Posts Tagged ‘knowledge society’

EFP Brief No. 230: From ‘Knowledge Capital’ to ‘Innovation System’ (follow-up)

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

As early as 2003, Manchester Science Parks sponsored a workshop that brought together leading players in the Manchester City region to develop a vision of how universities could contribute to the then newly established ‘Knowledge Capital initiative’. This exercise succeeded in many respects. Not only a vision and the respective action plan was jointly agreed and followed, but the knowledge base was also formed for a later vision creation exercise: that of developing an Innovation System in the Manchester City Region by 2015.

Powerhouse of the Knowledge Economy

The 2003 foresight exercise took place in the context of the strategic review of the Manchester Science Parks (MSP) to improve links between its tenant companies and universities and the city’s interest to capitalise on its concentration of higher education institutions and its cultural and leisure facilities. At the same time, the two most research-intensive universities were in the process of a merger that would later form the UK’s largest university. Thus, the opportunity emerged to drive the process much further over the next five years and secure Manchester’s position as a powerhouse of the knowledge economy.

MSP sponsored a scenario workshop in order to play a more proactive role both in the development of linkages with universities and in terms of local and regional policy-making. The two objectives of the exercise were:

• To develop a shared vision of the future of business–university linkages in the city region of Manchester. The aim was to link the strategies of the universities in the area with the city’s own vision of its future as a ‘Knowledge Capital’.

• To move towards a shared vision among senior stakeholders, such as local political leaders, heads of universities, heads of key intermediaries and industry associations, of what success in this area would look like in five years’ time and to begin the process of developing a road map to get there.

The Success Scenario Process

The workshop was organised following the success scenario process, which intended to develop a shared vision among senior stakeholders and the consequent roadmap to realise this vision. A key element of the method was that those who took part were also in a position to implement the outcomes, which they had already bought into, at least in part, through their own participation and contributions.

The workshop participants came from business and commerce, national, regional and local government, intermediary organisations and the city’s four universities. Participants were sent a briefing document setting out the objectives of the workshop and several background documents. The overall design of the process was based on three plenary sessions, interspersed with two rounds of facilitated break-out groups (the first on regional drivers and the second on modes of linkage), articulating elements of the scenario.

Five Success Dimensions

The output of the workshop was summarised in the form of a scenario for success in 2008. This brought together the key drivers and shapers identified by the participants and highlighted the different but related dimensions of this successful outcome. Five dimensions of change were identified to present the success scenario.

· Infrastructure: The reach of the knowledge producers spreads to all parts of the city region: a network of hotspots of university-industry interfaces has spread away from the campuses across the city region. Entrepreneurs are attracted by the combination of café culture and easily located specialised spaces for innovation. The Manchester Science Park brand defines the quality level.

· Human Resources: Manchester becomes a net importer of graduates: an exodus of graduates to Southeast England has been reversed as high quality jobs in small entrepreneurial firms attract the best. Rising teaching quality has pervaded the entire Manchester education system with mentoring being one of its hallmarks. Highly qualified and entrepreneurial immigrants are actively sought.

· University Missions: Each Manchester university is recognised as world-class in terms of its mission: following the emergence of the new University of Manchester as a world-class, research-driven institution, Manchester’s other two universities achieved similar levels of excellence within the context of their own missions. All three treat reach-out as an integral activity but approach it with distinctive and complementary styles.

· Inward Investment: Integrated policies attracts massive investment by multinationals and entrepreneurs: integrated packages combining land use, infrastructure and academic linkages have attracted huge investments by multinationals in the region, providing a natural market for start-up firms. Regional resources are used to gear and attract national and European investment.

· Networking: Firms of all sizes and ages in Manchester source knowledge and people and meet development needs from the universities: networking is seen as the key to businesses understanding how universities can help them. Much better interfaces now allow medium-sized firms to work with academics, while business joins city government in securing and supporting centres of excellence.

Progress Made

Around 2010, an assessment of the progress made in these five dimensions was carried out.1 In relation to infrastructure it was acknowledged that Manchester City Region had numerous innovation assets that already acted as hubs or that were seeing significant investment over the coming years. In fact, infrastructure was seen as the most developed element of the city region’s innovation system with 69% of survey respondents believing that it was nationally excellent or world-class. However, certain gaps were still present, including specialised facilities such as grow-on space for laboratory-based businesses, specialist incubation facilities, flexible, easyaccess space for a variety of enterprises, and slow development of next-generation broadband and wireless connectivity.

Ranking Improved

In relation to university missions, significant achievements were noted. The new University of Manchester ranking jumped from 78th in the world in 2004 to 41st in 2009. In doing so, it has moved from 24th in Europe to seventh and from eighth in the UK to fifth. The new university was complemented by the city region’s other universities also achieving high levels of success. The scientific strengths were also seen to attract nonuniversity public sector research into Manchester to create a new innovative growth pole for the UK. Survey respondents believed that Manchester City Region’s knowledge assets were world class, more than any other category. A third of the respondents also believed that Manchester City Region was a world-class location for learning.

