, which are organised according
to their own rationale, created wide interest and debate (cf. e.g. Warnke 2010).

Indirect Impact

As outlined above, paving the ground for embedding foresight into BMBF strategy building was an important objective of the process. The evaluation report confirmed the substantial progress made in this respect. Several actors in the ministry felt that they had benefitted from the foresight process and expressed their renewed openness and positive attitude towards foresight approaches.

Follow-up: Embedding Foresight

As a consequence of the perceived success of the first foresight process and in following up on the recommendations of the evaluation team, the ministry decided to establish foresight within the ministry as a continuous anticipatory learning process.
For this purpose, a ‘foresight system’ was designed and implemented (BMBF 2012 c). This system cyclically evolves through the following phases: scanning, analysis, implementation and preparation of the next cycle. The previous foresight process was considered a pilot for the first cycle.

Furthermore, it was decided that the second cycle should focus on the demand side of research and innovation and therefore primarily explore relevant societal changes that could then be linked to the technological trajectories suggested by the first cycle.

Based on this framework, a call for proposals for the second foresight cycle was launched. A consortium of the VDI Technologiezentrum and Fraunhofer ISI was selected to carry out the project, which started in May 2012 with a new ‘search phase’. Again, the project is being accompanied by an evaluation process conducted by ITA to keep track of lessons learned and to optimise the communication processes. This time, a board comprised of actors from key organisations of the German
innovation system has been set up to accompany the foresight process. From the beginning, the approach and findings are discussed with the BMBF departments on a regular basis. A separate EFP brief will be issued in order to describe this new process in detail.

Download EFP Brief No. 240_BMBF Foresight.

Sources and References

Beckert, Bernd; Gransche, Bruno; Warnke, Philine and Blümel, Clemens (2011): Mensch-Technik-Grenzverschiebung Perspektiven für ein neues Forschungsfeld. Ergebnisse des Workshops am 27. Mai 2009 in Karlsruhe im Rahmen des BMBF-Foresight Prozesses ISI-Schriftenreihe Innovationspotenziale. Karlsruhe

BMBF (2012a) (accessed 15 November 2012)

BMBF (2012b) (Foresight Cycle 1) (accessed 15 November 2012)

BMBF (2012c) (Foresight System) (accessed 15 November 2012)

BMBF (2012d) (Foresight Cycle 2) (accessed 15 November 2012)

Cuhls, Kerstin; Beyer-Kutzner, Amina; Bode, Otto; Ganz, Walter and Warnke, Philine (2009a): The BMBF Foresight Process, in Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 76, p. 1187–1197

Cuhls, Kerstin; Ganz, Walter and Warnke, Philine (eds.) (2009b): Foresight-Prozess im Auftrag des BMBF. Zukunftsfelder neuen Zuschnitts, IRB Verlag, Karlsruhe/ Stuttgart.

Cuhls, Kerstin; Ganz, Walter and Warnke, Philine (eds.) (2009c): Foresight-Prozess im Auftrag des BMBF. Etablierte Zukunftsfelder und ihre Zukunftsthemen, IRB Verlag, Karlsruhe/ Stuttgart.

European Commission (2011): EUR 24796–European forward-looking activities: Building the future of ‘Innovation Union’ and ERA. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union

Giesecke, Susanne (2005) Futur – The German Research Dialogue. EFMN Foresight Brief No. 1.

Warnke, Philine (2012): EFP Brief No. 211: Towards Transformative Innovation Priorities, (accessed 15 November 2012)

Warnke, Philine (2010): Foresight as tentative governance instrument-evidence from Germany. In: International Conference ‘Tentative Governance in Emerging Science and Technology – Actor Constellations, Institutional Arrangements & Strategies’, 28/29 October 2010, Conference Booklet, p. 113.

EFP Brief No. 232: STRATCLU

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

STRATCLU, the ‘entrepreneurial’ strategy process of the German ‘spitzen’-cluster (leading-edge cluster) MicroTEC Südwest meets the needs of multi-actor, multi-governance-level and multi-sector research and innovation (R&I) policies. The forwardand outward-looking process exemplifies how a broad range of regional R&I actors can share and utilise strategic knowledge to identify joint priorities for longer-term, synergistic R&I investments and collective actions, and focus their diverse competences in microsystems as a general purpose technology to tackle societal challenges and enter future markets globally.

Research & Innovation Programmes Addressing Challenges of the 21st Century

In line with a more systemic understanding of research and innovation (R&I) policy (OECD 2005), the respective support programmes introduced the perspective of global, societal challenges to be tackled by scientific and technological breakthroughs. The German government, for instance, launched its High-Tech Strategy 2020 (HTS 2020) in 2006 with the aim to make Germany a leader when it comes to solving global challenges (climate/energy, health/nutrition, mobility, security, communication) and providing convincing answers to urgent questions of the 21st century. The German Strategy for Internationalisation of Science and Research stresses that, to realise optimised solutions to these challenges, it is necessary to leverage science and innovation potential worldwide. In the same vein, the Europe 2020 strategy and its flagship initiative “Innovation Union” aim at refocusing R&I policy on the challenges facing society, and the EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 asks the member states and regions to develop innovation strategies for smart specialisation. The ‘entrepreneurial process’ of developing regional innovation strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3) (Foray et al. 2009) focuses on unique regional assets with a view to developing competitive products and services in international markets. If the different RIS3 are developed in alignment with the European context, synergies can be leveraged to further develop the European Research Area.

Against this backdrop, clusters as local nodes of global knowledge flows and ‘innovative hot-spots’ in globalised value chains provide the base not only for developing technological answers to the urgent problems of the 21st century but also for producing adequate, strategic knowledge for cutting-edge (and trans-regionally aligned) R&I programming (Sautter/Clar 2008). In 2007, the German government launched the ‘spitzen’-cluster competition as the flagship of the HTS 2020 and cornerstone of the national Strategy for the Internationalisation of Science and Research to support the development and implementation of future-oriented R&I strategies. The overall objective is to tackle key societal challenges and thus position the ‘spitzen’-clusters in the global knowledge economy and make them attractive for talented, creative people as well as innovative companies and forward-looking investors. MicroTEC Südwest in Germany’s south-western state of Baden-Württemberg and one of the winners of the competition started a forward-looking cluster strategy process inspired by the Strategic Research Agenda of the European Technology Platform on Smart Systems Integration (EPoSS), and focused on the priority fields of the German HTS 2020: climate/energy, health, mobility, security, communication.

‘Spitzen’-Cluster Strategy on Smart Microsystems Technology (MST) Solutions to Global Challenges

The MicroTEC Südwest cluster, closely linked withneighbouring parts of France and Switzerland, covers the competences needed along the value chain of the GPT (General Purpose Technology) miniaturised systems: from basic research, for instance in nano-, micro- or bio-technologies, to the design and production of smart microsystems, to the integration of such systems in ‘intelligent’ products (e.g. driver assistance systems in cars or point-of-care diagnostic systems in the healthcare sector). Besides global players like Bosch and Roche Diagnostics, the 350 actors involved in the cluster include top universities and research centres, and many small and medium-sized enterprises.

In order to focus the different competences on synergistic R&I investments, a ‘spitzen’-cluster proposal was developed with two application-oriented priorities to generate breakthrough innovations in global lead markets (health and mobility) and two technology-related priorities to develop and produce next generation microsystems for future fields of application. The funds (50-50 public-private) for implementation amount to nearly 90 million EUR, from national and regional ministries, regional bodies and enterprises.

The MicroTEC Südwest proposal was highly evaluated in the competition not only for the quality of its research projects but also for its additional structural projects on innovation support, qualification and recruitment, internationalisation and the STRATCLU strategy process.

From Ad-hoc Strategy Building to Systematic Learning Cycles

The STRACLU project has been set up to advance the successful ‘spitzen’-cluster project and to broaden and consolidate the participative decision-making process in the cluster. Stakeholder groups (cluster board, strategy panel etc.) have been established and strategic policy intelligence (SPI) tools combined in a learning cycle with three main stages:

· Stock-taking (incl. outward-looking): Review of cluster position in the global context (major SPI tools: audit, evaluation, benchmarking)
· Forward-looking: Longer-term perspectives & priorities (foresight, impact assessment)
· Action-planning: Roadmaps with milestones and specific joint actions (roadmapping, GOPP)

An operational learning cycle has been put in place as well to monitor the implementation of the joint actions. With these learning cycles, STRATCLU both guides individual actors in their strategic decision-making and develops MicroTEC Südwest itself into a learning ‘smart innovation system’, which continuously

· identifies global challenges and promising future markets,
· formulates long-term and ‘open’ RTDI strategies for smart MST-based solutions,
· builds local competences and capacities, looks for strategic partners along global value chains,
· encourages key local and global actors to join forces in common strategies and thus
· ensures long-term success in global competition.

MicroTEC Südwest AGENDA 2020+

Related to the national priorities of the HTS 2020, and based on detailed science and market analyses, the investigation and discussion of global trends and an assessment of their specific impacts along the strategic learning cycle (fig. 1), the MicroTEC Südwest strategy panel prioritised a joint AGENDA 2020+ with the following five major crosscutting priority fields for R&I, and an additional focus on cross-industry innovation and education and training.

These five R&I-related priority fields for smart MSTbased solutions address and leverage synergies across all key application fields (in particular with regard to the national priorities of the HTS 2020).

This topic was assessed as the most relevant. The renaming of the microsystems technology (MST) division of the German Ministry of Education & Research into Demographic Change: Human-Technology Interaction in the context of the German BMBF Foresight Process (Cuhls 2010) underlines the relevance of this issue. The big challenge is to develop smart MSTbased solutions adapted to people’s needs and providing them with real value added.

Here, the focus is on the integration of smart systems in superior systems: from smart systems to smart things like cars to comprehensive systems such as the transportation system (cf. cyber-physical systems or Internet of Things). The big challenge is to handle the increasing complexity that comes with a higher degree of system integration.

Energy converters (e.g. important for energy harvesting) and storage along with self-sustaining systems are preconditions to realise the systems-of-systems approach and to develop mobile and functional intelligent devices.

In the future, the production of smart systems and things has to be closely related to mass-customisation in order to provide the users (consumers) with wellcustomised and cost-efficient solutions.

Resource efficient production and consumption systems, total life cycle assessment (including the recycling stage) etc. are important issues in this priority field.

Roadmaps to Tackle Societal Challenges

Continuing along the strategy cycle, the AGENDA 2020+ provides the strategic framework for roadmapping exercises at multiple levels: Cluster actors develop R&I roadmaps towards market-focussed and MST-based breakthrough innovations to tackle societal challenges in prioritised joint action areas (e.g. in personalised medicine, factories of the future or green cars). These roadmaps will be aligned with other roadmaps, for instance of the European Technology Platforms EPoSS or MINAM, and integrated in the MicroTEC Südwest Cluster Roadmap 2020+, which involves also horizontal support measures like qualification, recruitment etc. and will be communicated to public and private investors (‘agenda setting’). Furthermore, the roadmaps will be transferred to SMEs in the cluster to support them in their own longer-term business development and R&I investment strategy.

