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EFP Brief No. 187: Using Foresight to Involve Industry in Innovation Policy

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

The brief describes the design and implementation of a success scenario workshop used in Malta to allow industry to give a foresight-based input to the design of innovation policy. The exercise drew upon the results of several industry-level studies in the small new EU member state aimed at identifying the drivers and inhibitors of private sector R&D and innovation investments.

Re-designing Regional Innovation Strategy

The exercise drew upon the results of several industry-level studies in Malta aimed at identifying the drivers and inhibitors of private sector R&D and innovation investments.

The segmentation of this micro-ecosystem into three types of firms – start-ups, SMEs and large firms – linked by a complex network and common framework conditions, provided the backdrop for a future-oriented exploratory exercise that considered the implications of the drivers of R&D and innovation in future markets, products, processes and services.

The brief describes the methodology and results of this workshop aimed at designing creative measures for innovative futures and hence encouraging firms to increase the level and effectiveness of their R&D expenditure. Lessons for the use of the success scenario approach for innovation are discussed.

Innovation is a key to the survival and growth of businesses in the present global competitive environment. Yet for many firms it remains a daunting challenge. Government today recognises that it must provide the conditions in which enterprises can flourish, and this includes provision of policies and support measures that help firms bring successful innovations to the market. Some policy measures in this area are longstanding, but the changing environment means that there is a need for constant review and adaptation to meet firms’ current and future needs.

The Futurreg Project

At the time this exercise was undertaken, Malta was reappraising its innovation policy support framework. The national agency responsible for enterprise support and innovation (Malta Enterprise) was developing a regional innovation strategy (MARIS).

Futures approaches were applied as part of this innovation strategy through Futurreg, an Interreg3c project aimed at promoting the use of foresight in ongoing regional development projects. The other main actor was the Malta Council for Science and Technology, which represented the Malta partner in Futurreg. The Council provided foresight support to MARIS and used the project to consult business and other stakeholders on necessary measures to support future innovation needs. This brief describes the findings of a success scenario workshop that had three aims:

  • to define a broad framework for a future-oriented national innovation policy,
  • to create an enhanced and shared understanding of the drivers of innovation,
  • to explore success scenarios and design new measures tailored to the specific needs of three types of Malta-based companies (see below).

The workshop brought together major stakeholders in innovation, including business leaders representing the three targeted groups of firms, public entities and other agencies supporting local business, and university experts. The basic idea was that by looking at drivers of innovation in the future and by identifying key deficiencies of firms in Malta in their ability to respond to these drivers, it would be possible to design policy measures that would address those deficiencies in the most effective way. In advance of the workshop and in consultation with stakeholders, a number of key drivers of innovation were identified, including economic, political, environmental, security, health, social change and ICT factors.

Success Scenario Workshop: Action-based Approach

The success scenario approach used was developed at the University of Manchester and has been applied in exercises setting UK national strategy for ICT, biotechnology and nanotechnology as well as in policy-related areas such as university-industry links (Cassingena Harper and Georghiou, 2005), international scientific cooperation policy (Georghiou et al., 2006), infrastructure policy (Keenan and Popper, 2007) and the development of the European Research Area. Ian Miles has described the success scenario approach in terms of two elements:

  • Desirability: capturing a vision of what could be achieved or aspired to by the sponsoring organisation or the wider community that it represents.
  • Credibility: the scenario is developed with the assistance and validated by a sample of experts in the area chosen to reflect a broad range of interests and usually including both practitioners and researchers (Miles, 2002).

It is an action-based approach, with the shared vision among senior stakeholders of what success in the area would look like being specified in terms of goals and indicators, which provide the starting point for the process of 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 involved develops mutual understanding and a common platform of knowledge that helps to align the actors for action.

Discussion of Drivers of Innovation in Firms

The success scenario workshop on Creative Measures for Innovative Futures convened on 15 May 2007. In line with the national research and innovation strategy developed last year by MCST, where it was noted that MCST and Malta Enterprise have shared competencies in the area of research and innovation policy and need to work together in developing new measures, this workshop provided a setting for creating a synergy of efforts in innovation. The workshop offered an opportunity to bring together the insights of relevant stakeholders from business, academia, government and business support agencies in innovation policy design. There was a good representation of all sectors at the event.

The previous Futurreg-MARIS workshop held in March 2007 highlighted the fact that a number of important initiatives are underway focused on promoting innovation in business, namely the MARIS, METIC and Forlink projects. The local industry studies carried out through these projects identified a number of inhibiting factors to innovation and also a range of opportunities in terms of niche areas to be exploited. The aim of the follow-up workshop in May 2007 was to build on this substantial work and place it in a more futures-oriented context where alternative approaches can be openly identified and discussed.

Figure 1 (below) shows the simplified process of the workshop. Items in blue shading represent the inputs coming from previous stages, yellow shading represents group work and green the plenary sessions. The workshop was attended by 45 experts, drawn primarily from the private sector and government but involving also academia.

In the plenary warm-up session, the key drivers of innovation were presented and discussed in order to identify immediate gaps from a local business perspective. Participants were then divided into three working groups, representing the needs and interests of three main types of firms. Workshop participants felt that innovation policies could best be distinguished by an amended classification of three types of firms:

  • Type 1: start-ups
  • Type 2: SMEs
  • Type 3: large firms

The working groups discussed the key drivers and identified the ones that are most relevant to their future development strategies and visions. They focused on the following questions:

  1. Which drivers are currently influencing innovation in your sector?
  2. Which drivers are likely to influence innovation in your sector in the next five to ten years?
  3. What are the likely future trends in innovation in your sector? In your products? In your services and processes?
  4. Are any innovation drivers or trends missing?