Quality of human resources did not present significant improvements, however. Nearly 30% of city region residents had degrees, but this was no more than the national average and well below the rate in the US. Too many people lacked even basic skills and had very low aspirations, while too many Manchester residents lived in areas ranked as the most deprived in the country.

Raising skill levels was identified as the key issue on which the city region should focus in order to raise productivity and tackle deprivation, and further steps were taken in this regard. Nevertheless, perceptions of skills and future potential were positive. Over half of respondents thought that the availability of talented people in Manchester City Region was nationally excellent or world-class. In addition, the high rates of graduate retention (over 50% within 6 months and 91% of these still in the NW after 2 years) were encouraging for raising future skills.

The 2003 workshop had an impact on creating an inward investment initiative in Manchester. In 2005, Manchester City Council (MCC), Manchester Inward Investment Agency (MIDAS) and Manchester Science Parks came together to form a partnership, branded as Sino-Ventures in the UK, with funding from the Northwest Regional Development Agency. The scheme was launched as a pilot project aimed at attracting and supporting overseas science and technology businesses, mainly from China, wishing to establish a base in the UK. During the lifetime of the project, 27 companies (from Greater China, USA, India, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Australia and Norway) soft-landed in the Manchester International Innovation Centre located on MSP’s Corridor site. Of these 27 companies, nearly three quarters have remained within the North West region. Moreover, the project supported 70 overseas companies, created 76 gross additional jobs (FTE) and 32 net additional FTE jobs up to February 2008. The inward investment project generated a gross GVA of £4.8 million.

In 2010, Greater Manchester still accounted for half of all creative and digital investment in the region. It was also seen to have particular strengths in life sciences and biomedical sciences, accounting for 75% of the sector in the North West, recognised as a member of the ‘European Super League’ of biotech clusters by Strategem, and ranked among the top 50 in the world by Boston Consulting. However, two weak points were also noted in relation to inward investment: lack of international connectivity and linkages and access to seed, start-up and early-stage funding.

Innovation Manchester Network

Finally, several initiatives were set up to increase networking. The Innovation Manchester Boardroom was created, which provides a forum for top private, public and social sector innovators to discuss key issues, challenges and opportunities. It has the primary long-term objective of developing leadership across sectors/interests and changing how people connect and work with each other. The Innovation Manchester Network teams were launched in 2008 in recognition of the need for strong private sector involvement in the push for a more innovative city and the need to develop purposeful crosssector networks for innovators. Innovation Manchester brought together over 70 of the city region’s top business leaders and key city partners, who identified and prioritised ways in which Manchester’s capacity for innovation could be increased and developed those ideas into live projects, such as Manchester International Festival: Creative Learning (MIF Creative), Manchester Masters and Manchester: Integrating Medicine and Innovative Technology (MIMIT).

From ‘Knowledge Capital’ to ‘Innovation System’

The 2003 foresight exercise achieved its objectives to create a vision for the Manchester City region as well as a road map towards realising it. Five years later, notwithstanding certain gaps, significant progress was marked in all the five success dimensions. The output of the 2003 exercise had additional impacts. The exercise paved the way for a new foresight exercise, commissioned in 2006 by MSP with a more global look at science parks. The main objective of the workshop was to define the next stage of development for mature science parks also called ‘third generation science parks’.

In addition, the 2003 exercise formed a valuable knowledge base upon which the next foresight exercise could draw in 2010. The 2010 exercise led to a vision of the Manchester innovation system in 2015 that has seen a step change in its effectiveness and laid out the key actions to get there. The same success scenario process was applied bringing together senior stakeholders from the public, private, academic and third sectors. The vision was built around the idea of an innovation ecosystem that governs and facilitates the flows of people, knowledge, finance and services between the main actors and institutions involved in innovation. Manchester has a reasonable starting position in each of these dimensions, with the knowledge base being the strongest and the access to finance the most challenging. Cutting across all four flows is the need to increase connectivity. Key actions to achieve the vision were defined under five specific dimensions as follows. People and skills: Enterprise and entrepreneurship at the heart of the curriculum, and movement of people and ideas across sectors.

An understanding of business and enterprise, of creativity and entrepreneurship should be a core component of the education system and the basis for as natural a career path as employment. Colleges and universities should respond quickly to user input to curriculum design. A city region mentoring scheme should be developed to support understanding and mobility between public and private sectors, between education and business and to allow senior managers of small firms to benefit from the experience of their equivalents in medium and large firms.

Innovation ecosystem: Manchester as a market friendly to innovative products and services that links SMEs to demanding customers and harnesses the links between cultural and technological sectors.

Public procurement practices should demand innovation and not exclude SMEs through initial qualification requirements. SMEs need help to respond innovatively to the demands of large private sector customers. Crosssector barriers can be broken down by bringing together individuals around key challenges such as creating a low carbon city region. Artists or designers in residence at technology companies should be complemented by technologists in residence at cultural organisations.

Demanding innovation: Public services better connected to user demand through engagement, and new products and services trialled in Laboratory Manchester.

Public sector management teams can become private sector delivery companies that are responsive to consumer demand, while communities should seek and promote innovative solutions to local social problems. The Laboratory Manchester concept should offer large scale trials built upon the city’s reputation for delivering effective public private partnerships. Manchester should develop a low carbon economy ahead of the curve.