Taking a Big Step Towards Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth

The participative forward- and outward-looking strategy process in the German ‘spitzen’-cluster MicroTEC Südwest shows successfully how regional R&I consortia can share and utilise strategic knowledge to identify joint priorities for longer-term, synergistic investments and collective actions. By enabling actors to systematically develop future strategies together, to asses them and develop actorspecific, synergistic approaches to successful implementation, the overall risk of longer-term R&I investments can be reduced significantly, for the current participants and for foreign direct investment.

The strategy approach of MicroTEC Südwest meets the needs of (new) future-oriented, multi-actor, multigovernance level and multi-sector R&I policies in manifold ways. First, it focuses local competences in a general purpose technology on tackling grand societal challenges with the aim of entering global markets. Second, it strives to attract complementary competences and foreign direct investment from other regions, and to work together with strategic partners along global value chains. Third, it combines ‘bottom-up’ with ‘topdown’ activities by taking up and assessing external inputs from a regional perspective: for instance, the German High-Tech Strategy or the BMBF Foresights, European and other R&I policies and strategy processes, such as Joint Programming Initiatives or the Japanese NISTEP Delphis, respectively. Against this backdrop, the MicroTEC Südwest approach can be seen as a test bed for an ‘entrepreneurial process’ suggested by the European Commission to develop regional smart specialisation strategies and to capitalise on them to advance the European Research Area.

To fully benefit from the regional assets across Europe, strategic capacity building has to be strengthened, not only in Europe’s world-class clusters. If more clusters such as MicroTEC Südwest develop and align their longer-term strategies in order to raise, structure and optimise overall private and public (EU, national, regional) investments, with one focus on pooling forces and jointly tackling common challenges, a big step could be taken towards smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Download: EFP Brief No. 232_STRATCLU.

Sources and References

Cuhls, K. (2010): The German BMBF Foresight Process, in European Foresight Platform, EFP Brief No. 174.

Foray, D., David, P.A. and Hall, B. (2009): “Smart specialisation: the concept”, in Knowledge for Growth: Prospects for science, technology and innovation, Report, EUR 24047, European Union.

OECD (2005): Governance of Innovation Systems: Volume 1: Synthesis Report, OECD Publishing.

Sautter, B., Clar, G. (2008): Strategic Capacity Building in Clusters to Enhance Future-oriented Open Innovation Processes, in The European Foresight Monitoring Network, Foresight Brief No. 150.

Web links for more information:

EFP Brief No. 224: Technology Radar: Early Recognition of New Business Fields in Future Markets

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

New technologies are changing the market. All the more important it is for a company not to miss any relevant future technology. In the years 2009 and 2010, a global German high technology company used the support of the FutureManagementGroup AG to identify the ten most important emerging technologies in each of its four business units. The technologies should lie outside the current core technologies. The goal of the project was the early recognition of future markets in these technologies. For this purpose, we used a broad toolset in accordance with the Eltville Model of future management.

Future Management

The FutureManagementGroup AG (FMG), founded in 1991, is an international group of experts specialised in future management and the early recognition of opportunities in future markets. Using the “Eltville Model” and various future management methods and tools, we built a methodological bridge from management practice to futures research and back to daily business. Future management comprises the entirety of all systems, processes, methods and tools for early perception and analysis of future developments and their inclusion in strategy.


Figure 1: Future management as a bridge

Future management makes it easier, and in many cases possible at all, to use the results of futures research as a resource for orientation and inspiration in a business context.

The Five Futures Glasses

We use the “Eltville Model”, which offers a set of five distinctive and clear views on the future. We call them “the five futures glasses”. Each of the five futures glasses has its own specific characteristics, principles and modes of thinking:

  • The blue futures glasses look at the probable future → assumption analysis.

The guiding question is: How will our market(s), work and living environments change in the next five to ten years?

  • The red futures glasses look at possible surprises in the future → surprise analysis.

The guiding question is: How should we prepare for possible surprising events and developments in the future?

  • The green futures glasses look at the creatable future → opportunity development.

The guiding question is: Which opportunities for new markets, products, strategies, processes and structures will arise from these changes?

  • The yellow futures glasses look at the desired future → vision development.

The guiding question is: What does our company need to look like in five to ten years time in the sense of a strategic vision?

  • The violet futures glasses look at the planned future → strategy development.

The guiding question is: How do we need to design our strategy to realise the strategic vision?

The five futures glasses form the process model of the Eltville  Model. You cannot wear all five futures glasses at the same time or the future will remain unclear and confusing. You need to put your different futures glasses on one after the other to form a effective working process.

The second essential component of the Eltville Model is the results model, a semantic network of objects of thought that are used (future factors, assumptions, surprises, opportunities etc.)

The Eltville Model has been developed through research and in more than a thousand workshops and projects with leading corporations as well as with non-profit organisations around the world. It is a unique model that consistently resolves the confusion concerning the future, creates clarity and provides a productive way of working with sound insights and results.

Looking for Amazing Technologies

The most important goal of the project was to identify “amazing technologies” outside a client’s current capabilities but with a potentially high impact on the existing business of the client. We were asked to evaluate the exact relevance of these technologies for the client’s business to deduce new market opportunities of these technologies and evaluate their potential.

Our solution to accommodate these needs was a “future business radar”. The focus was on the blue futures glasses (assessment of technologies) and the green futures glasses (development of opportunities). Less focus had been given to the yellow futures glasses (assessment of opportunities and decision, which opportunities should be pursued). Not included were the violet futures glasses: With the completion of the project, the business units have individually taken responsibility for developing the strategy to enter the future markets that were identified as relevant to their business.

Technology Radar: the Project Process

Function Maps

After the definition of the project goals and the project timeline, the first step was the analysis of functions delivered by the four business units. In contrast to a product or a solution, a function describes the effects that a product is actually bought for. Questions to think about to identify the functions of a product are:

  • What is it that your customers actually pay for when they purchase your product?
  • What is the actual use that your customers would like to obtain from your product?

Concentrating on the functions opens up completely new business opportunities even for the combination of products with other products from outside the current portfolio. Functions can be described at three levels:

  1. Super-functions: Functions that are indirectly fulfilled by a product or service, for example through integration into other products (e.g. personal mobility in case of all automotive parts)
  2. Primary functions: Core functions of a product or service for which it was invented. The main reason for its existence (e.g. sealing).
  3. Secondary functions: Additional functions the product or service fulfils beyond its core use. They often are the decision criteria of customers if several products can fulfil the primary functions reasonably well (e.g. convenience, cost saving).


Figure 2: Levels of functions

The relevant functions were developed in a workshop with the project team consisting of representatives of all business units and enhanced through independent analysis by FMG. The functions were then transferred to visual maps, reviewed by the business units and jointly further developed by FMG and the project team.

Long List of Technologies:
Which Ones Are Potentially Relevant?

The long list of technologies was developed from extensive secondary research. All technologies that are described in current literature as emerging and/or as gaining importance in the future where considered for the long list. The single selection criterion for inclusion in the long list was the existence of a conceivable relation to a single function of one of the business units. The connection of a technology to a function is a valid indicator for its potential relevance. It shows that the technology can change the way in which the function is performed in the future. It can provide new solutions and products as well as change business models, thus changing value creation in the market. A total of 180 potentially relevant technologies have been identified.

An important source in the desk research was the FMG-FutureNet, a semantic database of futures knowledge. It is a knowledge network, modelled on the human brain, in which items of future information are saved and linked. We structure the available future knowledge and evaluate, summarise, substantiate and meaningfully link the individual items of futures information. In addition, we add information gained in our projects. As a result, the FMG-FutureNet has become a unique database of future markets.

For the technology radar project, we additionally evaluated websites, studies, books and magazines.

Short Lists of Technologies:
Evaluation of Technologies

The technologies from the long list were evaluated along two criteria: “impact on industry” and “reasonable time horizon”. The initial evaluation was done by representatives from the business units on a 9-point scale. A second evaluation was performed by FMG leading to some technologies with low rankings to be reconsidered. After a structured discussion process, each business unit selected ten technologies for deeper analysis. In total 32 different technologies were analysed and the results summarised in technology briefings.

Identification of Future Market Opportunities

A future market is a solution for important future problems or desires of certain people that develops or will generate significantly more revenue in the future. Examples of future markets include augmented reality glasses for smartphone users, robots that carry luggage and equipment for the military, or affordable space tourism for adventure travellers. The difference between a future market and a future trend or future technology is that one can additionally imagine which concrete solution people would actually be prepared to pay for and how you can make a profit out of it.

Future market opportunities were developed through analytical and creative thinking, including input like future factors and methods like meta-opportunities, which we would like to introduce here briefly.

Future factors are trends, issues and technologies that act as the driving forces of future change and allow us to collect knowledge about the future. They are based on existing knowledge of experts and futurists on possible and probable future developments. Future factors give indications on what, why and how the future is changing. Two types of future factors are important for the early recognition of future markets:

  1. Future factors in nature, society, business and politics that change the needs of end consumers. Examples are climate change, feminisation, entrepreneurisation, flexibilisation or globalisation
  2. Future factors in technology and science that will change processes and methods as well as products, services and solutions. Examples are nanotechnologies, dematerialisation, informatisation, micro-system technology, robotics or neurotechnologies.

Future factors primarily represent the view through the blue futures glasses but can also be used as a technique to support creative thinking. This is especially fruitful when future factors have no direct relation to the client’s industry.

Meta-opportunities are repetitive patterns that are recognisable in many future opportunities. These patterns are recipes and shortcuts for opportunity recognition. They illustrate models of best-practice thinking and stimulate the search for opportunities. Through the use of meta-opportunities, productivity and the value of opportunity development can be increased considerably.

Subsequently, the identified and developed future market opportunities were set in relation to the business units and to the functions fulfilled by the business units in particular. In addition, the technologies were analysed for the interrelations among each other. From 98 raw future market opportunities, ten were selected for each business unit to be described in a short portrait. The criterion of choice was the estimated market potential. The selected future markets were described following four main questions:

  1. Which problem is solved? Which desire is fulfilled?
  2. What is the solution?
  3. Whom is the solution delivered to?
  4. How is the solution special?

Finally, the time horizon of the future markets was evaluated from a technical and a demand perspective; the markets were classified in terms of their distance from current capabilities.

A Strong Case for Function-based Technology Assessment

An important goal of the project was not to miss any relevant technology. This was ensured by an overview scan and the analysis of the results of futures research concerning the emergence and further development of new technologies. Simultaneously, the technology radar served as a future business radar, as it identified the most promising future markets that lie in the most important technologies. Out of 180 technology candidates that were included in the long list, we created 41 differentiated and in-depth future market portraits.

The project has shown how function-based technology assessment can contribute to identify relevant technologies outside current competencies and businesses – an essential requirement to recognise potentially profitable future markets.

The most promising of the recognised future markets needed to be explored in more detail. Future markets can only be considered as realistic if there are enough arguments for their future market potential. Therefore, the next step for each business unit was to do detailed future markets research for selected markets. The future


Figure 3: Map of results

markets research provides a solid analysis of market prospects, key challenges and possible business models. It thus allows sound investment decisions for the development of a future market.

