Posts Tagged ‘manufacturing’

EFP Brief No. 259: Austrian Materials Foresight

Friday, February 26th, 2016

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

Challenges in the Austrian Manufacturing Industry

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

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

High-performance Materials  and Products in the Future

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

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

Future Scenarios as the Core of the Process

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


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

Figure 1: Organizational structure of  „Austrian Materials Foresight“

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

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


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


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


Figure 2: Three phases of „Austrian Materials Foresight“


Key Factor: Energy

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


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


From Concept to Impact:Strengthening the Materials Community


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

Figure 3: Scheme of project concept


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


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


Authors: Marianne Hörlesberger            

Bruno Hribernik                      

Brigitte Kriszt                         

André Uhl

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

Download EFP Brief No. 259: Austrian Materials Foresight

Sources and References

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

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

Hribernik, B.; Kriszt, B.; Hörlesberger, M. (2014). Foresight für Hochleistungswerkstoffe zur Stärkung des Wissens- und Produktionsstandortes Österreich. Study on behalf of BMVIT. (


Cuhls, K. (2012). Zukunftsforschung und Vorausschau. In: FOCUS‐Jahrbuch 2012. European Foresight Platform (efp). ForLearn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

EFP Brief No. 247: Delphi-based Foresight for a Strategic Research Agenda on the Future of European Manufacturing

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

This follow-up brief recapitulates the foresight exercise of the “Manufacturing Visions – Integrating Diverse Perspectives into Pan-European Foresight (ManVis)” project. Six years after the project was concluded, we look back with the purpose of extracting key lessons learned. We ask what the mid-term and long-term implications of this foresight exercise are, specifically how effectively the Delphi method was deployed to examine a wide spectrum of aspects underpinning the future trajectory of European manufacturing with a particular emphasis on the elaboration of scenarios that provide a broad basis for public discussion on the future of European manufacturing. This follow-up brief draws particularly on the lessons learnt from the organisers’ perspective.

Creating a Vision of the Future of European Manufacturing

The central purpose of the ManVis project was to inform a continuous process of policy development to enhance the competitiveness of the European manufacturing industries through a structured foresight exercise. In particular, the ManVis project was expected to contribute to completing the picture of the socio-economic dimensions that shape the technology dynamics in European manufacturing industries.

The policy relevance of the ManVis project was essentially linked to its role as one of the central strategic foresight studies in which the preparation of a more detailed Strategic Research Agenda (SRA), aimed at paving the way for the definition of research priorities to be implemented via the EU’s future RTD Framework Programmes, was anchored. The ManVis foresight was launched in response and complementary to the results obtained from previous foresight exercises and empirical surveys indicating that manufacturing in Europe needed to strengthen its innovation capacity in an environment where manufacturing is increasingly being relocated to locations outside Europe. Together with the FuTMaN (“Future of Manufacturing in Europe 2015-2020 – The Challenge for Sustainable Development”) project, the ManVis project was a central pillar of the Manufuture European Technology Platform, composed of high-ranking representatives of European industry and the scientific community, that was initiated in December 2004 with the explicit purpose of elaborating specific technology roadmaps, both horizontal and sectoral, to define the priorities for the first calls for proposals of EU’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

In sum, the ManVis project addressed the following questions:

(a) Which technologies will be relevant to European manufacturing?

(b) What role will European manufacturing play in a more competitive world?

(c) Is European manufacturing prepared to meet the challenges of knowledge-based manufacturing?

(d) Which visions and challenges emerge for European manufacturing?

The ManVis Foresight Approach:
Delphi and Demand-side Scenarios

Delphi is a long-established methodology to create consensus among a wide range of opinions as a basis for developing an informed view on visions and alternatives in the setting of priorities in controversial or complex fields of science and technology policy. The ManVis Delphi survey collected the views of more than 3,000 manufacturing experts in 22 European countries as well as those of stakeholders and overseas experts that were collected during workshops and through interviews.

The Delphi survey covered developments of all relevant aspects of manufacturing from technological dynamics to organisational concerns and issues related to sector-specific developments. In parallel to the survey, scenarios on the future development of the demand side of manufacturing were elaborated.

Flexible Automation Instead of Unmanned Factory

The following key messages on technological dynamics in European manufacturing were derived from the ManVis Delphi survey:

(a) Micro-electromechanical devices, smart materials and products using nano-coatings represent long-term developments of new types of products with the potential to disrupt markets.

