Posts Tagged ‘environmental sustainability’

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                           kerstin.cuhls@isi.fraunhofer.de
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 www.bmbf-foresight.de

German High-tech Strategy: http://www.hightech-strategie.de/

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), www.isi.fraunhofer.de/bmbf-foresight.php.

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

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), www.isi.fraunhofer.de/bmbf-foresight.php.

EFP Brief No. 171: Research Priorities for Digital Creative Industries in Europe

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

With creativity and strategy, the CReATE project designed and implemented a novel strategic cluster development approach integrating Strategic Policy Intelligence tools (such as foresight and impact assessment) and direct innovation support instruments. Guided by a trans-regional framework and based on very different regional strengths and research, technology development and innovation (RTDI) support histories, it aimed at fostering cross-cluster and transregional learning and knowledge exchange more effectively and successfully. In an iterative process, alternating between and mutually enriching the regional and the trans-regional levels, research priorities for information and communication technology innovations in “Culture and Creative Industries” were identified. Strongly related to their “fields of excellence & fields of aspiration” (the existing strengths but also the future development trajectories set by the regional stakeholders), the strategic capabilities of the different stakeholder groups were strengthened and a strategic joint research agenda was developed. On this base, broader and more far-reaching activities will be developed regionally and trans-regionally, also involving partners from outside the consortium and optimising regional, national and EU programmes from RTDI and other policy fields.

Strategic Importance of Creative Industries

To emerge invigorated from the current economic crisis is the most important challenge for the European economies, societies, policies and the European Union as a whole. New sources of sustainable growth must be tapped, creating new jobs and markets for European citizens and companies.

It is of strategic importance to better harness the potential of innovation and knowledge cutting across and connecting all sectors, and to better coordinate priority setting and programme design between regional, national and EU levels in order to tap synergies of actions and policies.

In this respect, the Culture and Creative Industries (CI) based on state-of-the-art information and communication technologies (ICT) play a strategic role. The CI sector is one of the emerging lead markets of the European knowledge economy, already ranks fourth in EU GDP contribution (626 bn € in 2007). As ICT constitute the technology base enabling the development of innovative CI products and services, research progress in ICT is a key ingredient for sustaining competitive CI. Therefore, it is a good investment to support ICT research and to encourage a more systematic and forward-looking use of its innovation potential. To fully harness this potential, it is important to develop new strategic guidance and RTDI support schemes, as the CI sector is characterised by a comparatively high percentage of micro-enterprises and non-conventional forms of employment.

The CI employment growth rate has been double that of the general economy in recent years and is forecast to continue at an average of 10 % annually. Cooperation with CI enterprises increases the innovativeness in all sectors, and regional CI specialisation explains about half of the variance of GDP/capita. Efficient knowledge generation and its creative application can transform the traditional industrial landscape into a competitive industry base and modern service sector, thus contributing to the generation of new markets and high-quality jobs.

In its EU 2020 proposal to the Council in March 2010, the European Commission highlights the importance of creativity and knowledge creation for sustained and sustainable growth. It aims at an impetus for overcoming the current crisis and advocates a new approach that explicitly addresses the complex interdependence between all governance levels.

Often, the main challenge for effective decision-making is the distributed nature of knowledge. SPI tools provide public and private decision-makers with comprehensive, objective, and forward-looking information (e.g. on long-term developments, global trends, societal and individual values, etc). Applied consecutively and consistently, they can help identify, select, structure and ‘translate’ all available information, thereby enabling the development of better decisions and policies.

The concept of a simplified policy support cycle (see graph) can help take this better into account for improving policies and programmes. It facilitates the analyses of decision-making processes and identifies the tools necessary to optimise the outcomes at each stage. Strategic policy intelligence (SPI) tools include technology or territorial foresight, innovation and technology assessment, roadmapping, evaluations and other interactive exercises.

Building on these concepts, the CReATE project (Creating a Joint Research Agenda for Promoting ICT Innovations in CI across Europe) developed a novel approach for enhanced strategic, trans-regional cluster development. Mobilising the commitment of and supporting consensus-building among all relevant stakeholders, project activities included trans-regional vision-building, priority-setting, project development and programme coordination across CI clusters in Baden-Württemberg (DE), Piemonte (IT), Rhône-Alpes (FR) and West-Midlands (UK).

From Music Composition to Architecture

CReATE was co-funded by the EU “Regions of Knowledge” (RoK) initiative, which aims to strengthen the research potential of European regions by encouraging and supporting the development of regional research-driven clusters.

The seven project partners, including public authorities, cluster managing organisations, technology transfer and research organisations, aim to increase CI competitiveness, market potential and outreach to other industry sectors by making more systematic use of ICT’s innovation potential.

To make the best use of their different RTDI support histories (EU, national, regional), factor and demand conditions, and strengths in the CI field, the partners worked with a common methodology (developed in an earlier RoK project) towards common overall priorities – and, on this base, developed different, regionally optimised applications. SPI tools were applied to identify promising RTDI priorities as a key ingredient of sustainable cluster growth, to foster trans-regional knowledge exchange more effectively and successfully, and to optimise the use of regional, national and EU infrastructures and programmes.