Authors: Enno Däneke   

Stefan Schnack

Sponsors: A German high technology company
Type: Sectoral forward-looking analysis
Organizer: FutureManagementGroup AG, Eltville, Germany
Enno Däneke,
Duration: 2009 – 2010
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2020
Date of Brief: July 2012

Download: EFP Brief No. 224_Technology Radar Eltville

Sources and References

Mićić, Pero (2010): The Five Futures Glasses: How to See and Understand More of the Future with the Eltville Model. Houndsmill, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave McMillan.

Mićić, Pero (2007): Phenomenology of Future Management in Top Management Teams. Leeds: Metropolitan University.

Mićić, Pero (2006): Das ZukunftsRadar. Die wichtigsten Trends, Technologien und Themen für die Zukunft, Offenbach: GABAL-Verlag.

For further information on future management, the Eltville Model and the Five Futures Glasses, please visit:


EFP Brief No. 213: Material Efficiency and Resource Conservation (MaRess) Project

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

In order to successfully provide relevant groups with political support for implementing resource efficiency, one needs to know where to start best, thus, where the highest potentials are likely to be found. Addressing four key issues, MaRess identified potentials for increasing resource efficiency, developed target group-specific resource efficiency policies, gained new insights into the effects of policy instruments at the macro- and micro-economic level, provided scientific support for implementation activities, engaged in agenda setting and communicated findings to specific target groups. This paper presents the overall results of Work Package 1 (WP1) with regard to the potential analyses of the identified technologies, products and strategies. The results were gained from research conducted in the context of a graduate research programme, which was embedded in a network of experts who were involved in the analysis.

The Starting Point

The extraction and exploitation of resources, the associated emissions and the disposal of waste are polluting the environment. The increasing scarcity of resources and the high and fluctuating prices of raw materials can lead to major economic and social dislocations, combined with a growing risk of conflicts over raw materials. Competitive disadvantages arising from the inefficient use of resources endanger the development of businesses and jobs. A strategy for increasing resource efficiency can limit all these problems, which is why this subject is increasingly becoming a key issue in national and international politics. As yet, however, consistent strategies and approaches for a successful resource efficiency policy have been lacking.

Against this background, the German Federal Environment Ministry and the Federal Environment Agency commissioned thirty-one project partners, under the direction of the Wuppertal Institute, to carry out the research project Material Efficiency and Resource Conservation (MaRess, project number 3707 93 300, duration 2007 to 2010).

The project aimed at advancing knowledge with respect to central questions of resource conservation, especially the increase of resource efficiency with a focus on material efficiency. Therefore, the most interesting technologies, products and strategies for increasing resource efficiency were identified in a broad, multi-staged, expert-driven process. After that, their concrete saving potential was determined. The potential analyses were carried out as part of a graduate research programme in the wider context of an expert network and expert-based analytical process. After their finalisation, the results of the single potential analyses were analysed in an intense discourse and cross-evaluation process. Finally, issue-specific as well as overarching recommendations for action were concluded.

Identifying Topics with High Resource Efficiency for Germany

Selection of Topics

The process of topic selection aimed at identifying technologies, products and strategies that are expected to carry high resource efficiency potential in Germany. In this respect, a complex expert-based methodology for evaluation and selection was developed that included four steps:

Step 1 “Broad collection”: Identifying topics via desk research and surveys.

Step 2 “Pre-evaluation”: Evaluation of about 1,000 proposals by three criteria: resource input, resource efficiency potential and economic relevance to end up with a focussed topic list (“Top 250 topics”)

Step 3 “First evaluation”: Expert evaluation along seven criteria: resource input in terms of mass relevance, resource efficiency potential of the specific application, other environmental impacts, feasibility, economic relevance, communicability and transferability.

Step 4 “Selection”: The final selection of the “Top 20 topics” was carried out in cooperation with the German Federal Environment Agency.

Potential Analysis as Part of a Graduate Research Programme

Altogether, potential analyses were performed with reference to 20 relevant topics (“Top 20 topics“), which are expected to carry high resource efficiency potential. Methodologically, the resource efficiency potentials were quantified according to the concept “Material Input per Unit of Service (MIPS). Therefore, the potential analyses are based on resource use across the whole life cycle for up to five resource categories. They determine the concrete potential for increasing resource efficiency in each case. Besides the assessment along quantitative results, a qualitative evaluation was carried out to capture, among other things, possible rebound effects and constraints to the dissemination of the application. The qualitative evaluations are based on publications, statistics and expert opinions.

After the finalisation of the potential analyses carried out by the students, the advisors pre-evaluated the theses. Furthermore, an internal evaluation workshop was held to assess the pre-evaluated potential analyses of the WP1 partners according to the seven criteria outlined in Step 3 and the guidelines for potential analysis in an overarching frame. The results of each individual thesis were discussed and specific, overarching recommendations for action were concluded.

From Water Filtration to Resource Efficiency Business Models

Seven fields of action were worked out in the course of the criteria-based cross-evaluation in which central results and recommendations for action for the individual potential analyses were merged. Each field of action summarises several closely interrelated topics from the potential analyses. The selective assignment of the topics is not always possible and there are complex interdependencies between the individual fields of action. Table 1 gives and overview of the fields of action and the potential analyses:

Fields of action and assigned potential analyses
Cross-sectional technologies and enabling technologies: “Door openers” for resource efficient applications

Assessment of resource efficiency in grey water filtration using membrane technologies

Resource-efficient energy storage: comparison of direct and indirect storage for electric vehicles

Resource efficiency potential of energy storage – resource-efficient heat storage

Resource efficiency potential of insulation material systems

Renewable energies facilitate substantial resource savings

Resource efficiency potential of wind and biomass power

Resource-efficient large-scale energy production: potentials of Desertec

Resource-efficient energy production by photovoltaics

The growing ICT market needs a careful resource management

Green IT: resource efficiency potential of server-based computing

Green IT: resource efficiency increase with ICT – comparison of displays

Resource efficiency potential of recycling small electric and electronic appliances by recoverage from household waste using radio frequency identification (RFID) labelling of primary products  

Food – both production and consumption need to be considered

Resource efficiency potential in food production – example: fish

Resource efficiency potential in food production – example: fruit

Resource efficiency potential in food production – example: vegetables

Resource efficiency potential of intelligent agricultural technologies in the example of the use of nitrogen sensors for fertilization

Traffic – infrastructure bears higher resource efficiency potential than drive systems

Assessment of resource efficiency potential in freight traffic

Resource efficiency potential of electric vehicles

Integrating resource efficiency into product development

Consideration of resource efficiency criteria in product development processes

Resource efficiency potential of implementing light-weight construction using new materials

Resource efficiency potential of high-strength steel

Resource efficiency-oriented business models: product-service systems require rethinking

Resource efficiency potentials of new forms of “using instead of possessing” in assembly facilities

Resource efficiency potential of production on demand

Tab. 1: Overview of fields of action and potential analyses

Stronger Networking among Potential Partners and Early Industry Involvement

The topics worked on (“Top 20“) ought to be understood as the beginning of a systematic and encompassing analysis of resource efficiency potentials concerning our social and economic activities. Even though representing central and resource intensive sectors, the topics analysed naturally represent only a small selection from the totality of relevant topics and those that were identified and pre-assessed by the experts during the first expert workshop. Furthermore, some questions remain open and new questions were raised with regard to the topics addressed. Moreover, those topics presented in the expert workshop but not chosen for further analysis and those chosen at the workshop (“Top 50“) bear promising potential, which ought to be analysed in the future. There is also a need to study focus areas based on further case studies (e.g. central fields such as construction, living or food and nutrition).

The analyses also demonstrate the need to make greater use of or develop suitable arrangements (such as networks) to involve industrial partners at an early stage. On the one hand, the existing network of the MaRess project needs to be strengthened; on the other hand, further forms and consortia need to be established (e.g. with a stronger focus on sector-specific topics). This aims at ensuring that the project stays in touch with matters of implementation and feasibility regarding the potentials analysed.

Due to the broad range of topics and the possibilities for increasing resource efficiency in diverse sectors, the network of universities integrating the paradigm of resource efficiency in research and training ought to be expanded considerably. It would also be desirable to extend the circle of participating universities.

The Virtual Resource University

So far, in university education, only few departments and specialist areas offer programmes (e.g., lectures, seminars, projects) in the field of resource efficiency. Therefore, there is much room for increasing the number of programmes offered while they also need to be better integrated into existing curricula. To foster the broad integration of resource efficiency into university training and research, activities for the establishment of a “Virtual Resource University” (from innovation to implementation research) need to be started.

The results of the project will be documented in a comprehensive form in a final report and the central results are planned to be published in a book. Besides, the results of WP1 will be made use of in other work packages of the MaRess project and in the Network Resource Efficiency.

Authors: Dr. Kora Kristof             

Holger Rohn                  

Nico Pastewski             

Sponsors: German Federal Environment Ministry

Federal Environment Agency

Type: National foresight exercise to increase resource efficiency and conserve resources.
Organizer: Dr. Kora Kristof, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, D-42103 Wuppertal, Döppersberg 19, phone: +49 (0) 202 2492 -183, email:

Holger Rohn, Trifolium – Beratungsgesellschaft mbH, D-61169 Friedberg, Alte Bahnhofstrasse 13, phone: +49 (0) 6031 68 754 63, fax: – 68, email:

Nico Pastewski, Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO, Nobelstr. 12, D-70569 Stuttgart, phone: +49 (0) 711 970 -2222, fax: -2287, email:

Duration: 2007-2010 Budget: ca. 540,000€ Time Horizon: N/A Date of Brief: July 2011  


Download EFP Brief No. 213_Material Efficiency and Resource Conservation

Sources and References

For information and downloads on the MaRess project and its findings please visit:

EFP Brief No. 203: Competitiveness Monitor: an integrated Foresight Platform for the German Leading-edge Cluster in Logistics

Monday, December 5th, 2011

In 2010, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research launched Germany’s biggest research initiative in the area of logistics and supply chain management. A broad range of companies and research institutes are participating in a cluster aimed at shaping a sustainable future for the region, the logistics industry and beyond. We will present the current concept of the joint research project Competitiveness Monitor, its planned architecture, and its expected contribution to the cluster, the foresight field, and the community involved.

The Leading-edge Cluster in Logistics

The EffizienzCluster LogistikRuhr is synonymous for the leading-edge cluster in logistics and supply chain management (SCM) in the German Ruhr area (larger Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region of more than 12 million people in North Rhine-Westphalia). Like all leading-edge clusters, it aims to boost innovation and economic growth in Germany by bridging the gap between science and industry (BMBF 2010). Through strategic partnerships between research institutions, companies, and other stakeholders, it fosters research with innovative potential relevant for future developments. Although leading-edge clusters are regional concentrations within Germany, they contribute to finding new ways to growth and employment that gear not only Germany’s but the European Union’s economy towards greater sustainability.