Finance: An effective city region proof of concept fund and a business angel network.

A city region proof of concept fund should be launched to encourage and facilitate the development of new intellectual-property-based businesses. At the same time, business angel activity in the city region should be encouraged by enabling wealthy individuals to learn about investing in innovative companies, preferably from previously successful angels.

Telling the story: A coherent narrative about the Manchester innovation ecosystem developed that helps to coordinate the messages about the attractions of Manchester as a place to live, work and play.

Manchester should have a coherent narrative about its innovation ecosystem built on its history but focused on present and future strengths in the low carbon environment, health and life sciences, sports and new media. The narrative should be used to inform a coordinated talent marketing strategy to attract the best students and workers. This should be supported by a Web 2.0 platform that would provide access to innovation stories and also to technological opportunities with market potential.

Download: EFP Brief No. 230_From Knowledge Capital to Innovation System.

Sources and References

Georghiou, L., Cassingena Harper, J. (2003): Contribution of Universities to the Knowledge Capital. A Scenario for Success in 2008, ISBN 0 946007 09 8 2003

Georghiou, L., Davies, J. (2010): An Innovation System for the Manchester City Region, Manchester Science Parks Ltd.

Georghiou, L. (2008): Universities and the City-Region as a ‘Knowledge Capital’ 2008, Foresight Brief No. 14.

www.mspl.co.uk, last accessed 9 November 2012.

www.manchesterknowledge.com, last accessed 9 November 2012.

EFP Brief No. 221: Priority Setting for Research on Information Society Technologies

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

This follow-up brief recapitulates the foresight exercise of the “Foresight on Information Society Technologies in the European Research Area (FISTERA)” project. Six years after the project was concluded, we look back with the purpose of extracting key lessons learned and ask what the mid-term to long-term implications of this foresight exercise are, in particular how effective the FISTERA project was in feeding the findings derived from the foresight exercise into a process of strategic priority-setting in information society technologies at the European level.

Creating a Common Vision for Our Information Society

The central purpose of the FISTERA project was to contribute to creating a common vision and approach by 2010 for developing an enlarged Europe towards an information society. As a thematic network, FISTERA’s aim was to provide a European platform involving a wide range of national and European policymakers that, through a structured foresight process, could inform the setting of priorities by providing support for targeted R&D funding in specific areas of information society technologies (IST) and thus contributing to future IST policy and research in Europe.

FISTERA was based on a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches. “As part of the bottom-up approach, FISTERA focused on the analytical dimensions, making use of its findings to set functional, S&T and socio-economically driven priorities. The top-down approach concentrated on the normative, process-oriented dimension to identify and prioritise policy options, building on what FISTERA calls the ‘success scenario’ for the European information society.” (Compaño, R. et al., 2006: 7).

The findings of the FISTERA foresight exercise intended to contribute to the evolution of policy thinking regarding the prospects of IST as part of the Lisbon objective. In sum, its overall aim was

(a) to compare the results of national foresight exercises and exchange visions for the future;

(b) to provide a new forum for consensus building on future visions for IST;

(c) to contribute to constructing the European Research Area through benchmarking, community building and providing a dynamic European platform on foresight;

(d) to provide inputs to the ongoing process of identifying key areas for research on which to concentrate public as well as private funding.

 

Delphi Highlighted Education and Learning

The FISTERA foresight process was based on three components: (a) a technology mapping (i.e. a study of the main technological trajectories in IST), (b) a Delphi study and (c) the development of scenarios. Through the implementation of a Delphi study, FISTERA gathered inputs from a wide variety of stakeholders concerning which areas of IST applications they thought most likely to yield benefits in terms of the goals defined by the Lisbon agenda.

The most outstanding result of the Delphi study was the strong focus on one particular application area, namely education and learning. Based on the findings of the Delphi study, FISTERA elaborated multiple scenarios in order to explore the plausibility of a set of diverse futures. For this purpose, various trends and countertrends and the ways they will likely interact in the future were studied. Four scenarios were proposed that brought together the S&T developments and fields of social application as a basis for dissemination activities. FISTERA was based on a ‘success scenario’ approach to examine the policy priorities required to produce the conditions for a desirable future in which the EU’s Lisbon objectives would be met as far as possible. The scenario-building exercise was aimed at providing options for a long-term development of IST for the economy and society.

On the other side, FISTERA tried to match the socio-economic needs with future technological trends and the consequences of potential IST applications. Therefore, a technology mapping was carried out that provided a perspective on the technological trajectories of IST. Due to the systemic nature of information and communication technologies (ICT), however, it was not possible to monitor the whole range of IST trends and provide prospective assumptions concerning the application and use of single technologies in the future. Instead, the focus was placed on clusters of technologies with similar functions while, at the same time, these clusters included competing and complementary technologies. The forward looking assessment of the evolution of these clusters was used to identify ‘technology trajectories’.

Identification of ‘Technology Trajectories’ in IST

The identification of a ‘technology trajectory’ followed a number of steps. First, a trajectory had to be defined. Then, information about individual ICT contributing to this particular technology trajectory needed to be collected, and this information had to be linked to the expected evolution of the trajectories. In a third step, the individual technologies were linked to possible applications and services.