CReATE supports European co-operation of innovative clusters and focuses on the following six CI segments:

  • music composition and production,
  • film, television and video,
  • animation and computer games (entertainment software),
  • writing, publishing and print media,
  • advertising, graphic design and marketing,
  • architecture, visual arts and design.

Applying Strategic Policy Intelligence Tools

Based on a methodology developed in the earlier RoK project RegStrat (SPI Tools for Better S&T Investment Strategies in Europe’s Regions) and the policy support cycle shown above, several SPI tools were applied: innovation analyses and benchmarking were followed by foresight-type and impact assessment activities and resulted in recommendations for joint projects and for optimising RTDI programmes. The recommendations were adapted to the specific needs and policy objectives of the participating regions. To ensure both regional and trans-regional impact, the overall process was designed in an iterative way, alternating between and mutually enriching the different governance levels.

Stock-taking: Developing a Regional Knowledge Base

As a sound basis for the analysis of the state of play regarding the regional CI and ICT research potential and the identification of regional ‘fields of aspiration’, a background paper described general future trends and drivers in ICT research relevant for the application in CI. Based on this and the regional analysis template prepared by the strategy consultants of Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum (SEZ), each region conducted stakeholder interviews and desk research to elaborate a comprehensive set of data and information on CI and ICT innovations. These regional knowledge-generating activities resulted in comprehensive regional reports including cluster maps and detailed SWOT-analyses.

Forward-looking: Identifying Regional Research Priorities

Prospective activities were undertaken in form of two workshops in each region, designed and supported by foresight consultants to ensure adequate and comparable results.

The first regional stakeholder workshop elaborated a common perception of important trends and drivers of possible future developments in CI. Then, key opportunities and challenges to be faced with regard to the regional strengths and weaknesses from the previous SWOT analysis were identified.

The second workshop developed a shared understanding of the possibilities arising from ICT RTDI for CI and derived a ‘ranking’ of regional research priority areas.

Outward-looking: Developing a Joint Research Agenda and Elaborating Joint Project Ideas

Based on the regional results, the identified ICT research capacities, the CI needs and the defined research priorities were related to each other, and joint priorities relevant to all project regions were identified. These were discussed with regional stakeholders and EU representatives during an international IC conference in Turin.

Subsequently, a synthesis report was drafted summarising the results of all regional activities. It also presented the five trans-regional research priorities that would form the basis of the Joint Research Agenda (JRA):

  1. Visual and Interactive Experience: new visual dimensions and digital interaction between humans and computers (3D internet, virtual worlds, simulations and computer-generated imagery).
  2. Tools of Productivity and Intelligent Automation: improved productivity and semantic software (rapid prototyping, conversion of 2D visualisations to 3D, more precise combination of web and database content).
  3. Digital Distribution: new distribution channels on the World Wide Web (collective availability of user-generated content, new markets and revenue streams).
  4. Mobility and Interoperability: a new level of flexibility in the mobile age (any time, any place access to information, location-related and personalised mobile services).
  5. User-Producer Interaction in Development: new production methods featuring user-generated content.

The JRA was based on a trans-regional analysis (‘match-making’) and enriched by input and feedback from regional stakeholders. It includes an outline of the current situation as well as future development perspectives, strategic research areas for CI and, more specifically, a comprehensive depiction of the CReATE transregional research priorities. Future lines of action and promising implementation activities for the CReATE and other regions were also outlined.

In line with this, the project partners and relevant stakeholders formulated promising cross-regional, cross-cluster project ideas and concepts. Feasibility and relevant funding opportunities were also scrutinized.

The implementation of these project ideas is not part of the CReATE project. However, as it plays a vital role for the sustainable impact of the whole process, the regional project partners aim to support and encourage regional stakeholders to continue the work in this sense. Also, the strategic CReATE results were designed in a way that they could be utilised in the medium-term for broader and long-term trans-regional cooperation and for the purpose of optimising regional research programmes and policy development more generally.

Increasing Project Impact and Outreach

The European outreach of the project was addressed by transforming the project methodology and good practices from the partner regions into a generally applicable and easy-to-use toolkit for all European actors. Furthermore, the know-how gained during the project served as input to interactive training and capability-building workshops for interested regions. By June 2010, two of these will have been conducted in the greater Dublin region and Pomerania, Poland. Even after the end of the project, such workshops can be set up in other regions interested in strategic cluster development.

Leverage Effects for other Regions and Sectors

CI play an important role in economic growth, both in terms of the sector’s own contribution to GDP and its role in the innovativeness of other economic sectors. Supporting CI clusters in Europe’s regions can thus considerably contribute, directly and indirectly, to regional, national and European competitiveness. Higher, better coordinated and more focused RTDI investments can be achieved if sector or cluster priorities are set based on a broad forward-looking perspective considering future technological, social and political developments on the local and global level.

Thus, future projects, programmes and policies need to focus on how to achieve the agreed direction or facilitate the desired change of direction. Success means that activities are designed and conducted not only aiming “to do things right” but rather “to do the right things right”.

Therefore, strategic guidance, as developed and implemented in the holistic three-stage SPI-supported CReATE approach, will become increasingly important for the long-term economic success of research-driven clusters.

CReATE’s intertwined bottom-up and top-down approach, enhancing cooperation on various levels and between a variety of actors, can lead to a better adjustment, coordination and optimisation of innovation policies on all governance levels.