The global goal of the EffizienzCluster LogistikRuhr is to secure individuality in terms of mobility and distribution in the world of tomorrow with 75% of the resources required today. Supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, the cluster aims at utilising the joint innovation capacity of scientific institutions and a variety of companies, including many small and medium size enterprises. In their work, the cluster participants address the conflict between future individuality (i.e. the demand side) and resource scarcity (i.e. the supply side).

More than 130 stakeholders from academia and business are participating in order to tackle the three central challenges: (1) efficient management of resources, (2) secure urban supply and (3) facilitation of individuality in mobility. In order to reduce the complexity associated with these challenges, each joint research project belongs to one of seven lead topics. These lead topics represent the central innovation schemes enabling the cluster to realise its ambitious target. Figure 1 illustrates the seven lead topics and their strategic position in relation to the three challenges identified.

As illustrated in Figure 1, different lead topics have different strategic roles in tackling the three central challenges. In this paper, we focus on the lead topic ‘Activation of Cluster Potentials’ as this is the area where the Competitiveness Monitor (CoMo) belongs and to which it contributes. The research project CoMo has set out to develop a foresight toolbox that builds futures knowledge around the three central challenges and supports cluster stakeholders in evaluating new strategies, processes and technologies in light of these challenges. While all innovations in the EffizienzCluster ultimately result in competitive advantages, the CoMo innovation especially intends to increase foresight potential and future robustness in decision making within the cluster. The integration of three foresight tools into a future-oriented IT platform where academia, business and politics co-operate will ensure a sustainable competitive advantage for all stakeholders in the leading-edge cluster on logistics and supply chain management.

The Need for Futures Orientation in Logistics

Logistics has developed from its role of delivering the right things at the right time to deciding how the right things get there in the right time (ECM 2010). During the past 50 years, logistics has evolved from individually managed, product-flow related activities to an integrated set of processes managed across the multiple echelons of a supply chain. The future of the logistics industry is characterised by many upcoming challenges and opportunities (e.g. Ruske et al. 2010). Due to the increased competition in the industry, its business has become more volatile and uncertain. In addition, the trend towards globalisation has steadily increased resulting in longer and more complex supply chains (Meixell and Gargeya 2005). Moreover, advancements in information and communication technology are currently revolutionising logistics processes. Intelligent solutions based on information and communication technology (ICT) are an essential operation, control and support instrument of such worldwide networks. Conclusively, logistics nowadays means acting in complex networks of independent but interdependent organisations. To manage these systems efficiently is one of the major challenges for the logistics service industry today.

Given all these facts, there is a considerable need for futures orientation and innovation in logistics. Innovation is an important driver of growth and competitive advantages across all industries, and its impact has significantly increased in the course of the current cutthroat competition in the logistics service industry. In best practice, both innovation management and futures research are linked and contribute to each other (von der Gracht et al. 2010). Futures research helps to cope with uncertainty in the business environment and enables actors to react faster to future developments to realise competitive advantages.

However, the potential of futures research in logistics has by no means been fully realised yet. As a consequence of increased uncertainty, the majority of logistics planners are currently unsatisfied with their planning and forecasting tools and feel that they have to change planning practices in the future. In fact, there is a strong demand to apply new and innovative techniques in strategic logistics planning.

The CoMo addresses the need for innovative foresight methods in strategic logistics planning. Importantly, this is facilitated in an innovative environment provided by the leading-edge cluster in logistics. Thus, the CoMo is not only an innovation in itself but establishes a direct link between the futures field, the cluster and innovation management for a hundred innovations of the future.

Competitiveness Monitor

The CoMo is, in the first instance, a joint research project aiming to create and convey future-oriented knowledge within the cluster. It comprises a future-oriented IT platform where science, business and politics cooperate to ensure a sustainable competitive advantage for all stakeholders and support innovations in the leading-edge cluster. This translates into four major challenges for CoMo:

(1) Creating, linking and processing information about future macro- and microeconomic developments in logistics and its environment

(2) Providing educative information on futures studies and teaching future skills

(3) Incentivizing stakeholders to systematically deal with their futures and foster innovation

(4) Stimulating cooperation among stakeholders

In order to address these challenges, we developed a CoMo architecture that integrates three innovative foresight tools. The structure and interrelation of the tools is illustrated in Figure 2 and elaborated on in the subsequent sections.

Since June 2010, the joint project team has been involved in intense scientific desk research and analysis, requirement analyses, conceptual development as well as multiple participatory workshop sessions with external experts. So far, a solid foundation for the CoMo joint research project has been established. Roughly 1,000 ideas (or requirements) for tool functionalities and interfaces have been identified, classified and prioritised. Requirements have been classified according to applications (Futures Platform, Trend Database, Future Workshop, Prediction Markets, or app-interlinkages), type (functional, non-functional or constraint) and categorical purpose (e.g. user collaboration). A three dimensional framework consisting of (1) feasibility, (2) innovativeness and (3) importance was developed to narrow down and evaluate requirements. The outcome and status quo of our analysis together with related theoretical foundations are discussed in the following sections.

Futures Platform

Our Futures Platform is intended to serve as the users’ personalised login portal. Users can interactively individualise their Futures Platform according to their interests by, for instance, saving trend favourites, displaying related information or following a certain Prediction Market. This flexible and individualised structure offers an individual decision-making environment that increases ease and encourages overall use. Furthermore, users communicate directly through the Futures Platform to elaborate on future-relevant topics. The three applications Trend Database, Future Workshop and Prediction Market are linked to the platform and can be accessed from there; users can ask experts to help them get started and assist them in applying these tools.

Since the provided tools are of an innovative kind, the platform will include an educational self-learning package, structured in a curricular form. This educational part will reduce uncertainty and assure that newcomers to strategic planning and foresight can use the platform to build foresight competencies.

Trend Database

Our Trend Database concept represents the quantitative and qualitative pool of future-relevant knowledge that is provided to and by the cluster actors. A user may query future-oriented numbers, data and facts about specific logistics-related topics or weak signals, wildcards and disruptive events. Similarly to the Futures Platform, the Trend Database embodies elements for users to cooperate. By allowing and encouraging users to share individual wisdom, overall wisdom increases (Surowiecki 2004). Another characteristic feature of the Trend Database is the linkage of its architecture in three dimensions using a semantic structure: (1) the linkage of trends among each other, (2) the linkage of the Trend Database with the tools Prediction Market and Future Workshop, and (3) the linkage of the Trend Database with external data pools.

In sum, the Trend Database will perform the function of an intelligent unit within the CoMo that generates and links future-relevant knowledge facilitating cooperation among the stakeholders of the cluster and reducing complexity. The possibility to acknowledge trends early and systematically creates significant competitive advantages for the cluster and ensures sustainable management and action in the field of logistics.

Future Workshop

The Future Workshop app represents the element of CoMo where trends are systematically projected into individual futures and recommended options and actions can be derived. The fundamental idea of a Future Workshop was developed by Robert Jungk, Ruediger Lutz and Norbert R. Muellert in the 1970s (originally termed “Zukunftswerkstatt” in German; Jungk and Muellert 1988). Our internal analysis as well as experience from the expert workshops has shown that scenario planning, roadmapping, backcasting and Imagineering provide valuable elements for a Future Workshop. This led us to consider best practices from these four approaches in designing the Future Workshop in order to establish a valid and reliable web-based foresight process.

Our Future Workshop app will allow users to use the Trend Database as a discussion basis and digitally collaborate in global or private workshop environments. Stakeholders of the cluster, for example from a certain company, are led through a process of problem identification, innovation and creativity towards problem solving while spatial boundaries are overcome. In the process, Future Workshops will facilitate a future-oriented strategic logistics planning.

Prediction Market

The requirement analysis for the CoMo Prediction Market app revealed promising applications for stakeholders in the leading-edge cluster. Our CoMo Prediction Market app will supplement Future Workshops and the Trend Database by providing an innovative foresight method that generates futures knowledge and by complementing the CoMo platform. Prediction markets originally evolved in psephology and proved to provide significantly better forecasts than classical opinion polls – for this reason, they have recently been transferred into the business world (Ho and Chen 2007). In the Prediction Market app, CoMo users will be able to bet on the outcome of future events in a virtual environment. A single stock price represents the aggregated wisdom/knowledge of all market players while competition in the market ensures efficiency in aggregating asymmetrically distributed information.

Platform to Enhance Future-oriented Decision-making

The CoMo will provide a platform that utilises the cluster’s unique combination of more than 130 partners from business, academia and politics in order to share complementary resources, specifically to share knowledge that is relevant to their future-oriented decisions. The combination of a Trend Database, a Future Workshop app, and a Prediction Market app will facilitate cooperation, will provide a shared future-relevant knowledge base, and individual future-oriented decision support. Ultimately, the CoMo contributes to the major goal of the leading-edge cluster by enhancing the quality of the stakeholders’ future-oriented decisions.

Authors: Dr. Heiko von der Gracht

Stefanie Mauksch         

Philipp Ecken                                      

Christoph Markmann     

Gianluca De Lorenzis              

Eckard Foltin                            

Michael Münnich         

Dr. Christopher Stillings            

Sponsors: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)1
Type: National Foresight Project
Organizer: EBS Business School / Center for Futures Studies and Knowledge Management (CEFU)
Duration: 06/10-05/13 Budget: 2.3 m € Time Horizon: long-term Date of Brief: Oct 2011  


Download EFP Brief No. 203_Competitiveness Monitor


BMBF (2010). Germany’s Leading-Edge Clusters. Division for New Innovation Support Instruments and Programmes. Berlin, Bonn, Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung / Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

ECM (2010). 100 Innovationen für die Logistik von Morgen. Mülheim an der Ruhr, Dortmund, EffizienzCluster Management GmbH.

Ho, T.-H. und K.-Y. Chen (2007). New Product Blockbusters: The Magic and Science of Prediction Markets California Management Review 50(1): 144-158.

Jungk, R. and N. Muellert (1988). Future workshops: How to Create Desirable Futures. London, Institute for Social Inventions.

Meixell, M. J. and V. B. Gargeya (2005). Global supply chain design: A literature review and critique. Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review 41(6): 531-550.

Ruske, K.-D., P. Kauschke et al. (2010a). Transportation and Logistics 2030 – Volume 2: Transport infrastructure — Engine or hand brake for global supply chains? Duesseldorf, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Surowiecki, J. (2004). The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations. New York Doubleday.

von der Gracht, H. A., R. Vennemann et al. (2010). Corporate Foresight and Innovation Management: A Portfolio-Approach in Evaluating Organizational Development. Futures – The journal of policy, planning and futures studies 42(4): 380-393.

EFP Brief No. 192: Delphi-based Disruptive and Surprising Transformation Scenarios on the Future of Aviation

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Our study intends to present disruptive and challenging events, i.e. wildcard scenarios, with a significant impact on the aviation industry. We aim to assist decision and policy makers in preparing for the future and enrich decision making processes on possible courses of action by presenting a robust and reliable decision support system and creating awareness for opportunities in strategy and policy. We demonstrate how a Delphi survey (in our case a real-time variant) can be applied as a starting point to systematically develop wildcard scenarios by conducting a deductive wildcard analysis.