The overall aim of this procedure was to identify particular technologies with the potential to influence the future development path of other technologies. In order to identify emerging patterns of relationships between technologies, a specific algorithm was used that analysed the strength and pattern of the link of a particular technology with other technologies as a function of time. Through this method, FISTERA was able to identify patterns of ‘technology attractors’ as well as trends of ‘technology disruptions’ and relate them to time horizons.

Some of the ‘technology attractors’ identified through this method were the following: (a) Batteries that are expected to have a profound influence on the evolutionary progress in many fields of IST. (b) Progress in bandwidth, understood as the transmission capacity at access level (rather than the network capacity on backbones), which will likely stimulate the advance in both optical, optoelectronics and electronics. (c) The growth of storage that will likely drive the creation and development of completely new industries. (d) Embedded systems that have been identified as the most crucial field for the future evolution of the overall market. (e) Information semantics that will act as an attractor technology with a profound influence on changes in the field of information value since it results from the merging of storage, computation and communication. (f) Developments in radio propagation that are expected to work as another attractor through the stimulation of new businesses and new applications. (g) Micro kernels and ad hoc protocols that are expected to have a stimulating effect on the evolution of communications infrastructures and the creation of new business opportunities at the edge of network structures.

With the help of the ‘technology trajectories’ concept, some of the technologies have been identified as being ‘disruptive’, meaning that their impact would be conducive to profound changes in technological systems as we know them today. The ‘disruptive’ potential of technologies may for example result from (a) the convergence between a number of diverse technological trajectories, (b) the shift from products to services, (c) the disappearance of the personal computer, (d) ubiquitous seamless communication, (e) changing traffic patterns, (f) unlimited bandwidth, (g) disposable products and (h) the shift from content to packaging.

 

FISTERA Inspired National Foresights on IST

By and large, the FISTERA foresight contributed important inputs to the debate about priority-setting in IST research in Europe and thus provided important impulses to the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). Three levels of contributions have been identified (Compaño et al., 2005: 38):

(a) FISTERA generated valuable input that helped to identify and make transparent why some fields in IST research are more appropriate as priorities for the European Research Area than others.

(b) FISTERA helped to identify functional requirements that need to be met to translate these priorities into reality in the context of the European Research Area.

(c) FISTERA helped to identify the building blocks for consistent priority-setting. In this sense, the foresight process fulfilled an important function in legitimising public policy intervention in the field of IST research in Europe.

Although FISTERA did not embark on a comprehensive analysis of specific policy interventions to stimulate research in particular priority areas, the identification of promising technological trajectories in the field of IST was an important step towards investigating the future European positioning within these trajectories. FISTERA also prompted complementary action at the level of the member states by giving impulse to several follow-up foresight initiatives at the national level. For example, Austria (Foresight on Information Society in Austria – FISTA), and Hungary (Information Society Technology Perspectives – IT3) used the FISTERA approach to develop national IST foresights. We can therefore conclude that FISTERA not only contributed to establishing foresight for forward looking IST priority-setting at the European level but that it also inspired foresight practitioners at the national level.

However, with regard to the translation of the findings from the FISTERA foresight into priority-setting at the European level, there are also some lessons to be learned that might improve the efficiency of future foresights aimed at inspiring priority-setting processes at different levels.

The Methodological Framework

Regarding the methodological framework of the FISTERA foresight process, the following points were indicated during the follow-up interviews, which were carried out with individuals directly involved in the design and implementation of the FISTERA foresight:

(a) The implementation of the FISTERA foresight process was based on inter-disciplinary teamwork. The sub-optimal integration of the different skills and perspectives towards the broad area of IST was due to a lack of a coherent joint framework able to accommodate these interdisciplinary differences. Future projects should have a stronger focus on embedding inter-disciplinary foresight teams in a more coherent framework for collaboration.

(b) The insufficient integration of the technology-centred and the socio-economically-centred contributions were a methodological weak point of the FISTERA foresight. This might have created a bias towards promoting certain emerging technological paradigms and may have operated at the expense of devoting more attention to certain societal challenges that should not be neglected in priority-setting in practice.

(c) The interviewees indicated that since scenario development was very much on the macro level, priority-setting (in particular with a view to individual technological fields) was very difficult. Therefore, a better linking of the components of the foresight process to each other (in particular the technology mapping and scenario development) might improve future foresight initiatives in this field and help formulate more targeted priorities.

(d) It was further mentioned that the identification of thematic priorities was very difficult to translate into priority-setting in practice because technologies were clustered and no specific areas were focused upon.

Dissemination through Road Shows

The dissemination of the results of the FISTERA project was facilitated through various communication channels. The organisation of national road shows and communication papers contributed greatly to the broad dissemination of the project results to a variety of audiences. Although a book (Compaño et al., 2005) was published, according to a member of the FISTERA consortium, the transfer of the findings to high-level academic audiences remained behind its actual potential.