This is especially attractive for Europe’s regions because, in times where RTDI budgets are stagnating, pooling funds and know-how in joint trans-regional projects can help to make the most efficient and effective use of regional resources and infrastructures.

The CReATE project showed that, by conducting such forward-looking trans-regional activities, comprehensive knowledge and priority generation and its application are facilitated, trans-regional synergies are tapped, internationalisation of regional actors is enhanced and the basis for more economic success is established.

These more general conclusions are based on the concrete lessons learned during the implementation of CReATE:

  • The methodology followed a multi-actor, multi-level and multi-disciplinary approach, fostered trans-regional cooperation and thus promoted synergies between regional, national and European initiatives. Similar to the ‘Strategic Research Agendas’ of the European Technology Platforms, the CReATE JRA can contribute to raising public and private RTDI investments at all governance levels and improve their impact through optimising efforts and resources.
  • The dialogue-oriented CReATE methodology involved all relevant regional stakeholders of the ‘triple helix’ (university-industry-government) and thus facilitated consensus-building based on personal relationships and mutual trust. The CReATE activities can serve as a starting point for a comprehensive cluster foresight exercise to define a common vision and strategy for a broader approach to sustainable cluster development in the regions. The experiences of the regional CReATE activities show that participatory interactive approaches are a good way to set the scene for joint actions across different regions, sectors and disciplines.
  • On the regional level, the stakeholder workshops have shown some barriers between the different business cultures, languages and mindsets between ICT and CI representatives. The challenge for innovation policies, for instance concerning cluster development, is to bridge the gap between these different mindsets and to leverage cross-disciplinary potential to boost innovation and competitiveness in new markets. The CReATE project’s regional stakeholder workshops clearly pointed out the need for specific support actions to optimally utilise the synergies between ICT and CI.
  • The trans-regional JRA tapped trans-regional synergies by identifying specific regional needs and capabilities as well as the most promising international technology and market development perspectives. It provided the base for optimised concrete actions, both regionally and trans-regionally, generating a clear added value for the regions. The JRA enables all regional actors (from public to private sphere) to rethink and eventually to adjust the focus, effectiveness and efficiency of their policies and (business) strategies. A number of project ideas have already been developed among the project partners and will ensure a sustainable impact of the project after its finalisation.
  • The CReATE methodology facilitated trans-regional and cross-cluster knowledge flows and learning processes across and beyond the CReATE regions and fostered the integration of the CReATE regions into international innovation networks. In this context, broadening and deepening the cross-regional activities beyond the project time frame is valuable to fully capitalise on the added value provided by this methodological approach.
Authors: Sabine Hafner-Zimmermann, Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum,      hafner@steinbeis-europa.de

Dr. Björn Sautter,           Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum,                     sautter@steinbeis-europa.de

Dr. Günter Clar, Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum,                                  clar@steinbeis-europa.de

            Sponsors: European Commission (DG Research), participating regions
Type: Single issue brief
Organizer: MFG Baden-Württemberg GmbH Stuttgart, Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum, Stuttgart, Germany
Duration: 3/2008-12/2010 Budget: 11m EUR Time Horizon: 2020 Date of Brief: March 2010

 

Download EFP Brief No. 171 CReATE

Sources and References

  • Project websites: www.steinbeis-europa.de/index.php5?file=484; lets-create.eu; www.regstrat.net
  • Contact persons as mentioned above
  • See, e.g., http://www.europe-innova.eu/web/guest/home/-/journal_content/56/10136/178407

EFP Brief No. 151: Furniture Foresight Centre – CEFFOR®

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

CEFFOR was created to promote the sustainable development (in terms of all three pillars: economic, social and environmental) of the
furniture industry in countries with high costs of production. CEFFOR is to accomplish this task by means of contributing strategic
information to the social agents and companies who participate in determining enterprise strategies and industry policies.

EFMN Brief No. 151_Furniture Foresight Centre

EFP Brief No. 149: EU-Africa Energy Partnership: Implications for Biofuel Use

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

This brief intends to provide an overview of the rationale underlying the EU-Africa Energy Partnership, in addition to an analysis of the potential implications of this policy on the development of sub-Saharan African nations. It is posited that the partnership could have potentially negative repercussions if critical uncertainties are not sufficiently taken into account, and that it is in the EU’s best interest to ensure that outcomes are genuinely equitable. The research also has implications for other developing nations around the world seeking to further their economies and raise living standards by means of engaging in the global biofuels industry.

Europe, Energy Security and Biofuels

It is widely acknowledged that the energy security of the EU, as a whole, is deficient with respect to meeting future energy requirements. At the same time, the EU has resolved to de-crease its carbon footprint and wean itself off from environ-mentally damaging fossil fuels. A further concern is that even if the developed world manages to arrest the proliferation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions the developing world will still continue to pollute.
To address these important issues, the EU has developed the EU-Africa Energy Partnership. The rationale, broadly speak-ing, is twofold:

  • Secure the EU’s energy supply and allow its member states to meet challenging emissions reduction targets.
  • Provide sub-Saharan African economies with a further export market, in addition to allowing these nations to leapfrog to lower-emissions technologies.