Combining Delphi with a Wild Card Approach

In an increasingly uncertain environment, planning uncertainties force policy and decision makers to foster strategic forecasting and technology planning processes, including future-oriented technology analyses (FTA). In spite of its growing importance, the recent expansion of FTA has paid little attention to conceptual development, research on improved methods, methodological choice or how best to merge empirical/analytical methods with stakeholder engagement processes. This is especially the case for Delphi surveys, which are one of the most commonly used tools in FTA. We address this issue by demonstrating how an innovative web-based real-time Delphi can ensure validity and reliability of foresight activities via taking relevant drivers of change into account, such as technology, socio-culture, politics, the economy and the environment. Our highly standardised scenario development process applies qualitative as well as quantitative measures and equips policy and decision makers with a robust and reliable decision support system.

We outline specifically how the Delphi method can be used to identify wildcard developments deductively and at an early point in time (Däneke, von der Gracht et al. 2010) while we also illustrate inductive wildcard analysis.

Furthermore, the results of our study and adjacent analyses allow to derive an ‘opportunity radar’, which depicts a range of opportunities and challenges for governments and companies (von der Gracht, Gnatzy et al. 2010). Our ‘radar’ is the product of several participatory future workshops in which the examined scenarios were discussed. It is designed to provide a pragmatic but also creative perspective on the future while displaying opportunities with different degrees of innovativeness.

Innovative Real-time Delphi

The study employs an innovative version of the Delphi method (von der Gracht, Gnatzy et al. 2011) and is designed as an Internet-based, almost real-time survey, which increases the validity of results by streamlining the classical procedure. Our Delphi method combines quantitative as well as qualitative research approaches to ensure a high level of scientific rigour and thus refutes objections raised in the past on grounds of expert panel biases or time scale disadvantages (EC 2004).

Furthermore, we have introduced methodological and usability improvements so that Delphi remains a valuable tool for FTA procedures. Such improvements are the ‘ease-of-use facilitator portal’, the ‘consensus portal’ and a ‘graphical real-time feedback’, which reduce drop-out rates and speed up the whole process.

Delphi Data Sample and Analysis

Within the scope of our Delphi survey (Linz and Rothkopf 2010), 57 aviation strategists, C-level executives, aviation researchers and consultants evaluated 40 projections in terms of probability (scale from 0-100%) and desirability of occurrence (5-point Likert scale) as well as impact on the aviation industry (5-point Likert scale).

In addition to their quantitative assessments, participating panellists were able to provide qualitative statements to support their numerical estimations and discuss relationships between factors thought to shape future developments. Based on the assessments and more than 1,300 collected verbal arguments offered in support of the individual expert expectations, relevant extreme and wildcard scenarios were deducted, enabling contingency planning and preparation for unforeseeable and disruptive events (Cuhls and Johnston 2006). Furthermore, the arguments and comments provided the foundation for later storytelling and the identification of weak signals, wildcards, outlier opinions and mainstream arguments.

Delphi-based Deductive Wildcard Analysis

The deductive wildcard analysis aimed at developing and analysing company and market-specific wildcards. Since the kind of data required for such an analysis is generally not readily available, the wildcards have to be developed from scratch. Due to the complexity of the future and the unpredictability associated with complexity, the number of potential surprises is virtually endless. Therefore, it is impossible to identify all possible wildcards in an exhaustive manner. Nevertheless, the deductive wildcard analysis provides an adequate approach for identifying those issues relevant to a specific company at a reasonable cost.

In the first step, the critical future assumptions have to be identified. In a second step, wildcard scenarios are deducted on the basis of a qualitative Delphi data analysis and scenario techniques. This is followed by the development of plausible scenario origins and paths. Fourth, relevant wildcards have to be elaborated. And finally, possible strategies and policies need to be developed in order to enable linkage between strategy and daily business requirements. The wildcard transfer has to be conducted through a process of storytelling, contingency planning and the set up of an early warning system.

Inductive Wildcard Analysis

The inductive wildcard analysis is based on the idea of manifold archetypical wildcards that generally have to be taken into account by policy makers and business leaders. Those wildcards can represent internal (e.g., financial failure) or external disruptive events (e.g., natural disaster). The wildcard analysis consists of five incremental steps.

First, potential wildcards have to be collected. Second, the wildcards identified need to be assessed in terms of relevance to politics and business. In a third step, relevant wildcards must be selected. The wildcards thus selected are then elaborated with regard to their operative and strategic implications. Finally, possible strategies and policies are developed and implemented.

The Future of Aviation between Terrorist Threats and New Fuel Technologies

Based on the survey data, we derived several wildcard scenarios for the year 2025, which address manifold aspects ranging from natural catastrophes to technological revolutions (Linz and Rothkopf 2010).

(1) Aviation Terrorism Reloaded

Since 9/11, the fear of terrorist attacks has increased tremendously. Important hubs and large airports especially could become the focus of physical aggression.

(2) Spread of a Global Pandemic

New pathogens originate worldwide on a regular basis. The potential impact of a prolonged global pandemic on aviation networks has become apparent in the case of SARS in Asia in 2002/2003.

(3) Natural Catastrophes

Major impacts can evolve from volcanic activities as in 2010, but danger might also arise from space. Planet Earth has always been subject to impacts from comets and asteroids, which pose a potential source of danger to life and property.

(4) Deglobalisation, Relocation and Protectionism

Intense worldwide economic shocks could provoke a fundamental re-thinking of free trade resulting in strict protectionism.

(5) Energy Revolution

An energy revolution based on a scientific breakthrough would render all the traditional energy sources obsolete. Nuclear fusion and zero-point generators, which do not require fuel to produce heat and energy, could be technologies of this kind.

(6) Revolution in Transportation Technologies and Concepts

New transportation technologies and concepts are being discussed that could revolutionise air transportation or pose significant opportunities and threats to the aviation industry.

(7) The Fabbing Society

‘Fabbing’ means the direct fabrication of objects from computer models. So far, the technology has only been applied in the industrial sphere. However, with technical advancements and falling equipment prices, these technologies could also be made available for private use by 2025.

Based on current and expected risks, we set up a process to develop a set of future chances and opportunities, which is represented by our ‘opportunity radar’ (Linz and Rothkopf 2010).

The ‘opportunity radar’ focuses on promising opportunities related to aviation over the next 15 years. Some of them are already near implementation while others remain visions by current standards.

Applying the Results in the ‘Competitiveness Monitor’

The results of our research have already been used on several occasions. Multiple workshops with stakeholders from the aviation industry were held. There, the implications of the measures for the different stakeholder groups were further discussed. In addition, the methodological results from the wildcard and opportunity analysis have contributed to the joint research project ‘Competitiveness Monitor’ (CoMo) conducted as part of the EffizienzCluster LogistikRuhr of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The CoMo will combine three foresight tools in a single IT-based futures platform. This platform will integrate user specific information from (1) a trend database (TDB), (2) a collaborative prediction market application and (3) an individual future workshop.[1]

With our research, we aim to assist decision and policy makers in preparing for the future. Therefore, we present disruptive and challenging events, i.e. wildcard scenarios. Furthermore, we provide a robust and reliable decision support system to assist decision and policy makers in making informed and sound decisions in the light of complexity.

[1] We presented detailed findings from the Competitiveness Monitor project in our 4th FTA 2011 conference papers (1) “Competitiveness Monitor: An integrated foresight platform for the German leading-edge cluster in logistics” and (2) “Trend Database design for effectively managing foresight knowledge – A sophisticated FTA content base architecture to enable foresight processes”.

Authors: Steffen Schuckmann            

Dr. Marco Linz                      

Dr. Heiko von der Gracht       

Dr. Inga-Lena Darkow            

Sponsors: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research1
Type: Single issue brief
Organizer: Center for Futures Studies, EBS Business School,
Duration: 06/10 – 05/13 Budget: 2.3m € Time Horizon: 2025 Date of Brief: June 2011  


Download EFP Brief No. 192_Future of Aviation

Sources & References

Cuhls, K. and R. Johnston (2006). ‘Corporate FTA’, Anchor Paper, Proceedings of the Second FTA Seville Seminar, Future-Oriented Technology Analysis: Impacts on Policy and Decision Making. Seville, IPTS.

Däneke, E., H. A. von der Gracht et al. (2010). ‘Systematische Wildcard-Analyse mit Hilfe der Delphi-Methode am Beispiel Future of Aviation 2025.’ In: Gausemeier, Jürgen (ed.) 2010: Vorausschau und Technologieplanung Paderborn, Heinz Nixdorf Institut. 6: 419-440.

EC (2004). New Horizons and Challenges for Future–oriented Technology Analysis – Proceedings of the EU-US Scientific Seminar: New Technology Foresight, Forecasting & Assessment Methods. F. Scapolo and E. Cahill, European Commission, Joint Research Centre (DG JRC), Institute for Prospective Technological Studies.

Linz, M. and A. Rothkopf (2010). The Future of Aviation. Global Scenarios for Passenger Aviation, Business Aviation and Air Cargo. St. Gallen, BrainNet.

von der Gracht, H., T. Gnatzy, et al. (2010). Transportation & Logistics 2030. Volume 2: Transport infrastructure – Engine or hand brake for global supply chains? PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)/ Supply Chain Management Institute (SMI).

von der Gracht, H. A. and I.-L. Darkow (2010). ‘Scenarios for the logistics services industry: A Delphi-based analysis for 2025.’ International Journal of Production Economics 127(1): 46-59.

von der Gracht, H. A., T. Gnatzy, et al. (2011). New Frontiers in Delphi Research – Experiences with Real-Time Delphi in Foresight. Conference Volume of the WorldFuture 2011, Vancouver, Canada. In Press.

EFP Brief No. 184: Future Potential of Nanoelectronics in Germany

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Nanoelectronics is one of the key enabling technologies to open up new paths for inventing new products and processes and advancing current technology. Potential for Germany as a location for suppliers and manufacturers in nanoelectronics is seen especially in exploiting emerging technology paths in which the current technological position as well as framework conditions for valorisation are considered to be more favourable than in the current miniaturisation path. The aim of this study is firstly to identify those technological developments and applications that are important for commercialisation (e.g., high market potential). Secondly, development paths together with related barriers are identified as a basis for a strategic approach to exploit the potential of these developments.

Nanoelectronics – Emerging Economies Competing with High-tech Countries

Micro-/nanoelectronics has been in the focus of the strategic policies of various countries for decades now. Industrialised and especially emerging countries expect high impact on growth and on highly skilled employment in related high-tech industries. Significant changes can truly be seen in the geographic distribution of this industry and related markets within the last decade:

  • After tremendous shifts in the last two decades, the Asian countries dominate the demand for nanoelectronic products with a combined market share of about 70%. In contrast, Europe only accounts for 13% of the worldwide demand.
  • In Europe, the share of worldscale production capacity has decreased between 2000 and 2009 from 15% to below 10%. Germany as the largest producer in Europe has also lost ground.
  • In R & D-intensive chip design, American sites are still leading, but indvidual Asian countries (especially Taiwan) are catching up. European companies are focusing mainly on chip design for automotive and industrial electronics.