Reaching the Policy Level

Although FISTERA did not embark on a comprehensive analysis of particular policy interventions to support research in specific areas of priority in the field of IST, the interviews emphasised that the results of the foresight process provided important impulses to sharpen the perception of EU policymakers. According to one interviewee directly involved in FISTERA, an important accomplishment of the foresight was that it opened a debate on ICT in Europe towards a more multidisciplinary view and thus contributed to improving the framework conditions for a European dialogue about the future of ICT and ICT policy formulation (Pascu et al., 2006). Another interviewee who had knowledge of the internal decision-making processes within the EU Directorate General Information Society and Media (DG INFSO) stated that the results of the FISTERA foresight informed several initiatives that figured prominently in the work programme (for example Assisted Ambient Living).

Furthermore, it appears that FISTERA reached the policy level through direct interaction with the European Commission and its core advisory groups in the field of IST. There is no doubt that FISTERA had an impact on institutions that were directly or indirectly involved in European ICT policy formulation (Pascu et al., 2006). According to one interviewee, FISTERA’s impact was tangible on the policy level as reflected in the work of the IST Advisory Group (ISTAG), which is the most influential industry-oriented expert group advising DG INFSO on the IST programme. Furthermore, the same interviewee indicated that all decision-makers on IST issues in Brussels were exposed to the FISTERA results. In some sense, the FISTERA results also “paved the way” for subsequent projects, such as the PREDICT (Prospective Insights on R&D in ICT), which are still running today and provide inputs for policymaking at DG INFSO.

FISTERA results also proved to be relevant to several European think tanks.

However, foresight exercises are most successful whenever decision-makers go beyond the mere role of receivers of end products, such as reports on future scenarios, and become an integral part of the foresight process. In this sense, one interviewee stated that FISTERA failed to develop into an operational network for the interaction among different communities that hold stakes in the formulation of European IST policy development.

Priority Setting for IST Research through Foresight Practice

The FISTERA foresight marked an important milestone in counteracting forward looking perceptions based on technological determinism in the field of IST, which fail to provide an adequate perspective of technological futures. The timing for the establishment of a pan-European platform was favourable as foresight tools for priority-setting are proliferating, although it was stated during the interviews that FISTERA stayed far behind its set goal to establish a pan-European community concerned with IST futures. Nevertheless, FISTERA’s contribution to creating a European vision for IST has been an important first step towards establishing a discussion platform for IST foresight from a European perspective. Nonetheless, continued efforts to communicate the evolving European vision with ongoing priority-setting efforts in IST at the national level will be necessary. In this sense, it remains to be seen how the technology trajectories that have been identified by using the concept of “technology trajectories” will relate to forward-looking priority-setting exercises both at the national and at non-European levels. In light of the ERA’s increasing multilateral cooperation initiatives in particular, European priorities need to be related to the priorities of other regions of the world.

Inspiring Future Directions of Forward Looking Priority-setting

Based on the findings of the FISTERA foresight process, possible priorities for European IST research were identified. Foresight, however, can do no more than inspire the priority-setting process. It can help legitimise policy interventions in emerging fields, but it cannot anticipate concrete technologies that should be the recipients of targeted funding activities, and it should not generate expectations among policymakers that it can do so.

Authors: Dirk Johann                                   dirk.johann.fl@ait.ac.at
Sponsors: European Commission DG Information Society
Type: International foresight activity covering the enlarged European Union, focusing on the thematic area of Information Society Technologies
Organizer: The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (JRC-IPTS), Telecom Italia Lab, The University of Manchester, The Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS – Research Centre), Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), Gopa Cartermill
Geographic coverage: Europe
Duration: 2002 – 2005
Budget: € 1,500,000
Time Horizon: 2020
Date of Brief: June 2012

Download: EFP Brief No. 221_FISTERA_Follow-up

Sources and References

Compaño, R., C. Pascu, M. Weber (eds.) (2005), Challenges and Opportunities for IST Research in Europe, Bucharest: The Publishing House of the Romanian Academy.

Compaño, R., C. Pascu, J. C. Burgelman, M. Rader, R. Saracco, G. Spinelli, B. Dachs, M. Weber, S. Mahroum, R. Popper, L. Green, I. Miles (2006), Foresight on Information Society Technologies in the European Research Area (FISTERA) – Key Findings, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

 

Pascu, C., J. C. Burgelman, L. Nyiri, R. Compaño (2006), Foresight on Information Society Technologies: Lessons Learnt for Policy Intelligence Building in Europe, Second International Seville Seminar on Future-Oriented Technology Analysis: Impact of FTA Approaches on Policy and Decision-Making, Seville, 28-29 September 2006.

Weber, Matthias (2006), “FISTERA – Foresight on Information Society Technologies in the European Research Area 2020”. EFMN Foresight Brief No. 9. Online at http://www.foresight-platform.eu/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/EFMN-Brief-No.-9-FISTERA.pdf.

 

EFP Brief No. 179: Facing the Future: Time for the EU to Meet Global Challenges

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The aim of this project is to provide a comprehensive picture of the main trends ahead and possible disruptive global challenges in the future and to examine how the EU could position itself to take an active role in shaping a response to them. The work described in the final report contributes a fresh perspective on the future, linking widely accepted quantified trends through 2025 and beyond with the opinions of experts and policy makers on the likely consequences of these trends and wild cards. This work has been undertaken in cooperation with the Bureau of European Policy Advisors of the European Commission.