(b) New manufacturing technology principles, such as bottom-up manufacturing technologies are only expected in the long run. Manufacturing technologies using biotechnologies to create and manipulate inorganic material and products, such as nano-manufacturing, should be on the long-term “radar” of RTD policy.

(c) Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) as well as flexible organisation and automation strategies combined in reconfigurable manufacturing systems supporting flexible business strategies are important topics on the short-term research agenda. However, as a particular aspect, the experts surveyed viewed the unmanned factory with skepticism. Instead, they forecast that humans working with flexible automation solutions will play an important role in creating flexibility.

(d) Only long-term automation visions comprise human-machine interfaces such as man-machine speech recognition, self-learning systems and co-bots.

From these key messages the following implications were derived for the role of manufacturing research in combining the long-term horizon in technology trajectories with the short-term needs of firms to innovate successfully: Basic manufacturing research needs to prepare for new challenges, whereas applied manufacturing research should focus on the adaptation and transformation of existing technologies and organisational processes. Considering the functions of manufacturing research, it has been suggested that these key messages on future technology dynamics be discussed using the concept of the combined science-technology cycle of innovation (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Manufacturing-related technologies on the sci-ence-technology cycle for macro innovations (Source: ManVis Report No. 3, Delphi interpretation report)

Integrating Non-technological Aspects

The ManVis Delphi survey covered many aspects of knowledge-based manufacturing related to the working environment. In particular, organisational concerns as they are linked to new challenges of product development were examined. In one of the interviews conducted for this follow-up, however, one of the organisers of the foresight process highlighted that – although the ManVis project was considered a “creative pool” for the construction of the Manufuture platform – contributors to the platform were skeptical concerning several of the organisational challenges. This was explained by a lack of interest in issues of work organisation at the company level, in particular on part of the predominantly larger industrial firms represented on the platform (SMEs were not represented). In addition, the organisers stated that the ManVis foresight contributed greatly to the integration of non-technological aspects in the debate on the future drivers shaping technological dynamics and on the demand for skills and competencies.

Furthermore, the interviewee argued that the Delphi results had the intended wide-ranging impact because the survey did not focus on sector issues alone. Although this impact was important in consolidating the field of manufacturing research, the foresight results were not followed up by more in-depth indicator-based (e.g. patents) research with a greater focus on sectoral issues. This was, however, not considered a methodological constraint but rather a weakness in following up on the Delphi results.

In addition, the organisers mentioned two methodological aspects as particularly important in shaping the results of the Delphi survey:

(a) The organisers’ interventions during several workshops at the national level, held to prepare the Delphi survey, played a central role in condensing the themes and elaborating the Delphi statements. As in any Delphi survey, the heterogeneity of the participants assured the validity of the results. In particular, the responses to the survey highlighted the facilitator’s role in coordinating the pool of heterogeneous expertise coming from a great diversity of technological and non-technological fields during the initial workshop, at which a list of 100 statements on a wide range of manufacturing topics was generated, as very important for the final outcome of the Delphi process.

(b) With regard to the stability of the responses to obtain a consensus among the participating experts, the summary feedback of aggregated responses of the second round did not generate any significant new changes. Under efficiency considerations, it could therefore be argued that the survey administration could have used statistical methods to analyse the data from the first round to assess whether any subsequent rounds were needed and, if not, terminate data collection after the first round.

Direct and Indirect Achievements of the ManVis Foresight

The ManVis Delphi survey results provided a broad basis for public discussion on the future of manufacturing in Europe. In particular, by complementing previous foresight studies intended to improve the self-understanding of the European manufacturing industry, it constituted an important pillar in the development of a strategic manufacturing research agenda at the European level. Several of the issues that were highlighted by ManVis, such as the need to explore the implications of user-driven innovation for manufacturing systems, were taken up in FP6.

Beyond its intended effects, the ManVis foresight also had some important unintended effects such as making a central contribution to the definition of research needs of the new member states that joined the European Union during the 2004 enlargement. Another central achievement of the ManVis foresight process was also an unintended side effect, namely to involve these new member states in the development of a Strategic Research Agenda on manufacturing in Europe.

Effective Dissemination of the Results under Budget Constraints

Since the financial budget for dissemination activities was cut significantly during the negotiation phase with the European Commission, the ManVis dissemination approach was under strain from the beginning of the project. Nevertheless, the project reported the results of the foresight to a wide audience of industry and governmental stakeholders at the Bled Conference in October 2005. This conference, which would not have been realised without the national resources of the Slovenian ManVis partner, provided a strong signal of interest in and relevance of identifying the manufacturing research needs in the new eastern member states.