Although the partnership deals with renewable energy in its broadest sense, there appears to be great emphasis on the cul-tivation of biomass used in the production of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, for which there is increasing demand within the EU. Despite the ostensibly sound intentions of the policy, it remains to be seen whether the energy partner-ship will truly be mutually beneficial.
The aim of this brief is to examine the critical uncertainties that could potentially damage the workability and equitability of the energy partnership. A key consideration, here, is that the partnership has seemingly been formulated under ceteris pari-bus conditions. Thus, the partnership’s success is predicated on the continuation of existing trends, such as growth in bio-fuel demand and the ability to cultivate biomass at market-friendly prices in the future. Yet, the increasing complexity of technological systems, the advent and potential adoption of new technologies, in addition to climate change, means that it cannot be assumed that all things will indeed remain equal.

EU Biofuel Policy

The EU has set targets for biofuel usage within the member states. Policy measures designed to stimulate biofuel use were introduced in 1992. The overall aim has been to reduce the cost of biofuels in comparison with conventional petroleum products, which otherwise would be higher given the produc-tion costs and economic risk associated with fluctuations in oil price and the value of biomass-derived by-products (Cadenas and Cabezudo, 1998).
The EU Commission set a political target of substituting 20 percent of conventional biofuels by 2020 (European Commis-sion, 2001, p. 45). The even more ambitious COM(2006)845 proposed that biofuel targets for transport fuel should be 20 percent for the same year. The EU Biofuels Directive (2003/30/EEC) requires member states to ensure that a mini-mum proportion of fuels sold are biofuels (see Faaij, 2006). The aim is to ensure that 5.75% of conventional fuels are re-placed by biofuels, although the Biomass Action Plan (BAP) has concluded that these targets will not be reached (Commis-sion of the European Communities, 2006, p. 6).
There is thus a growing requirement for biofuel production within the EU and indeed a growing demand for biofuels (es-pecially biodiesel). Since the EU member states do not have the capacity to increase biomass cultivation without causing an increase in food prices (a politically unpalatable outcome), it has been deemed necessary to look for alternative ways to satisfy this demand.

Energy Partnership

In this context, the EU-Africa Energy Partnership emerges as an important component of the EU’s aim to increase the use of bio-fuels for transport within the member states, thereby allowing the EU to meet challenging biofuel targets, contribute to global GHG mitigation strategies (such as Kyoto), and address concerns regarding energy security. The partnership is argued to be mutually beneficial, since it will also promote economic and social improvement in sub-Saharan African countries and allow such nations to switch to more environmentally friendly patterns of energy use.
The partnership is intended to promote greater interconnectiv-ity between energy systems and ensure a diversity of energy options (Commission of the European Communities, 2006, p. 15). Although there is reference to alternative energy sources, such as hydropower (ibid.), there is clearly an emphasis on greater biomass cultivation and biofuel production, perhaps to the detriment of other energy solutions.
Energy security is obviously an important component of the partnership. Sub-Saharan Africa thus has the ability to sup-plement volatile supplies (and pricing) of OPEC oil with bio-mass cultivated in the region. Although the sub-Saharan re-gion is also clearly not especially stable, it at least has the ca-pacity to offset some of the risk associated with dealing with OPEC countries.

Production Processes

Given the current high cost of second-generation biofuel pro-duction processes (which use the whole organic matter as a feedstock), it can be assumed that the bulk of the biofuel feed-stocks grown in sub-Saharan Africa would be used in arguably inefficient first-generation production processes. Here, only the sugars and starches (rather than the whole plant) are used for ethanol production, while only the extracted vegetable oil is used in biodiesel production (Charles et al., 2007).

Critical Uncertainties

It is necessary to look at the critical uncertainties that could impact on the success of the EU-Africa Energy Partnership.

Climate Change

The energy partnership, in as much as it relates to promoting sub-Saharan Africa as a source of biofuel feedstock, assumes that current climatic conditions will prevail. Yet climate change could mean that climatic conditions in areas currently suitable for agricultural endeavour might militate against prof-itable biomass cultivation.
There are a number of critical factors associated with climate change that need to be taken into account:

  • Increased uncertainty with regard to rainfall patterns: This will problematize when to plant and place pressure on water use, with potential social repercussions.
  • Increased and more severe meteorological phenomena: Floods could wipe out entire fields; storms could damage or destroy harvests, while uncontrolled fires (resulting from co-factors of drought, thunderstorm activity or hu-man action) could do likewise.
  • Increased incidence and severity of pestilence: Changed climatic conditions could make crops more susceptible to pests, thereby increasing the need to employ pesticides (with cost penalties and potential impact on the local envi-ronment and human health).

These factors, when taken together, suggest that it will be more difficult to plan for weather-related phenomena into the future. Thus, claims of increased energy security within the EU resulting from the partnership need to be tempered with the realization that traditional agricultural techniques do not guarantee constant and predictable harvests, while climate change may exacerbate uncertainty.