The plenary session focused on defining the impact of drivers of innovation on each of these types of firms. Participants were then asked to map the drivers according to their level of importance.

The working groups then focused on identifying the main deficiencies to innovation based on the RICO framework, which separates needs into four broad categories:

  • Resources: Insufficient resources to undertake the work without public funds, which is generally true for academic research and accepted for business R&D that is either highly uncertain and/or where social returns justify an investment that does not meet private criteria.
  • Incentives: Scientific structures or the market provide insufficient incentives for socially desirable behaviour, for example, academic-industrial collaboration. Fragmented or risk averse markets may also obstruct innovation.
  • Capabilities: Organisations lack key capabilities needed for the innovation process, for instance, the ability to write business plans or raise venture capital.
  • Opportunities: Generation of opportunities for innovation provides one of the main justifications of public support of science. Need also to consider how firms can get hold of such opportunities through knowledge transfer/exchange.

Participants were then asked to map the drivers according to their level of importance. A similar map was produced from a discussion of deficiencies drawing upon an earlier exercise (see Figure 3 below).

In the afternoon, the workshop entered into its more creative phase by using the results of the morning session to design Creative Measures for Innovation Support. Working groups then identified appropriate innovation policies to address the particular needs emerging in their discussion. The final plenary session captured the inputs to define a desired and feasible national portfolio of innovation policy measures and instruments.

Innovation Success Scenario for Malta: Change of Culture and Culture of Change

The Success Scenario for Malta takes as its core theme “change of culture and culture of change” as culture emerged as the key driver of innovation, featuring strongly in relation to the discussion on drivers, deficiencies and measures.

Shared Public-Private Innovation Concerns

The key innovation policy challenge for Malta is defining and spearheading a national political and economic vision in a more coherent and integrated way and ensuring broad societal acceptance. Government and enterprise face a number of innovation challenges relating to growing environmental, energy and security concerns and share a set of systemic concerns regarding improved networking and knowledge transfer across sectors and organisations; this involves links between business and academia in particular. Business and government have an enhanced demand for more innovative solutions to societal needs, sparked by the growing sophistication of needs and the emergence of more intelligent consumers and citizens.

Our Success Scenario Pathway: Synergetic relationships need to be developed between the public and private sectors through closer collaboration between government and business on key innovation concerns. Public innovation support to business could target:

  • Engaging stakeholders in implementing a national political vision and renewal while allowing for a dynamic feedback loop and learning.
  • Helping firms to innovate and sustain economic growth and profitability and to provide innovative solutions to societal needs; supporting firms in coping in innovative ways with the challenges presented by the physical environment, including energy and infrastructure; providing firms with capacities for providing innovative solutions to specialised customer demand.
  • Facilitating access to new technologies and knowledge.

The main features of the emergent success scenario were:

  • A political vision on innovation, targeting branding of InnovativeMalta and the provision of innovative solutions for the societal needs spearheaded.
  • This will be implemented through a National Innovation Platform and a strategy for capitalising Xon the small country advantage and geostrategic position coupled with the diffusion of a culture favourable to innovation and risk-taking – a ‘can do’ culture.
  • An ecosystem of well-networked organisations engaged in mutual learning for self-sustaining growth through the nurturing of constant adaptation and learning processes. This will be supported through a state-of-the-art support infrastructure and an accessible national knowledge platform to provide the springboard for innovation.
  • Firms are well-networked to customers at home and abroad and attuned to market intelligence; they scan and make use of enhanced in-house innovation management capabilities.

A series of detailed policy measures targeted to each of the three firm types was also produced.

Innovation Policy: Responding to Drivers of the Future

The success scenario approach is a tool tailored to the needs and realities of senior decision-makers in the public and private sectors while it maximises the chances of engaging real stakeholders at a level of seniority sufficient to implement emerging visions.

The device of a 24-hour workshop only works with extensive preparation to develop framework and contextual information. Innovation policy provides a natural focus for foresight approaches because of the need to respond to the drivers of the future. The framework used needs to be properly grounded in a theory of innovation to ensure that it is not merely an exercise in producing a wish-list.

Iterations and follow-up exercises and activities can provide an ideal opportunity for continuing the discussion on the feedback received, extending the debate to a new cluster of stakeholders or those who were unable to attend the first event. Such activities allow updating the scenarios and recommendations and support reviewing implementation and obstacles to progress.

Authors: Jennifer Cassingena Harper     jennifer.harper@gov.mt

Luke Georghiou                       luke.georghiou@mbs.ac.uk

 
Sponsors: DG Regio, EU Commission, Interreg 3C and Government of Malta  
Type: N/A  
Organizer: Malta Council for Science and Technology  
Duration: January-July 2007 Budget: N/A Time Horizon: N/A Date of Brief: September 2007

 

Download EFP Brief No 187_Using Foresight to Involve Industry in Innovation Policy

Sources and References

Cassingena Harper, J. and Georghiou, L. (2005): ‘Foresight in innovation policy: shared visions for a science park and business–university links in a city–region’, Technology Analysis and Strategic Management 17.

Georghiou, L., Keenan, M., Popper, R., Harper, J., Crehan, P. and Clar, G. (2006): SCOPE 2015 – Scenarios of future science and technology developments in developing countries 2015, Report to European Commission 2006

Miles, I. (2002): Scenarios and Foresight – Towards a Constructive Integration, PREST, mimeo, July.

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 luke.georghiou@mbs.ac.uk, Jacques Varet j.varet@brgm.fr, Philippe Larédo philippe.laredo@enpc.fr
Sponsors: EU Commission
Type: EU-level single issue foresight exercise
Organizer: FP7 FarHorizon Project Coordinator: MIOIR, Luke Georghiou Luke.georghiou@mbs.ac.uk
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, http://farhorizon.portals.mbs.ac.uk

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