The World in 2025

What will the world look like in 2025 and beyond? What are possible future disruptive global challenges? And how can the EU position itself to take an active role in shaping a response to them? There is a clear and growing need for the ability to anticipate change to be embedded in policy. This is critical not only for being able to respond and adapt to new situations before they occur but also to shape the future, building upon mutual understanding and common vi-sions to be jointly pursued.

For policy responses to address all the pressing current global challenges, especially when seen in isolation, is clearly a demanding task. Institutions face greater com-plexity and difficulty in providing solutions in due time. This is particularly true when the policy focus extends beyond the challenges that societies face today, seeking to anticipate future challenges and transform them into opportunities.

This is the rationale for the study “Facing the future: time for the EU to meet global challenges” carried out by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (JRC-IPTS) for the Bureau of European Policy Advisors of the (BEPA).

From Analytical Review to Robust Portfolio Modelling

The methodology used combines an extensive analytical review of more than 120 recent future-oriented studies, followed by a broad online consultation of almost 400 identified issues in six policy-relevant areas and use of multi-criteria quantitative analysis (Robust Portfolio Modelling) to prioritise the resulting issues. Key issues were then presented and discussed in a workshop with selected experts and policy makers. The main objective of the expert workshop was to organise the findings of the literature review and the analysis of the online survey into novel cross-cutting challenges, which the EU needs to tackle now in order to secure a better future for all and to translate them into policy messages. As a wide variety of challenges emerged related to the future of the world in 2025, the criteria of urgency, tractability and impact were used to prioritise and select the most relevant ones.

Main Challenges for the EU

Following the methodological approach above, three key challenges with a global scope were identified at the end of the expert workshop. Their multiple dimensions are articulated below.

Need to Change the Current Ways of Using Essential Natural Resources

This global challenge relates to the human over-exploitation of basic natural resources, which are essen-tial for societies to function and evolve in a sustainable manner. Current conditions and patterns of behaviour need to be reflected, and policy actions supporting the shift towards sustainable ways of living should be fostered and strengthened. The long-term sustainability is key to ensure not only economic growth but also a better quality of life for all current and future generations. This depends on the intelligent use, conservation and renewal of natural resources and ecological systems.

All human activities both depend and have an impact on natural resources. Food production, for example, is highly dependent on water and land and its processing and distribution depends on energy. All industrial activity starts by extracting natural resources and then assem-bles them in different ways to add economic value, while using energy and generating waste along the chain. The chain ends with the disposal of final goods at the end of their product life. The provision of services also impacts on natural resources.

Economic growth has largely relied on the overexploita-tion of essential natural resources and hence ulti-mately caused the disruption of natural cycles. Techno-institutional lock-in may be an important factor that com-pounds and intensifies human impacts on nature since it creates barriers to the search for sustainable alternatives to existing processes and infrastructures as well as to behavioural change. The most well known effects are:

  • Climate change and its manifold effects on water and other natural resources, agriculture and food se-curity, ecosystems and biodiversity, human health and migration patterns (IPCC, 2007; UNEP, 2007).
  • A dramatic increase in water scarcity in many parts of the world partly due to climate change and partly due to excessive withdrawals and contamination of surface and ground water, with profound implications for ecosystems health, food production and human well being (WEF, 2009; WWF, 2008).
  • The decline in the geographical distribution and abundance of arable land, freshwater and marine biodiversity is progressing more rapidly than at any other time in human history, with humanity moving in the direction of crossing tipping points since changes in the biophysical and social systems may continue even if the forces of change are removed (WWF, 2008).
  • A possible global energy shortage due to increas-ing demand and consumption, which will lead to a rise in global competition for energy resources as well as a greater dependency between nations, with energy in general and oil in particular playing a key role in future power relations and defence policies (European Commission, 2008; OECD, 2008).
  • Increased demand for food due to a growing world population, rising affluence, and the shift to Western dietary preferences (World Bank, 2007); this will place more pressure on water for agriculture and have a strong effect of high food prices.
  • Climate change, water scarcity and lack of food at affordable prices will be important factors in the in-crease of illness and death rates in developing countries (IPCC, 2007), which will lead to a deepen-ing in poverty and exclusion linked to the unsustain-able exploitation of the natural resources still avail-able, mass migration as well as threats in the form of radicalisation and terrorism (United Nations, 2008).