Environmental Impacts

Agriculture has brought about widespread environmental deg-radation around the world. Thus, it is important to bear in mind the potentially negative impacts that intensified farming practices will have on ecosystems in sub-Saharan nations, in addition to the region as a whole.
The possible factors that could lead to negative environmental impacts are as follows:

  • Increased use of fertilizers: Run-off from fertilizers in-creases the incidence of algal bloom in aquatic environ-ments; fertilizers lead to an increased level of atmospheric N2O harmful to the ozone layer; and fertilizer production and distribution is energy inefficient and contributes to greenhouse gas proliferation.
  • Increased use of pesticides: Pesticide run-off pollutes local watercourses, results in a loss of biodiversity when food supplies for higher organisms are reduced, can flow throughout food-chains, thereby leading to chemical build-up in higher organisms, especially avian fauna; pro-duction processes and distribution incur GHG penalties, can be harmful to human life and can contaminate water supplies (of particular importance in developing nations).
  • Increased threat of deforestation: Expanding biofuel mar-kets may prompt changes in land-use, potentially leading to deforestation, entailing significant biodiversity and CO2 penalties.

These factors could be aggravated if a greater demand for bio-fuels in the EU member states is occasioned and if changing weather patterns result in a need to ‘make hay while the sun shines’. Such a demand could effectively see the EU exporting local environmental degradation from its member states to sub-Saharan Africa. Environmental degradation could also lead to opportunity costs resulting from a loss of potential eco-tourism income.

Technological Change

Biofuels, at best, will be an important component in a future energy mix. There are no indications that biofuels will ever replace petroleum-derived products on a one-for-one basis (Di Lucia and Nilsson, 2007). Biofuels enjoy a clear advantage over other potential energy solutions, especially since they take advantage of existing infrastructural systems (Foresight Vehicle, 2004). This ensures that switching costs are reduced.
On the other hand, there is the threat that biofuels will be ren-dered redundant by other technologies. There is much evi-dence throughout history to suggest that over-reliance on a single natural resource for a nation’s prosperity is not sustain-able over the long-term. For example, Chile, which prospered on the basis of its export of sodium nitrate (saltpetre), lost this advantage when scientists developed a synthetic alternative.
Some threats to the increasing importance of biofuels are as follows:

  • Increase in use of nuclear energy (and thus ‘clean’ elec-tricity).
  • Switch to cleaner second- (and third-) generation biofuel production processes.
  • Development of a hydrogen economy (predicated on the availability of clean, renewable energy, such as from the sources listed below).
  • Other energy paradigms, for instance, geothermal, hy-droelectric, photovoltaic, wind etc.

Thus, over-capitalization in biomass cultivation for first-generation production processes (in particular) may lead to un-sustainable increases in foreign debt, in addition to severe job losses and resultant social upheaval. In a worst case scenario, more efficient technologies, if they become widely adopted around the globe, could lead to the biofuel industry’s collapse.

Opportunity Costs

Even if the biofuel industry remains important, over-emphasis on biomass cultivation could result in a failure to develop in-dustries that have the potential to contribute greater value added to sub-Saharan African economies. This would espe-cially be the case if insufficient attention were paid to process-ing the feedstock in sub-Saharan Africa, as could occur in na-tions traditionally focussed on exporting natural resources.
Biomass cultivation, in the event of an ever-increasing de-mand for biofuels, would not merely translate into sub-Saharan African countries gaining an OPEC-like significance on the world stage. This is especially the case given a) the potentially wide dispersal of biomass cultivation and b) the high likelihood that biofuels would remain one of several al-ternative energy solutions. African biomass would also have to compete with that cultivated in North and South America, and also in South-East Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Given that these regions are already more highly industrialized than most sub-Saharan African nations, it is plausible that greater value added would occur in these regions.
There is also a danger that biomass cultivation in sub-Saharan Africa could engender an increased dependency on multi-national corporations involved in agribusiness. There are al-ready substantial links to agriculture in developing nations and the research-intensive products, including seeds, support sys-tems and expertise, being offered by multinational agribusi-ness entities.

Export Commodity Dependency

Sub-Saharan Africa has a long history of supplying European nations with raw materials to be used in value-adding produc-tion processes. There is thus the potential for this situation to continue if Europe resolves to view the region merely as source of inexpensive feedstock for biofuel production, rather than as a knowledge-intensive producer in its own right.
Many of the economic and social problems faced today in sub-Saharan Africa are deeply rooted in history. When the Euro-pean colonial powers partitioned Africa, they viewed the colo-nies as suppliers of raw materials for their factories. Farmland traditionally used for food cultivation, even after the inde-pendence of the former colonies, was turned over to cash crops such as cocoa, cotton, coffee and rubber. The result was that Africa exported what it did not need, and imported what it did, thereby leading to substantial trade deficits and continued indebtedness (Carmody, 1998). This is because the low price obtained for cash crops rarely if ever matches the relatively high price paid for imported food, in addition to luxury goods and hardware desired by affluent members of society.
It is important to be awake to the potential for ongoing com-modity dependence to occur, especially if the EU pays insuffi-cient attention to developing sub-Saharan Africa as an energy producer rather than merely an agricultural supplier.

Investing in Sub-Saharan Future

It is possible to formulate a number of potential policy impli-cations that would add rigour to the energy partnership.