These changes cannot be explained by the catch-up strategies of emerging countries only. Fierce international competition is ongoing even at the technological frontier. To remain competitive, European countries, such as Germany, have to keep pace with the leading edge of technological development. But strategic advice on how to accomplish this cannot be given easily. Nanoelectronics is neither a clearly defined technology, nor is its future development evolutionary and foreseeable as in the past when it consistently followed a dominant technological trajectory (the Moore’s law) for decades. Instead, nanoelectronics is usually broadly defined and includes all areas of electronics in which fine structures at the level of nanometres are used. Besides developments that simply downscale design principles known from microelectronics up to nanoscale (“More-Moore” path), other technological paths have recently received higher attention.

The “More-than-Moore” path is concerned with the extension of functionalities, while the “beyond CMOS” path addresses radical new components besides the traditional CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) technology, which is the semiconductor technology used in the transistors that are manufactured into most of today’s microchips. Especially in the new technology paths, the knowledge base in Germany is often rated as highly competitive (e.g., Thielmann et al. 2009). However, it remains unclear which developments and applications are the most favourable to exploit and should be in the focus of R&D- and commercialisation activities. Hence, the current study aims to identify key emerging technology paths in which Germany can take an internationally leading position. In addition, it reveals related development paths and key barriers to enable and foster a transparent discussion on the development of a strategic approach. The study concentrates on a short (< 4 years) and a mid- to long-term outlook (> 8 years).

Combining Online Survey with Roadmapping

In order to reach the various aims of the study, we used a mix of methods resulting in two major steps. First, an online survey was conducted in order to identify those technological developments and applications important for commercialisation in Germany (defined by assumed market potential). Second, a technology roadmap was elaborated that allows the formulation of development paths and barriers. These methods are described below in more detail. Both steps were conducted by the project group as a whole with Fraunhofer ISI as the responsible partner for these two work packages. The work of the project group was accompanied by a steering group, which consisted of experts from academia and industry in the field of nanoelectronics in order to assure high quality standards.

Online Survey

The questionnaire for the online survey consisted of three major parts. First, an overall assessment of the relevance of the main technology trends (“More-Moore etc.) was requested. The second part contained three sub-parts and asked which materials and production processes, system components, and fields of application will become relevant in which time period (<3 years; 3-8 years: >8 years) and what their functional advantages will be (e.g., miniaturisation, reduction of production costs etc.). The third part consisted of statements for key technological developments and innovation barriers. These statements were based on expert interviews as well as on knowledge from earlier projects. They were discussed and re-formulated at a meeting with the steering group.

The questionnaire was online between early July and early October 2010. Two approaches were used in selecting the sample for the survey. First, experts of the steering group compiled a list of experts and contacted them by e-mail. Second, these experts were requested to forward the e-mail to other experts (snowball system). In total, 90 experts answered the questionnaire; the return rate of the experts directly contacted amounted to 37 %. About one half of the respondents were from academia and the other half from industry (mostly big companies). About two thirds of the respondents were closely related to the electronics sector; the other third was affiliated with a wide range of other areas (e.g., automotive industry, medical technology). While we cannot rule out in principle that the sample might lead to some biased results, we could identify neither any major differences in the answers between the respondents nor any other indications of underlying biases.


The task of the roadmap was to display the development paths over time, thus visualising the time sequence of the single steps of knowledge and technology development. For this purpose, we conducted an expert workshop with experts from academia and industry from different sectors in October 2010. The results of the second part of the online questionnaire (market relevance assessment of materials, production processes and system components) provided the main basis for the workshop. The aim was to formulate the development paths leading up to today’s market potential. Combining the results of the online-survey with the roadmap workshop allowed us to start the workshop from an advanced level of analysis and thus to describe and discuss the development paths in more detail.

In contrast to existing roadmaps (above all the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors – ITRS), we placed the regional focus on Germany combined with a high level of detail. However, the high awareness of the ITRS among the participants became evident during the roadmap workshop. Keeping the experts’ minds open to other developments posed a considerable challenge.

Sectors Absorbing Nanoelectronics

At the start of the survey, the participants were asked to rank the following six technological sectors in the order of importance for the German electronics industry:

  • scaled microelectronics (“More-Moore”)
  • functional diversification (“More-than-Moore”)
  • new building blocks (“beyond CMOS”)
  • packaging of integrated circuits
  • testing and test equipment
  • production lines

Among the sectors listed, “More-than-Moore”-technologies were ranked in the first position. Two thirds of the respondents voted them as of highest importance for the German electronics industry. A clear position was also taken in case of “production lines”, which were ranked in last place. “Testing and test equipment” was judged a little bit more important and placed in second to last place. All other technological sectors were judged ambiguously. This becomes especially obvious for “beyond CMOS” technologies, which seem to divide the respondents into two groups. However, a cross-analysis of the votes by professional background of the respondents failed to show any underlying pattern.

In the main part of the questionnaire, participants could choose between three areas of interest in which more detailed questions were posed: materials and production technologies, system components, and applications. In the part containing questions on system components, three of the previously listed technological sectors again were the subject of a single question. We were interested in the relevance of system components for the realisation of nanoelectronics’ worldwide market potential. The ranking under this aspect was different from the initial ranking. The answers were nonetheless quite comparable and unambiguous. “CMOS” technologies (“More-Moore”) was voted as of highest relevance, “packaging technologies” also as of high relevance, but “beyond-CMOS” only of moderate relevance. One can say that the group of experts who chose to answer here displayed a quite uniform opinion compared with all the respondents who ranked the six technological sectors at the beginning.

In order to identify the notably relevant topics from the entire collection of topics listed, we chose a special kind of technique for interpreting the responses. At earlier workshops, we could observe a typical behaviour among participants to rate those aspects as important that are expected to be available in the near future. Therefore we used a filter in order to identify important aspects while offsetting this effect. We looked for aspects that were judged as relevant even though they were not expected to become available anytime soon.

Sorted in the order of estimated availability, we could identify the following materials and production processes as of particular relevance:

  • double patterning
  • atomic layer deposition (ALD)
  • organic semiconductors
  • EUV-lithography
  • carbon based materials

The following system components could be identified as of particular relevance:

  • CMOS (evolutionary development)
  • auto-diagnosis
  • through-silicon via 3D integration
  • nanoelectronic and optoelectronic mechanical systems
  • auto-correction
  • piezoresistive sensors

Nanoelectronics Applications

The relevance of nanoelectronics for certain industrial sectors and some exemplary applications was the subject of the third sub-part. For the industrial sectors, the relevance was stated as high or very high by at least 50% of all respondents. Nanoelectronics is considered of high importance especially for the sectors electronics, automotive/aeronautics and medical technologies.

Investigating preferable development objectives for the individual sectors of application yielded further interesting results: The selected objectives differ considerably between the fields of application. For machinery/chemicals/metals, electronics and environmental/security technologies, integration of functions or new functions are of main importance. In contrast, the emphasis is on fault tolerance as the main objective for the automotive/aeronautical sector while for energy supply the issue of energy consumption/efficiency of course comes out on top. Interestingly, for medical technologies performance/miniaturisation and (integration of) new functions are ranked higher than fault tolerance/resilience, which is probably considered a precondition rather than a developmental goal for nanoelectronics.

Roadmap Workshop

The primary objective of the roadmap workshop was to determine the connections between products, system components, design concepts, design methods, key processes and materials. While the whole roadmap cannot be explained in full detail in this context (see ACATECH 2011), there are some general observations and conclusions worth noting. First, the strong impact of the IRTS and the long pursued path of downscaling to the nanoscale led participants to neglect possible alternative paths in regard to the new paradigm of “beyond CMOS”. Second, it became obvious that “smart” products as well as products with a high demand of customisation and application-specific development solutions should be the focus of production in Germany. Nevertheless, it was considered a reasonable scenario to expect some standard components to still be produced domestically in the future.

Refocus Policy on European Scale

Regarding policy actions, the roadmap first highlighted some key research areas, which should be more in the focus of funding:

  • devices based on organic semiconductors,
  • devices based on carbon-based materials,
  • system integration and reliability of sensors and actuators,
  • novel devices, such as magnetic devices, plasmonic devices, cellular automata, superconducting components and biological components.

The roadmapping exercise revealed a missing consideration of alternative development paths compared to the ITRS with its focus on further miniaturisation. This is why policy should support overcoming the current lock-in, for instance, by initiating a special “beyond CMOS” roadmap.

Challenges with European Scope

The results derived from the online questionnaire, which are in line with previous policy studies on nanoelectronics published by the project team, allow some further recommendations (Thielmann et al. 2009, Wydra et al. 2010), especially regarding collaboration between the various stakeholders. First, there is definitely a need for closer cooperation, which has yet to be achieved. This may be accomplished by exchanging personnel and upgrading regional research centres across federal borders.

Second the majority – although not all – of the German stakeholders agree that most of the challenges (e.g., integration of widespread technology know-how) are only achievable at the European level, which would imply intensifying collaboration between the various clusters and stakeholders. This is no easy task since several funding instruments are in place across Europe, which unfortunately are dominated by national interests (Wydra et al. 2010).

Authors: Rolf Gausepohl (ISI)             

Sven Wydra (ISI)                   

Sponsors: German Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF)

Commission micro-/nanoelectronics Saxony (KOMINAS)

Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (Fraunhofer IIS)

Type: National Future Study on nanoelectronics
Organizer: Fraunhofer ISI (in cooperation with Technical University Munich and ACATECH)
Duration: 04/2010-04/2011 Budget: N/A Time Horizon: 10-15 years Date of Brief: 05/2011  


Download EFP Brief No. 184_Future Nanoelectronics

Sources and References

ACATECH (2011): Nanoelektronik als künftige Schlüsseltechnologie der Informations- und Kommunikationstechnik in Deutschland, acatech bezieht Position Nr. 8,

Thielmann, A., Zimmermann, A., Gauch, S., Nusser, M., Hartig, J., Wydra, S., Blümel, C., Blind, K. (2009): Blockaden bei der Etablierung neuer Schlüsseltechnologien. Office of Technology Assessment at the German Parliament. Berlin, Working Report vol. 133,

Wydra, S., Blümel., C., Thielmann, A., Lindner, R., Mayr, C. (2010): Internationale Wettbewerbsfähigkeit der europäischen Wirtschaft im Hinblick auf die EU-Beihilfepolitik am Beispiel der Nanoelektronik. Office of Technology Assessment at the German Parliament. Berlin, Working Report vol. 137.

EFP Brief No. 181: Technologies for EU Minerals Supply

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

This exercise was part of an EU FP7 Blue Skies Project aimed at piloting, developing and testing in real situations a foresight methodology designed to bring together key stakeholders for the purpose of exploring longer term challenges and building a shared vision that could guide the development of the relevant European research agenda. This approach was applied to the theme of “Breakthrough technologies for the security of supply of critical minerals and metals in the EU economy”.

The Minerals Challenge

Minerals and metals are essential to almost every aspect of modern life and every economic sector. Aerospace, agriculture, culture, defence, energy, environmental protection, health, housing, transport and water supply are all highly dependent upon them. Plans for economic recovery and the development of new industries also depend on their availability – for example “green” energy production from solar cells and wind turbines, the green car of tomorrow and many more all require a range of rare minerals and metals for their production.