Reaching the Policy Level

The ManVis key messages have been disseminated at the policy level to a wide set of stakeholders and actors of the European Commission, the member states, and industry. During the interviews for this follow-up brief, the communication with European policymakers was described as very good and the interaction with the EC as very supportive, in particular with regard to the central goal of feeding the results of the foresight exercise into key European initiatives such as the Manufuture European Technology Platform.

In sum, the outcomes of the Manvis project served to bring manufacturing experts with different national and professional backgrounds together to discuss the visions and the possible paths for securing the future of manufacturing in Europe. The results of the ManVis project have been fed into the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme.

Learning about the Manufacturing Research Needs of the New Member States

It was reported during one interview with the organisers of the foresight that a central achievement of the ManVis project was to involve the new member states in the development of a Strategic Manufacturing Research Agenda at this particular time. While the EC only had partial knowledge about key institutions and actors shaping policy development processes in areas related to manufacturing, it was an important indirect achievement of the ManVis foresight initiative to involve many experts and policy stakeholders from the new member states in defining and assessing the manufacturing research needs at the European level. In this sense, the networking effect, particularly during the Delphi preparation workshops, was highly appreciated by European policy stakeholders because they provided a unique opportunity to get acquainted and build strong relationships with key experts from these countries and to use the foresight initiative to define priorities for the first calls for proposals for the upcoming Seventh Framework Programme.

In this sense, the direct involvement of the new member states in the definition of research topics to be supported was stated as one of the most important, yet unplanned and indirect, contributions of the ManVis foresight process. The research topics thus identified are considered to have real industrial relevance and the potential to produce measurable impacts in terms of marketable products and services or more efficient manufacturing methods in the context of the catch-up process that these countries are undergoing.

Contributions to EU Enlargement

The ManVis foresight process made an important contribution to completing the picture of technology dynamics in manufacturing. At the particular time of realisation, i.e. in the aftermath of the 2004 EU enlargement, the Delphi survey not only set out several possible trajectories for developments of future manufacturing processes and policy scenarios, but it also helped to define the R&D position of 22 EU countries. In the context of the shifting comparative advantages due to the salary increases to be expected particularly in the new member states, the ManVis foresight provided an important platform to learn about manufacturing research priority topics and the adaptations needed at the level of companies and innovation systems. Beyond the identification of research needs, a concrete achievement of the ManVis foresight lies in the strong integration of key stakeholders from both public policy and industry of the new member states in the long-term planning of European research funding for manufacturing.

Authors: Dirk Johann   

Elisabetta Marinelli

Sponsors: European Commission (Directorate General Research)
Type: International foresight activity (Specific Support Action) covering the enlarged European Union, focusing on the thematic area of manufacturing
Geographic coverage: Europe
Organizer: Fraunhofer ISI Karlsruhe, OPTI,  JRC-IPTS, Cambridge University, IVF Sweden and national correspondents in 22 European countries
Duration: 2003 – 2006
Budget: € 1,500,000
Time Horizon: 2020
Date of Brief: July 2012

Download EPF Brief No. 247_ManVis_Follow-up

Sources and References

Dreher, C. et al. (2005), ManVis Report No. 3 – Delphi Interpretation Report, Deliverable D15, Contract No. NMP2-CT-2003-507139-MANVIS

Dreher, C. et al. (2005), ManVis Report No. 6 – Manufacturing Visions – Policy Summary and Recommendations, Deliverable D17, Contract No NMP2-CT-2003-507139-MANVIS

European Commission (2006), Manufuture Strategic Research Agenda – Assuring the Future of Manufacturing in Europe – Report of the High-level Group, European Commission, Directorate-General for Research: Brussels

Jung-Erceg, P. K. Pandza, H. Armbruster, C. Dreher (2007), “Absorptive Capacity in European Manufacturing: A Delphi Study”, Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 107, 1, 37-51

Link to the original Foresight Brief No. 53 “European Manufacturing Visions – ManVis 2020”:

EFP Brief No. 169: Foresight Toolbox for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

“Foresight-Toolbox für den Mittelstand” is a research project to evaluate the specific needs of and identify suitable methodological approaches for strategic planning in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The project’s centrepiece is a web-based toolbox at, which participants may use to create foresight processes and which includes downloadable descriptions of methods and various tools. User habits and stored processes are the empirical base for the present research. Also, ten qualitative issue-focused interviews with various-sized SMEs from different industries completed the insights gained from SME-specific future-oriented work.