  • Moving away from first-generation biofuels: A continued emphasis on first-generation biofuel production processes reinforces sub-Saharan Africa as a supplier of cash crops.There are inherent problems with first-generation biofuel production processes. A failure to address these and move demand towards more efficient second-generation proc-esses could lead to a global undermining of confidence in biofuels as a source of renewable energy.
  • Ensuring environmental sustainability: This is tied closely to the previous consideration, but also with the necessity of preventing local and regional environmental degrada-tion as a result of poor farming practices or indeed wide-spread change in land-use. There is a need to develop mechanisms to ensure that increasing demand for biofuels within the EU does not lead to catastrophic environmental impacts in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Investing in sub-Saharan Africa’s future: The energy partnership should be used as a component in an overall strategy to enhance economic development in the region. A failure to do so will result in greater amounts of envi-ronmental degradation (including greenhouse gas emis-sions) over the long-term.

In short, the nations of the region need to acquire their own energy security and processing infrastructure. The EU-Africa Energy Partnership must serve as a vehicle to promote these ends. To achieve this end, sufficient political will over the long-term to propagate cleaner biofuel production processes is required. If not, the biofuels market could be irreparably com-promised and the partnership with it, with grave implications for not only the EU and sub-Saharan Africa, but also the planet as a whole.

 

Authors: Michael Charles michael.charles@scu.edu.au
Sponsors: Southern Cross University, Australia
Type: Single issue, energy policy
Organizer: n.a.
Duration: n.a.
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2018
Date of Brief: July 2008

Download: EFMN Brief No. 149_EU-Africa Energy Partnership

Sources and References

  •  Cadenas, A., and Cabezudo, S., 1998. Biofuels as sustain-able technologies: perspectives for less developed coun-tries. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 58(1–2), 83–103.
  • Carmody, P., 1998. Constructing alternatives to structural adjustment in Africa. Review of African Political Econ-omy 25(75), 25–46.
  • Charles, M.B., Ryan, R., Ryan, N., and Oloruntoba, R., 2007. Public policy and biofuels: the way forward? En-ergy Policy 35(11), 5737–5746.
  • Di Lucia, L., and Nilsson, L.J., 2007. Transport biofuels in the European Union: the state of play. Transport Policy 14(6), 533–543.
  • European Commision, 2001. Green Paper: Towards a European Strategy for Security of Supply. Directorate-General for Transport and Energy.
    http://ec.europa.eu/energy/green-paper-energy-supply/doc/green_paper_energy_supply_en.pdf
  • European Commission, 2006. Communication from the Commission: An EU strategy for Biofuels—Impact As-sessment. Commission Staff Working Document COOM (2006) 34 final.
    http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/biomass/biofuel/sec2006_142_en.pdf
  • Faaij, A.P.C., 2006. Bio-energy in Europe: changing technology choices. Energy Policy 34(3), 322–342.
  • Foresight Vehicle, 2004. Foresight Vehicle Technology Roadmap: Technology and Research Directions for Fu-ture Road Vehicles, Version 2.0.
    http://www.foresightvehicle.org.uk/public/info_/FV/TRMV2.pdf

EFP Brief No. 142: Foresighting Food, Rural and Agrifutures in Europe

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Through a renewed mandate in 2005 aimed at strengthening the coordination of research efforts in Europe, the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR) launched a foresight process to consider the prospects for agriculture in 2015 – 2020 and to help identify political answers to the challenges raised. In July 2006, the European Commission’s Directorate-General Research set up a Foresight Expert Group to support SCAR in identifying long-term research priorities to support a European knowledge-based biosociety. The group was given the remit to formulate possible scenarios for European agriculture in a 20-year perspective allowing for the identification of evidence required (for more robust policy approaches) and innovation needs in the medium to long-term.

Europe’s Agrifuture Challenges

Europe’s agri-food industries and broader rural economies are being rapidly reshaped, predominantly by global trends and policy developments, combined with a diverse range of nonmonetary issues, including food safety/security, environmental sustainability, biodiversity, biosafety and biosecurity, animal welfare, ethical foods, fair trade and the future viability of rural regions. European agri-futures are evolving within the context of the EU’s overarching policy drives (Lisbon and Gothenburg), which project Europe as

  • the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven (sustainable) economy, and
  • a responsible global player, particularly vis-à-vis developing countries.

The point of departure for addressing these policy drives is not to consider them as mutually irreconcilable, but to define the most appropriate and effective approaches for creating synchronous efforts thereby generating added value. The ‘agrienvironmental’ measures in Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have been promoting development that incorporates environmental issues and CAP in general is being reoriented towards a wider rural policy perspective integrating environmental issues and rural development perspectives.

Terms of Reference

The Foresight Expert Group, composed of a chair, rapporteur and eight domain experts1, was tasked to work in close collaboration with the EC services involved and the SCAR working group, under the co-ordination of the Commission’s foresight unit (DG RTD E-3), to review and analyse foresight information relating to European agriculture in relation to eight major driving forces (economy and trade, science and technology, rural economy and regional development, societal and demographic changes, climate change, non-food and energy, environment, health). This analysis was to lead to a working paper for each driving force. Based on this analysis, the group of experts would agree on a minimum of three futures scenarios (20-year horizon) for European agriculture and an analysis of the implications for evidence required (for more robust policies) and innovation needs in the medium to long-term. The work was to take into account foresight activities on a global, European and national level, including other ongoing EU projects in this area.