Although essential to our economies, development of this sector has been neglected in Western Europe during the past 25 years. This was mainly because of the very low price of these commodities – a consequence of abundant reserves discovered in the 1970s. As a result, the mining and metallurgical industry as well as related research and education almost disappeared from the present European Union, making our economies totally dependent upon imports.

Demand for these minerals and metals is likely to increase dramatically. Much of this new demand will come from rapidly growing, highly populated emerging countries, such as China, which have attracted large parts of the world industrial production due to cheap labour, regardless of raw minerals and energy issues. Already strong competition for access to natural resources, including mineral resources vital to any economy, is likely to accelerate further in the coming years with possible severe environmental and social impacts. The EU economy is more than any other exposed to these developments, as it produces very little of the minerals it consumes and almost none of the critical minerals it needs to develop its green technologies.

Against this background, the creation of a new research and innovation context in Europe has become essential, not only to reduce the EU’s dependence on imported minerals and metals but also to chart the road ahead, to develop a win-win cooperation with developing countries and to stimulate the competitiveness of EU technology, products and service providers to the global economy.

However, these solutions can take a long time to be implemented, and it is important to identify today’s priorities for knowledge generation and innovation so that action can begin. This in turn creates a need for a foresight approach that brings together the knowledge and interests of the main stakeholders. It is in this context that the FarHorizon project invited leading experts in the area from government agencies, industry and academia to take part in a success scenario workshop. The aims of the exercise were

  • to identify the key challenges for raw materials supply in Europe;
  • to identify breakthrough technologies or other innovations that could transform the picture, including substitution, new sources, ways to change demand and new applications; and
  • to define in broad terms the research and innovation strategies needed to develop and make use of such technologies.

Success Scenario Approach

The “Success Scenario Approach” is an action-based approach where senior stakeholders develop a shared vision of what success in the area would look like, together with appropriate goals and indicators, which provide the starting point for developing a roadmap to get there. The purpose of having such a vision of success is to set a ‘stretch target’ for all the stakeholders. The discussion and debate forming an integral part of the process leads to developing a mutual understanding and a common platform of knowledge that helps to align the actors for action.

Important outcomes of these workshops are the insights they provide in terms of the level of maturity in policy design and development and the viability and robustness of long-term policy scenarios to guide policy-making. The workshops also provide indications on whether there is a need for further discussion to refine thinking and policy design and/or to bring additional stakeholders into the discussion.

The theme was developed in partnership with the French geosciences institution BRGM. The workshop brought together twenty representatives of scientific organisations, industry and government agencies to identify the role of technology in addressing the socioeconomic and political challenges facing Europe in this sector. Briefs on key issues were prepared before the workshop, and participants took part in an exercise to identify key drivers using the STEEPV framework (social, technological, environmental, economic, political and values). Common themes were increasing demand and growing sustainability requirements. Geopolitical themes were also touched upon.

The basic structure was to identify the key challenges facing the sector and then to explore the potential role of breakthrough technologies in addressing those challenges. A third main session examined the key elements needed for a sectoral strategy for innovation.

The figure below gives an outline of the methodology:

Challenges in Three Dimensions

Informed by the drivers, participants were tasked to identify the key challenges for raw materials supply in Europe and to prioritise these. If these challenges can be met, we can expect to achieve a situation as defined by the successful vision for the sector in 2030 and realise its benefits to Europe. Three dimensions of the challenge were addressed:

Geology and Minerals Intelligence

  1. Access to data on mining, production and geology
  2. Knowledge of deeper resources
  3. Better knowledge due to improved models of how deposits are produced
  4. Better exploration
  5. Systematic data sharing
  6. Exploitation of ‘exhausted’ mines

Mining, Ore Processing and Metallurgy

  1. Exploiting deeper deposits
  2. Accessing seabed deposits
  3. Better health and safety; prediction of seismic events and natural or man-made hazards
  4. Using less water and energy
  5. Reducing CO2 footprint
  6. By-product handling
  7. Social and business organisation

Sustainable Use, Efficiency, Recycling and Re-use

  1. Downstream resource efficiency
  2. Better citizens’ understanding/attitude
  3. Building capabilities and providing training
  4. Transforming waste into mines/urban mining
  5. More systemic view of different critical minerals
  6. Better use of other resources, e.g. water and energy
  7. Global governance of new extractive activities

Against these challenges, breakthroughs were sought in four areas: new applications, substitution, new sources of materials and rare metals, and changes in demand.

Four Key Actions toward a Comprehensive Policy for Securing Raw Materials Supply

Policy recommendations geared toward securing the supply of raw materials in Europe were summarised in terms of four necessary key actions:

Key Action 1: Establish an integrated strategy for raw materials supply and support it by providing continuous funding.

Research in the area of raw materials supply needs to be clearly linked to creating the right conditions for successful innovation. There is some concern that the European Commission has no competence in minerals as such but rather in matters of environmental protection, trade or economic competitiveness. This limits the development of a holistic, complementary approach needed to tackle the various issues related to securing Europe’s mineral resources supply within the sustainable development context. The sector needs a more horizontal approach – otherwise we may do research, but there is no innovation behind it. An innovation-friendly market can be created by developing stringent environmental and recycling regulations. Europe is at the forefront of a number of technologies in these areas. Regulators need to understand that part of their job is to stimulate innovation if not for today at least for tomorrow. Engaging them in foresight, along with technologists and users, is important for developing this horizon. There is a 7-8 year challenge to develop a new lead market.

Key Action 2: Move from stop and go to a lasting approach with three central aspects for a research, technology and innovation programme.

Support up to now has been project-based and provided only to a limited extent on a stop and go basis while continuous policies and knowledge development would be necessary.

2.1 There are three broad research priorities:

  • Research dealing with mineral resources intelligence. This is research of a totally different kind, i.e. mainly interdisciplinary. It is needed to keep up with a dynamic situation where even what minerals and metals are critical changes over time.
  • Research leading to new or better technologies with a focus upon whatever is needed by industry. The large scale South Korean national initiatives provide a good example of speed, scale and pragmatism and also represent the competition that Europe has to face. The US investment on rare earths in the Ames laboratory is another example.
  • Research on mitigation and understanding of environmental impacts.

2.2 Adopt a holistic approach to the innovation cycle. Support for research should be long-term and structured so that most publicly funded research is open and shared internationally. The full range of mechanisms is needed: basic R&D, integrated projects or their equivalent and joint technology initiatives. However, 80% of the effort should be in large applied projects and the rest focused on longer term work. Partnership with the US, Japan and possibly South Korea could be meaningful in a number of areas.

2.3 Adopt a joint programming approach. Currently there is little or no coordination between European-level and national research. Some governments are in a position to take the initiative in this area – notably Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Finland and Poland.

Key Action 3: Increase the flow of trained people.

A supply of trained people is a significant constraint. The lack of investment in research and teaching in this area over the past 20 years has depleted the availability of expertise to undertake the necessary research and teaching. Training initiatives are needed and within the European framework a pool of excellence should be developed – a platform that coordinates the supply and demand for education and training in the area with some elements being in competition and some complementary. There is also a need to attract interest from researchers outside the area; many of those doing research in this field have a background in the minerals sector, but breakthroughs may be more likely to come from people currently working in other fields.

Key Action 4: Governance issues are critical.

Securing raw materials is a task that goes beyond the competence and capability of the individual member states and is inherently European. Even current European initiatives in other fields are dependent on action in this sector – rare metals are behind all the EU’s proposed Innovation Partnerships. Collaboration beyond Europe is also necessary, but a collective voice for Europe is more likely to be heard in the international arena. There are also opportunities to exert a positive influence to halt environmentally damaging or politically dangerous approaches in other parts of the world, notably in Africa and parts of the CIS. The momentum from the current EU Raw Materials Initiative, aiming to foster and secure supplies and to promote resource efficiency and recycling, needs to be carried forward into the EU’s Eighth Framework Programme, its innovation policies and also its wider policies including those concerning interaction with the African, Caribbean and Pacific States.

Authors: Luke Georghiou, Jacques Varet, Philippe Larédo
Sponsors: EU Commission
Type: EU-level single issue foresight exercise
Organizer: FP7 FarHorizon Project Coordinator: MIOIR, Luke Georghiou
Duration: Sept 08-Feb11 Budget: N/A Time Horizon: 2030 Date of Brief: Apr 2011


Download EFP Brief No. 181_Technologies for EU Minerals Supply

Sources and References

Georghiou, L., Varet, J. and Larédo P. (2011), Breakthrough technologies: For the security of supply of critical minerals and metals in the EU, March 2011,

European Commission (2010), “Critical Raw Materials for the EU”, Report of the RMSG Ad Hoc Working Group on defining critical raw materials, June 2010

European Commission (2011), Tackling the Challenges in Commodity Markets and on Raw Materials, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Brussels, 02/02/2011 COM(2011) 0025 final

EFP Brief No. 174: The German BMBF Foresight Process

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

In September 2007, the Federal German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) launched a foresight process in order to sustain Germany’s status as a research and education location. The BMBF Foresight Process aimed at 1) identifying new focuses in research and technology, 2) designating areas for cross-cutting activities, 3) exploring fields for strategic partnerships, and 4) deriving priorities for R&D policy.

The Foresight Process

“The BMBF Foresight Process”, subtitled “Implementation and Further Development of a Foresight Process”, started by assessing present-day science and technology and was broadened to look into the future over the next 10 to 15 years – and even further. It took into account the developments at the national as well as international level.

The process was conducted by a consortium comprising the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (Fraunhofer ISI) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (Fraunhofer IAO). Other institutions like the Technical University of Berlin, the Institute for Nanotechnology (INT) of the Research Centre Karlsruhe, the RWTH Aachen, the Austrian Research Centres GmbH (ARC), Systems Research Division – Dept. of Technology Policy, the Manufuture Secretariat Germany of the German “Verband deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbauer” (VDMA) supported the exercise. The process linked both foresight and monitoring in its integrated approach

Introducing New Methodologies

In order to achieve the targets, a tailor-made combination of methods was applied. Since there is not one single methodology as in a simple input-output model, a combination of methods, as is standard in most foresight processes worldwide, had to be used to meet all four objectives (see Figure 1). These objectives were defined by the BMBF when launching the call for tenders.

Objective 1 is to identify new focuses in research and technology that the BMBF must address. Objective 2 is to define interdisciplinary topics and areas, accordingly, that require broader attention and are to be tackled by various departments and groups of actors. The fields thus determined have to be addressed by different partners in the innovation system (strategic partnerships) over a longer period of time (objective 3), and measures should be devised to promote the fields in question (objective 4).

In order to achieve objectives 1 and 2, the foresight approach applied well-known search strategies as well as other methods from innovation research and international foresight activities alongside new, creative methods. The themes to be investigated at the national and international level were further developed by experts taking into account existing forward-looking road-mapping and strategy processes from the public and private sector.

The first phase stressed the national search for weak and strong signals, while the international search was focussed on the later second phase. As there is no one single methodology for search procedures, the methods involved quantitative methods like bibliometrics as well as qualitative approaches such as workshops, expert interviews, Internet and qualitative literature searches.