Meeting the Needs of SMEs

The present research aims to evaluate the specific needs of and identify adequate methods for foresight and strategic planning in the context of SMEs. According to an earlier research project implemented by Z_punkt The Foresight Company, “Corporate Foresight im Mittelstand” (2008), innovative and successful enterprises use systematic foresight and future-oriented work methodologies more often than less innovative and successful enterprises. Based on this empirical finding, the current project focuses on the perspective of SMEs to develop foresight instruments that match the requirements of SMEs. Our main hypothesis suggests that selection and combination of foresight methods differ according to the indicators enterprise size and industry. The procedure contains both quantitative analysis and qualitative analysis.

Quantitative and Qualitative Research Combined

The web-platform provides a set of 17 different foresight methods to create individual foresight processes. User habits are evaluated based on the main variables size (number of employees) and industry (manufacturing, service or retail). Individual methods and combined processes are analysed in two different steps. The quantitative data analysis focuses on the following questions:

  • What describes a typical SME foresight process?
  • What is the methodological preference?
  • Which methods or processes are used to reach specific aims?
  • What preferences can be determined based on size and branch?

Qualitative Research

The quantitative data analysis is supplemented by qualitative interviews with decision-makers of ten SMEs of different sizes and industries. Using the methodological approach of problem-centred interviews, a semi-narrative, guideline-based interview technique, the participants explain their practices of strategic planning, specific needs and requirements, and typical problems and solutions of foresight practice. The findings of the qualitative research are enriched by case studies and interpreted in a comparative study along the following lines:

  • What is the relevance of foresight and strategic planning in general?
  • Which methods or processes are used to reach specific aims?
  • How can foresight and strategic planning be integrated into an enterprise’s structure and decision-making process?
  • What approaches can be identified based on size and industry?
  • What would define an ideal process in the specific context of SMEs?

Web-based Foresight Toolbox

The Foresight Toolbox, as the centrepiece of the project, has been online at since July 2009. Access is free and enables individuals to design foresight processes using downloadable explanations and tools that support strategic practice. The toolbox concept includes 17 different foresight methods structured in five logical steps. For each method, simple and expert versions are available, which differ with regard to complexity and effort necessary. The offered selection of methods represents the state-of-the-art of science-based futurology and fulfils the requirements of strategic planning in the context of SMEs.

In principle, there are no restrictions regarding the combination of methods for foresight processes. All methods can be mixed with each other, however, participants are provided with information on the best possible combinations. In addition to full foresight processes, users may also download individual methods or tools that they find interesting and useful for their specific requirements.

Based on the Foresight Toolbox, decision-makers should be able to perform a professional process of strategic planning in pursuit of various business aims. The Foresight Toolbox conveys both methodological knowledge and competence for implementing and communicating future strategies.

First Step: Defining Aims and Focus of the Foresight Process

In technology foresight practice, foresight processes begin with the definition of specific goals and aims. This first step designates and limits observation scope and structures the following process. The toolbox offers a set of four different objectives that comprise the different fields of strategic relevance, including the level of products or services and organisational development or market dispositions:

  • Find future strategies
  • Develop ideas for innovations
  • Open new markets / target groups
  • Early detection of changes in markets

Furthermore, the platform provides a checklist with guiding questions to create the framework conditions for a successful foresight process.

Second Step: Research

In the second step, relevant empirical data on the future has to be researched. Different observation scopes focused on various aspects of the organisational environment are offered. Methods include observation techniques, for instance the STEEP observation scheme, and use a large number of data sources ranging from online and media research to Delphi surveys. The obtained data is the basis for the next process steps. The Foresight Toolbox contains four research methods:

  • Environmental Scanning: Examine environmental frameworks and drivers
  • Market Scanning: Examine customer needs and market trends
  • Context Scanning: Examine the immediate context of product use
  • Competition Scanning: Examine strategies and changes concerning competitors

Third Step: Analysis

The analysis stage aims to transform the obtained data into future-relevant information. The interpretation process is framed by four different business-related categories. Analysis aims to achieve a basic understanding of trends, drivers and shaping factors concerning future business development. It also gives an insight into potential impacts and uncertainties as well as into the constellation of relevant actors that have an influence on future development. The Foresight Toolbox offers the following analysis methods:

  • Impact Analysis: Identify the most powerful factors
  • Uncertainty Analysis: Recognise incalculable future developments
  • Stakeholder Analysis: Detect the most influential actors and their strategies
  • Trend Analysis: Understand the signs and drivers of change