The main objective of the exercise was to set research priorities for the medium to long-term. The terms of reference included:

  • The gathering and analysis of foresight information on the eight major drivers.
  • Preparation of a foresight paper on each of the major driving forces for agriculture in Europe and perspectives for agricultural research.
  • Using the information produced during the first part of the study to conduct a foresight exercise to predict possible futures scenarios (20 year perspective) for European agriculture.
  • On the basis of identified scenarios, to assess the implications for research and innovation requirements of European agriculture over the medium to long term.
  • To present a draft report based on papers presented on the “major drivers” at a foresight conference in early 2007 and production of a final report.

A Creative Disruption Approach

The expert group opted for a disruption scenario approach with four scenarios developed through a simple method, whereby each expert identified four “disruption factors” emerging over the next 20 years. These factors were grouped into three blocks: “climate disruption” (the most significant); “energy disruption” and “socialquestions: health, safety, employment. The following “wild cards” emerged:  “intellectual property” disruption and “monetary disruption”. Four scenarios emerged and a baseline scenario was subsequently developed.

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Disruption Scenarios
  1. Climate Shock starts with climate change and the acceleration of related environmental impacts as the driving disruption factor. This scenario combines a primary business as usual scenario – with differing geographical climate impacts, no European-level action is taken, and a crisis situation ensues – with a success scenario built into it at the end, where positive action is taken on a national level. It underlines a fundamental challenge that Europe will increasingly face with the onset of climate change impacts on agriculture, namely how to coordinate European policy responses to the diverse regional and local impacts of climate change bearing in mind different regional contexts and framework conditions.
  2. Energy Crisis focuses on energy supply vulnerability of Europe as the key disruption factor and the acceleration of related economic and societal impacts as the key drivers. This scenario also combines a business as usual scenario, a crisis engineered by the energy global players, with a success scenario developing at the end as a result of Internet-based community empowerment and action. It implies
    a strategic research emphasis at the European level to support in the short-term the improved networking of farmers and researchers with a view to addressing urgent knowledge needs, instituting faster mutual learning processes and supporting communities of practice.
  3. We Are What We Eat focuses on food health and society as sources of disruption jointly determining a more community and consumer-oriented research agenda. This scenario combines an initial crisis situation with a success scenario approach with clear guidelines for an effective European research agenda. It highlights the advantages of a citizen-oriented research where science and technology are effectively harnessed to address the real needs and concerns of citizens. The main priorities relate to quality, safe and functional foods for a range of emerging lifestyles and technologies to produce primarily citizenoriented enabling environments for knowledge production and exchange together with socially-driven, environmentally effective products, processes and services.
  4. Cooperation with Nature focuses on society, science and technology as key joint drivers evolving in a beneficially symbiotic relationship. This primarily utopian scenario projects an ideal situation where science and technology have been effectively deployed to ensure sustainable development at all levels. The key to addressing these needs is the transition to local small-scale production and a shortening and transparency in the food supply chain, and Internet, open learning, and ambient systems creating more globally aware, sustainability conscious consumers.

 

Agro-Food Sector Bound to Change

In spite of the excellent performance of Europe’s agro-food system in recent decades, the European Union is now facing a major disruption period in terms of international competitiveness, climate change, energy supply food security and societal problems of health and unemployment. Disruption means fast change, resulting in both positive and negative impacts and thus the main challenge facing agro-food actors is the speed of adaptation and proactive responses to secure a European lead in this area. Systemic approaches show that decentralised systems adapt themselves faster to change than centralized ones. A careful assessment of agricultural research and innovation systems is needed to identify and modify the places where centralised decision-making generates rigidity, in research as in policy.

Decentralised Adaptation

Decentralised adaptation relies on a high performance information system allowing the decision makers, each operating at his level, to use in real time the best upgraded data necessary to implement their rationality. Technology now offers the operational tools to put upgraded data at the disposal of the farmers and decision makers of the food chain and to allow an exchange of experience between actors.

Early Warning System

Through satellite imaging and Internet diffusion technologies it is now possible to build an early warning, free access information system on climate change and its long-term consequences for ecosystems. This system has still to be developed and marketed and training provided to the end users. The Internet is emerging as a powerful tool for facilitating the development of worldwide networks linking growing communities of practice in a number of agriculture-related areas and themes. The Internet not only changes the research framework and conditions, but also the link between researchers and endusers of research results and has the potential to facilitate a more proactive engagement of rural communities, farmers and citizens in the design and implementation of ongoing research and knowledge exchange activity. In order to facilitate these interactions, eEurope strategies at the European and national levels need to cater for the extension of broadband access at affordable prices to rural communities, farmers, citizens and other stakeholders.

Overcoming the Barriers towards  a Knowledge-based Biosociety

One of the major hurdles facing Europe in making the transition to knowledge-based agri-futures is the need to address the growing challenge of knowledge failures. European agricultural research is currently not delivering the type of knowledge that is needed by end-users in rural communities as they embark on the transition to the rural knowledge-based biosociety. The problems are not exclusive to agricultural research but are felt more acutely in this sector where the role of traditional, indigenous knowledge is already being undermined as a result of the growing disconnection with ongoing research activity.

New System of Education  and Knowledge Diffusion

The social dimensions of the shift to the knowledge-based biosociety are rendered more complex by the demographic and mobility/migration factors. They call for new systems of education and knowledge diffusion and careful consideration of the implications for education as we enter a new system characterised by a shift from engineering, physical and mechanical sciences to converging technologies.
Knowledge exchange strategies and policies, already in place in the more advanced EU member states, need to be formalised and given a higher profile at the EU level, as stand-alone strategies and not merely as add-ons to research and innovation policies and good practices shared with other member states. Knowledge exchange policies differ from innovation policies per se, although they also inter-connect with them. The main emphasis of knowledge exchange policies is to ensure the relevance and accessibility of knowledge to communities, farmers, consumers, young people and educational institutions.