A new approach called inventor scouting (identifying young inventors and interviewing them) added to the methodology. For the evaluation of the topics, a set of criteria was drawn up. The criteria provided the basis for an online survey and were also used to guide the selection process.

The foresight search activities were flanked by an assessment process. With the assistance of an international panel, latest developments in various technological-scientific subject areas were analysed in order to attain a reliable description of the international “state-of-the-art”. For the monitoring process, an international panel of well-known and acknowledged experts in their fields was asked about the current state and new developments in research and technology. In a second wave nearly one year later, they were once again interviewed to consolidate their opinions and give feedback on potential topics for the BMBF that met the objectives.

The topics to be identified were supposed to still be in the research or development phase. Topics that can be expected to either enter the implementation phase during the next years or be transferred to innovations in the next ten years were excluded from the lists of topics to be considered. For a first selection, a set of criteria was developed together with the BMBF.

The topics were reformulated, internally assessed and re-assessed several times via an internal database and scientific papers. To provide input to the first workshop in November 2007, a first set of scientific papers describing the developments in the fields was written and distributed as a basis for the discussions.

Topic coordinators (sometimes two persons) were nominated for every field that were responsible for defining and working out the details in the respective fields but also for coordinating with other topic coordinators in areas of overlap. The topic coordinators not only scrutinised the future themes but also the innovation system and identified the actors in the fields in question.

A bibliometric analysis provided further input into this process. The topic coordinators defined key words for a stakeholder analysis. The key words were used for counting literature indexed in the Web of Science and for a qualitative analysis. The (Internet, literature and other) searches and first selection processes were complemented by expert interviews and informal talks to gain an impression of the importance and potential impact of the huge number of topics under consideration.

Golden Topics

Topics in which BMBF or German research institutions were already very active at that point in time were labelled ‘golden’ and in most cases were no longer pursued.

The second phase of the searches ended with a first assessment of the topics found. An online survey among experts from the German innovation landscape was performed in September 2008 for a broader assessment of the topics, their importance and their time frame.

In parallel, the corresponding innovation systems were analysed in order to identify candidates for potential strategic partnerships, which were to be proposed in 2009 at the end of the whole process (objectives 3 and 4). In the last phase of the process, recommendations for R&D policy were also derived. The last phase ended with a conference. It marked the beginning of integrating the topics thus identified into the German innovation system and the BMBF agenda. It was a bridging conference rather than a final act.

The workshop participants differed widely (experts from science, society and the economy), and various channels of surveying were used: “experts” and “laypeople” via the interviews, young persons by inventor scouting, and a wide range of persons with broad or specific knowledge through the online survey (more than 2,659 persons). The international monitoring panel consisted of about 35 persons.

Established and New Future Fields

In the process, 14 established future fields were worked out in detail. They were derived from the German High-tech Strategy. In these fields, future topics were identified, re-clustered and assessed via a set of criteria. Seven new cross-cutting fields were arrived at by clustering the most important issues from the established fields. They are rooted in science and technology but have major impacts on society and the economy as well.

Established Future Fields

  • Life sciences and biotechnology
  • Information and communication technologies
  • Materials and their production processes
  • Nanotechnology
  • Optical technologies
  • Industrial production systems (automation, robotics, mechanical engineering, process engineering, etc.)
  • Health research and medicine
  • Environmental protection and sustainable development
  • Energy supply and consumption (generation, storage, transfer etc.)
  • Mobility: transport and traffic technology, mobility, logistics (land, water, air and space)
  • Neurosciences and research on learning
  • Systems and complexity research (including research on technological and scientific convergence; security research)
  • Services science
  • Water infrastructures

New Future Fields

Human-technology cooperation: This new future field provides an integrated research perspective on the complex interplay between human and technological change. In view of our increasingly dense technological surroundings and the expanding technical structure of human life, novel configurations of humans and technology must be embraced in all their complexity. Technological innovation can only be achieved in connection with a deep understanding of human thought, feeling, communication and behaviour to provide a new quality of seamless human-technology cooperation. A re-orientation of human beings against the background of technological change is therefore just as central as reviewing the concept of the machine in terms of new machine agents. Further research must cover the relationship of these two parties, whether in the form of human-technical teams or in the wider perspective of human-machine culture.

Deciphering ageing: Ageing continues over our entire life span and is a multifactorial process. Some ageing processes cause disorders or disease. The biological processes of ageing and brain development (e.g. changes to neuroplasticity) that occur over the course of a lifetime have so far only been partly explained. Future findings in the areas of cellular and molecular developmental biology will provide new insights into cognitive, emotional and psychomotoric processes.

Sustainable living spaces (the field “infrastructures” was split into “water infrastructures” and “infrastructures for human living spaces”): Living spaces will in future be different in terms of structure and organisation. Driven by the reorganisation of ways of life and technological possibilities, chronological, spatial residential, and living patterns are changing. Together with demands for sustainable spatial development, these changes require innovation and adaption in various research areas.

In order to react to continuing social trends in the long-term, settlement-structural concepts will have to be made more dynamic to better manage basic conditions and, for example, flexible, more environmentally friendly spatial and settlement structures will have to be established. Efforts to meet these demands, which are still in flux, are obstructed by current settlements and infrastructures, which can only be changed at high cost and involving a considerable expenditure of resources in the short to medium-term. All infrastructures, for providing energy, transport, water and even information and communications, must be made more flexible at a technical level, and the possibility of reconstructing or dismantling them in the future must be taken into account at their construction.

ProductionConsumption 2.0: This future field aims at establishing long-term sustainable production and consumption paradigms and involves research into new ways of supplying products and services according to need in the face of changing global conditions. At the same time, it addresses one of the greatest challenges of the future: maintaining the ecosphere, which is also vital to human survival. Research in this area focuses on sustainable industrial and social patterns of materials usage. Researchers in established areas in production research, services research, environmental research, biotechnology and materials sciences are all working with great drive on aspects of sustainable practices. However, they alone cannot adequately accomplish the necessary systemic transformation of the entire structure.

Modelling and simulation: New methods of handling complexity based on modelling and simulation require multidisciplinary approaches. Working out the similarities in different applications may be a first step toward adapting the instruments and tools in other disciplines so that new simulations are possible in the future, even in technical and social science contexts.

Time research: Time is a bottleneck factor in many developments. Research into time is a central aspect and includes issues such as the chronological order of complex processes in making applications faster and more efficient, cost-effective and intelligent, or in paralleling and synchronising processes (e.g. Internet servers, production processes). The issue of dynamic and chronological development on various time scales, especially of non-linear processes, can only be dealt with in the long-term. One very dynamic future topic within time research is chronobiology, an area in which there are already initial findings on precisely-timed medication delivery. A central research aspect of time research is understanding and being able to specifically control the factor of time with the help of time efficiency research, the precise measurement of time (e.g. for GPS applications, such as precision agriculture and the remote maintenance of machines) and time-resolution (e.g. 4D precision).

Energy solutions with a) energy concert: Securing an affordable, safe and climate-compatible energy supply is a central global challenge and an outstanding leading future market with high relevance for the economy and quality of life and a powerful, influential impact on many research fields. Sustainable, coordinated solutions for production, distribution and use are all equally important in this context. But there is still a cacophony. As many actors are involved and many disciplines contribute, energy is a field that needs a symphony.

  1. b) Energy from the environment: Energy harvesting is already known, but its use limited. New ideas are expected that make it possible to harvest energy from different kinds of environments and transfer it to miniaturized machines. This is especially necessary for devices that are out of reach (implants, built-in domestic appliances and others).

Challenges for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy

New future fields can only be realised if there are advocates and if action is taken to that end. As all fields are different, new challenges for science, technology and innovation policy will arise. An international workshop in early October 2008 provided a platform for generating ideas for recommendations concerning policies and research alliances (objectives 3 and 4) to be further elaborated in 2009. The workshop took place in Hamburg and gathered international and German experts with experience in promoting new or cross-cutting issues. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss what kinds of measures are successful in implementing new or cross-cutting topics, along the lines of examples from the past outside of the BMBF Foresight Process. The guiding questions were therefore:

  • How can future issues and topics with a time horizon of 10 to 15 years and longer be rapidly and efficiently absorbed into an existing innovation system?
  • How do organisations or companies in other countries deal with cross-cutting issues and future topics with a time horizon of 10 to 15 years and beyond?

High-ranking Discussions and Impact on Policy

New approaches in innovation policy are necessary to implement and realise new cross-cutting fields of the future. The approaches vary and need to take into account the different stakeholder groups involved. Therefore, in the last phase of the foresight process, the actors of the current innovation system were identified and potential actor groups named who could further foster the different topics or fields.

The results of the BMBF Foresight Process were presented during a conference in Bonn in the presence of the Undersecretary of State, high-ranking persons, decision-makers and interested experts. Two hundred persons participated in this conference held at the former parliament building. Part of the conference was organized into so-called “topic islands” where the new fields were presented and discussed in an interdisciplinary manner. All topic islands had a different programme, and the participants were free to choose where they wanted to go. The discussions were very lively.

Talks in BMBF revealed large interest in the new fields so that follow-up activities were launched. The first such activities were “follow-up workshops” to bring together different BMBF departments and enable them to exchange views. In 2010, the BMBF started strategic dialogues as an opportunity for looking into the new future fields of the BMBF Foresight Process from different perspectives. This is necessary, on the one hand, for the further development of content and, on the other, to ensure that important aspects are included in the integration and translation of results into funding policy at an early stage.

Another policy result is the foundation of a new division (Referat 524 – Department 524) at the BMBF in June 2010, which has been named “Demografischer Wandel; Mensch-Technik-Kooperation” (Demographic Change; Human-Technology Cooperation).

Authors: Kerstin Cuhls                 
Sponsors: Federal Ministry for Education and Research, Germany, Referat 113
Type: National foresight exercise
Organizer: Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI), Kerstin Cuhls, together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO)
Duration: 9/2007–7/2009 Budget: 4.5 m € Time Horizon: > 10 years Date of Brief: June 2010  


Downloads EFP Brief No. 174_German BMBF Foresight

Sources and References

The reports are available at

German High-tech Strategy:

Cuhls, K.; Beyer-Kutzner, A.; Bode, O.; Ganz, W.; Warnke, P.: The BMBF Foresight Process, in: Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 76 (2009) 1187–1197.

Cuhls, K.; Ganz, W; and Warnke, P. (eds.): Foresight-Prozess im Auftrag des BMBF. Etablierte Zukunftsfelder und ihre Zukunftsthemen, IRB; Karlsruhe, Stuttgart 2009 (Original in German),

Cuhls, K.; Ganz, W. und Warnke, P. (eds.): Foresight-Prozess im Auftrag des BMBF. Zukunftsfelder neuen Zuschnitts, IRB (Original in German), Karlsruhe/ Stuttgart 2009,

Cuhls, K.; Ganz, W. and Warnke, P. (eds.): Foresight Process – On behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Report, New Future Fields; Karlsruhe, Stuttgart 2009 (English version),