Need to Anticipate and Adapt to Societal Changes

For the EU to fully become a knowledge society there is a need to anticipate and adapt to political, cultural, demographic and economic transformations. Business, demography, migration and societies are generally changing at a much higher rate than public institutions and related decision-making processes. Legal frame-works, social security systems, education and the mod-els of healthcare have difficulties in keeping up with the pace of these transformations. This hampers innovation and economic growth and puts high pressure on natural resources and on the ability of institutions to cope with societal transformations. Beyond the consequences already mentioned in challenge one, there are now in-creasing concerns on how to provide equal access to healthcare and how to become a so-called knowledge society. The multiple dimensions of this challenge are:

  • Rising employment rates will no longer be sufficient to compensate for the decline in the EU working population due to ageing and a change in skills needed to function in knowledge societies, leading to economic growth being mainly dependent on in-creases in productivity.
  • For more information visit the website and subscribe to the mailing list at www.foresight-platform.eu
    Page 3 of 4
  • Ageing societies are placing increasing pressure on pension systems, social security and healthcare sys-tems (European Communities, 2008).
  • Increase in continuing flows of migrants from de-veloping to developed countries due to environmental hazards and armed conflicts as well as aspirations to a better quality of life.
  • Education and information and communication tech-nology (ICT) innovations could lead to a shift towards citizen empowerment and e-governance with citizens holding governments accountable due to an increase in transparency, but this is at risk of failing to become reality since the majority of the world population is still excluded from having access to the knowledge society.
  • Innovations limited by social acceptance due to a lack of education, transparency and societal un-derstanding of technological possibilities.
  • New converging technologies that emerge from multidisciplinary collaboration are expected to drasti-cally change all dimensions of life (RAND, 2001).
  • In relation to globalisation, it is expected by 2025 that the world will comprise many more large economic powers. China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and In-donesia will take on greater significance in the global economy (EIN, 2007) and their huge consumer-driven domestic markets can be expected to become a major focus for global business and technology.

Need for Effective and Transparent Governance for the EU and the World

This challenge comprises the need for the EU to create more transparent and accountable governance struc-tures and processes that can adapt to and anticipate the future, and to use this capacity to do likewise at the global level in order to address global and common chal-lenges and to spread democracy and transparency all over the world. Addressing the multiple effects of both challenges mentioned above requires new forms of governance and that as many nations and stakeholders as possible join forces. The multiple dimensions of this challenge are:

  • Single policy governance approaches can no longer cope with global issues, leading to fragmented responses to common challenges that are complex and interconnected. This is linked to the lack of a single nation’s ability to keep up with the pace of socio-economic change and the reliance on reactive, individual, unaligned and inflexible strategies (Florini, 2005).
  • The problems faced by developing countries also increasingly become the problems of developed economies, such as the EU member states, as a consequence of increasingly fading borders between nations due to terrorism and conflicts (i.e. over natural resources) and migrations caused by pandemics and poverty.
  • Mainly thanks to ICT-related innovations there is an increasing shift towards empowerment in govern-ance. The use of the Internet is now moving towards the use of Web 2.0, with applications such as social networking, blogs, wikis, tagging, etc., and this supports a trend towards networked computing and e-governance systems (Accenture, 2009).
  • Many rising superpowers, such as Russia, China, the Middle-East and some Latin American countries, have widely differing traditions in democratic gov-ernance, which may cause pressures on democracy also elsewhere. Western norms and values, as the foundation of the global system, could also be challenged by radical religious identity politics that might emerge as a powerful counter-ideology with wide-spread appeal.
  • The growing strength of emerging economies in-creases pressure to integrate them more closely into international coordination processes. Unbalanced representation of nations in global fora, such as the UN, WTO and IMF, makes it impossible for many developing countries to participate in global decision-making processes and to implement or adopt strategies that are decided only by the economically powerful countries (Amanatidou, 2008).

Reduction of Resource Dependence, Equal Access to Knowledge Institutions and Social Care

Based on the above challenges, the main policy issues to be considered at EU level are:

  • Policy alignment towards sustainability – includ-ing the need to align all relevant policy domains to achieve reform in the agri-system; a reduction in the EU’s dependency on resources; an increase in levels of education and social awareness; appropriate and effective management of migration flows resulting from climate change, aspirations to a better quality of
    life, and the labour market needs of especially ageing societies; and a change in the policy paradigm based on GDP to an updated system that also considers ecological flows and stocks.
  • Social diversity and ICTs towards citizen empow-erment – including the need to build new incentives to facilitate and strengthen relationships between dif-ferent social systems; develop the necessary means to enhance education on the use of ICTs in conjunc-tion with other technologies; improve the quality of education by, for instance, fostering competition within and between EU national education systems; regulate the healthcare system, tapping into new technologies to provide equal access for all; develop radically new and far more efficient forms of social protection; and enhance regional specialisation through the formation of regional RTDI clusters.
  • Anticipation of future challenges to turn these into new opportunities – including the need to em-bed forward looking techniques in EU policy making; foster mutual understanding through ongoing and in-clusive dialogue both within the EU and worldwide to build shared values, common visions, actions, and smart regulations, and enable effective and adaptive international organisations to become a reality; estab-lish partnerships between industry, government and society; clarify at global fora the role and status of the EU and balance its representation in international or-ganisations; and foster (e)participation and (e)democracy through the use of web 2.0.

The foresight approach employed in this study contrib-utes to policy making by supporting a continuous and shared approach to understand the present in all its complexity, to look at different future possibilities and to shape a joint direction to follow while considering differ-ent stakeholders’ points of view. This can be coupled with a periodic evaluation of what has or has not been achieved to enable policy to correct deviations and to continually adapt to and re-shape upcoming new situa-tions. It is believed that such an approach, linked to other forward-looking techniques and tapping into evi-dence-based research and quantitative elements, would be critical to enable EU policy making to become more adaptive and able to anticipate and address change.