A Case for Action

  1. More coordinated EU, national and regional policy responses to a range of challenges that affect the world rural agri-economy and facilitate the shift to a knowledge-based biosociety are
  2. An overview of emerging global trends, policy developments, challenges and prospects for European agri-futures point to the need for a new strategic framework for theplanning and delivery of research is called for, addressing the following challenges:
  • Sustainability challenge: facing climate change in the knowledge-based biosociety
  • Security challenge: safeguarding European food, rural, energy, biodiversity and agri-futures
  • Knowledge challenge: user-oriented knowledge development and exchange strategies
  • Competitiveness challenge: positioning Europe in agrifood and other agricultural lead markets
  • Policy and institutional challenge: facing policy-makers in synchronising multi-level policies
  1. The complex, dynamic inter-connection of challenges, facing European agriculture research from a forward-looking, 20year perspective requires strategic European policy responses right now. This will entail re-designing the institutional framework for research and putting in place a two-track approach for agri-futures research:
  • a transition research agenda to address the more immediate sustainability and safety/security concerns and the radical transformation arising from the reform of the CAP, combined with
  • a more long-term high-tech research agenda to ensure that appropriate high-tech research investments are put in place so that Europe’s agri-food industries and rural economies retain their competitive position in global markets.
  1. To raise the capacity of rural regions to generate, participate in and translate research developments into economic growth, a regionally-focused, demand-driven approach to research and innovation needs to be developed. A basic requirement is a dedicated funding system designed (i) to capitalise on regions’ comparative advantage, by mobilising all resources available towards attainment of context dependent and demonstrably attainable goals, and (ii) to exploit good practices and models in the governance and delivery of research, technology implementation and innovation.
  2. The competitiveness challenge and demographic decline facing rural communities, combined with reduced global financial support to agriculture, may lead the EU to adopt, under emergency pressure, a temporary protectionist Long-term, strategic and institutional capacities in knowledge transfer, public early warning on ecosystems evolution and decentralised systems of agricultural research and approaches are of even more central importance in the transition from a subsidies-driven to a knowledge-driven biosociety.
  3. Continued, active engagement in foresight is critical for enhancing the strategic and institutional capacities of Europe’s agricultural policy-making and research and knowledgetransfer organisations.
Authors: Jennifer Cassingena Harper Jennifer.harper@gov.mt
Sponsors: FEU Directorate-General Research
Type: EU Foresight Exercise
Organizer: EU Directoral-General Research Mr Elie Faroult elie.faroult@ec.europa.eu
Duration: July 2006
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2020
Date of Brief: April 2008

Download: EFMN Brief No. 142_ Agrifutures in Europe

Further Reading

Gaudin, Thierry et al. (2007), Foresighting food, rural and agri-futures.
http://ec.europa.eu/research/agriculture/scar/index_en.cfm?p=3_foresight
http://ec.europa.eu/research/agriculture/scar/pdf/foresighting_food_rural_and_agri_futures.pdf

EFP Brief No. 123: Scenarios 2026 for the South West of England

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

This study (which took place in 2004) presents four ‘socio-economic-political scenarios’ designed to stimulate, guide and inform strategic thinking about the future of one of nine English regions, namely the South West. The scenarios portray distinct pictures of the social, political and economic background against which the strategies for the South West can be reviewed and developed. They provide a consistent approach and serve as practical thinking tools. The scenarios are also intended to help organisations in the South West to assess their vulnerability to forces of change and to plan appropriate adaptation strategies.

EFMN Brief No. 123_South_West_England

EFP Brief No. 117: England’s Rural Futures Project: Scenario Creation & Backcasting

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Rural Futures is a study of what the English countryside might look like in 20 and 50 years time, from a social geographical perspective. Its overall purpose is to help policy makers and local communities clarify their objectives for the future and what needs to be done over the next few years to ensure that they are on a trajectory towards a desired and feasible scenario. The project addressees are therefore decision makers in all levels of government.

EFMN Brief No. 117 – Rural England

EFP Brief No. 103: Public Service 2022 in Ireland

Friday, May 20th, 2011

By 2022, Ireland will be celebrating 100 years of self-government. The Public Service 2022 project was launched to consider what kind of Ireland could exist by then, and what kind of public service might emerge. The idea behind the project was to identify and ex-amine trends and drivers of change both for Ireland and for the public services over the coming years. It was intended to present some of the options and choices which exist in improving the capacity of the public service to help design, respond to and implement poli-cies that are determined by government.

EFMN Brief No. 103 – Ireland Public Service 2022

EFP Brief No. 51: The Millennium Project 2050

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

The Millennium Project organizes futures research to improve thinking about the future and make that thinking available through a variety of media for consideration by policy-makers and for use in advanced training and public education. The goal is to accumulate wisdom about possible futures. High profile results of the project include the elaboration of Millennium Development Goals.

EFMN Brief No. 51 – The Millennium Project 2050