Download EFP Brief No. 179_Facing the future

Selected References

The full bibliography is available in the final report on http://ftp.jrc.es/EURdoc/JRC55981.pdf.

Accenture. 2009. Web 2.0 and the Next Generation of Public Service. Accenture.

Amanatidou E. 2008. The Role of the EU in the World. EFMN Brief 133, http://www.efmn.info/.

European Communities. 2008. The 2009 Ageing Report. European Economy 7/2008.

EIN. 2007. The world in 2025 – how the European Union will need to respond. Discussion Document. European Ideas Network: Brussels.

Florini A. 2005. The Coming Democracy – New Rules for Running a New World. Brookings Institution Press: Washington DC.

IPCC. 2007. Climate Change 2007 – Synthesis Report. An Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Geneva.

OECD. 2008. World Energy Outlook 2008. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: Paris.

RAND. 2001. The Global Technology Revolution – Bio / Nano / Materials Trends and Their Synergies with Information Technology by 2015. RAND: Santa Monica.

UNEP. 2007. Global Environmental Outlook (GEO4) – Environment for Development. United Nations Environment Pro-gramme: Nairobi.

United Nations. 2008. Trends in Sustainable Development: Agriculture, Rural Development, Land, Desertification and Drought. United Nations: New York.

WEF. 2009. World Economic Forum Initiative: Managing Our Future Water Needs for Agriculture, Industry, Human Health and the Environment – The Bubble is Close to Bursting: A Forecast of the Main Economic and Geopolitical Water Issues Likely to Arise in the World during the Next Two Decades. World Economic Forum.

World Bank. 2007. World Development Report 2008 – Agriculture for Development. The World Bank: Washington DC.

WWF. 2008. Living Planet Report 2008. World Wide Fund for Nature.

EFP Brief No. 164: FinnSight 2015 – A National Joint Foresight Exercise

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

In 2005, the Finnish government took a decision in principle on the development of a national strategy. This decision spurred the two main funding agencies – the Academy of Finland and the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes) – to carry out FinnSight 2015, a joint foresight exercise that would provide inputs to this strategy, foster collaboration between these funding agencies and promote foresight and innovation activities at large. Towards these objectives, FinnSight 2015 engaged ten expert panels to identify key driving forces and characterized focus areas of competences, assisted by extensive deployment of Internet-based tools for collaborative work and intensive deliberations at facilitated workshops.

EFP_Brief_No._164_FinnSight_2015

EFP Brief No. 153: Extremadura Regional Foresight Exercise

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The Extremadura region has carried out the first regional foresight exercise to help devise a global strategy for the socio-economic
development of the region so as to enhance economic growth. The main agents involved in regional development set out to plan a desirable
future for the region and clearly define investment priorities. The Extremaduran foresight exercise aimed at projecting the position
of key sectors and technologies in the context of future international trends.

EFMN Brief No. 153_Extremadura_Foresight

EFP Brief No. 130: Migration: One of the Most Important Challenges for Europe

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

This brief presents major social, technological, economic, environmental and political trends and rationales for migration, followed by a number of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of migratory processes. In the last section, the brief concludes with a set of general policy options and some final remarks about the sources and data analysed.

EFMN Brief No. 130_Migration

EFP Brief No. 129: Rural Areas: One of the Most Important Challenges for Europe

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

This brief presents an overview of major trends and policy options for rural areas. A number of social, technological, economic, environmental and political trends as well as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats will be highlighted, followed by ten major policy options in view of two traditional and conflicting objectives: rural socio-economic development and countryside protection.

EFMN Brief No. 129_Rural_Areas

EFP Brief No. 85: Linz 21

Friday, May 20th, 2011

The “Linz 21” project was an ambitious attempt to describe future development paths for the Austrian city of Linz. Its purpose was to enable active design of the city’s future in the 21st century, cognizant of the manifold challenges the municipality now faces. The process was designed for public participation. Several exploratory scenarios were developed in the period from 2002 to 2004. Those scenarios depicted the effects of various action alternatives and supported active and successful strategy development.

EFMN Brief No. 85 – Linz 21

EFP Brief No. 69: Madrid 2015

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Madrid 2015 is an initiative promoted by the Regional Directorate of Economy and Innovation and carried out by this Directorate and the University Antonio Nebrija with the support from other Universities and Research Centres. This exercise, carried out during 2004, analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the region and initiates a collective thinking process that disentangles the key factors that influence the competitiveness of the region. The final purpose of this foresight project is to explore the possibilities for sustainable economic growth that the region of Madrid has, in order to anticipate possible futures and design long-term polices.

EFMN Brief No. 69 – Madrid 2015

EFP Brief No. 65: Insular Regions 2015

Friday, May 20th, 2011

The path to the knowledge development model recommended by the EU is based on the progress of two main change parameters leading to a properly functioning knowledge society: research and innovation activities together with participation and clustering activities. Building on this framework the IN.TRACK foresight project aimed at formulating knowledge-based regional policies, ensuring the support of local actors and stakeholders through regional consensus, and raising awareness with regards to policy, industry and society as a whole.

EFMN Brief No. 65 – Insular Regions 2015