Fourth Step: Projection

Projections are used to transform analysis results into concrete constructions of the future. The proposed methods vary in their level of concretisation, from practice-oriented to more abstract approaches to different futures. Being aware that the projection step is at the methodological heart of scientific foresight practice, the Foresight Toolbox has been designed to translate science-based approaches and make them relevant and understandable for SMEs. According to the specific application context, the methods refer to normative or descriptive aspects of future construction. The Foresight Toolbox contains five projection methods:

  • Scenario Technique: Develop alternative visions of the future
  • Roadmapping: Map milestones of future developments
  • Trend Extrapolation: Describe predictable future developments
  • Visioning: Develop desirable futures and define objectives
  • Backcasting: Retrace the path to a desirable future

Fifth Step: Implication

The final process stage is (ideally) closely linked to the first step of defining aims and closes the circle. Here, the results and gathered findings have to be applied, implemented and translated into strategic decisions, innovations or organisational change processes. The four implication methods include practical tools for decision-making and the internal communication of results:

  • Strategy Development: Identify options and determine the best strategy
  • Development of Product Ideas: Create and select innovative ideas
  • Portfolio Development: Make own areas of business future-proof
  • Assessment of Market Potentials: Describe future markets and assess their volume

State of Research

The research project is still in progress. This brief is only able to provide a short overview of the interim results of our quantitative and qualitative research.

800 Participants So Far

Between July 2009 (when the platform went online) and February 2010, some 800 participants used the Foresight Toolbox. A majority downloaded selected individual methods. In addition, some 180 completed foresight processes were saved.

An evaluation and analysis of user habits, stored processes, popularity of individual methods and tools and focus group-related priorities will follow in February or March 2010.

Comparative Study Based on Qualitative Interviews and Case Studies

The ten qualitative interviews were conducted between November 2009 and January 2010. In addition to the case studies of each participating SME, typical features, characteristics and significant variations were analysed in a comparative study based on the factors size and industry. Please find below a brief outline of the comparative study.

Size and Industry Matter

In the following, we present preliminary results from the study. To put it most concisely, the organisational features ‘business size’ and ‘type of industry’ make a difference. We have organized our brief summary of how size and industry affect foresight activities along six factors: foresight relevance, time horizon, objectives and perspective, knowledge sources, securing strategic decisions and implementation of foresight results.

Size Makes a Difference

Strategic Planning vs. Ad Hoc Decision-making

Foresight relevance – Regardless of business size, all decision-makers consider strategic planning to be very relevant. Exact definitions of strategy, however, differ. Larger enterprises may specify objectives and goals for strategic work, smaller firms more often act under the requirements of the situation.

Time horizon – The time horizon of foresight and strategic planning increases in line with organisation size.

Consideration of Non-economic Factors Grows with Size

Objectives and perspective – All businesses focus on the economic aspects of their environment. Larger enterprises are more likely to also include more secondary aspects in their observation scheme. Social development, demographic change and political and legal frameworks acquire special relevance for enterprises that participate in transnational business networks.

Internal Sources and Social Networks

Most Important Knowledge Sources

Knowledge sources – Independent of size, all participants use internal knowledge from all hierarchy levels as the most important knowledge source for their future-oriented work. Some of the larger firms already have experience with bringing in different forms of external consulting.

For all participants, the most important data comes from publicly available sources (general or business media) and formal or informal social networks.

Decision-making Based on Personal Experience

Securing Strategic Decisions – Only some larger SMEs have a developed monitoring system or access to continuous foresight updates. Most of the participating decision-makers rely on personal experience or even intuition or “gut feeling”. Only a minority of SMEs systematically have alternative options in place in the event of strategic failure.

Foresight Characterised by Conserving

Resources and Short-term Implementation

Implementation of foresight results – Foresight in the context of SMEs is mainly characterised by conserving financial and personal resources and short-term implementation. Short decision-making processes make it possible to transform strategic positions efficiently into action. However, smaller enterprises are greatly limited with regard to changing management processes.

Manufacturing Has an Edge over Service and Retail Industry in Use of Foresight

Foresight More Advanced

Foresight relevance – SMEs have a large variety of foresight approaches. In general, businesses in the manufacturing sector have a longer tradition and a more advanced approach to systematic future-oriented work than service or retail enterprises.

Time horizon – Machine building companies, in particular, show a higher tendency for long-term strategic planning. Service enterprises often set time perspectives according to their projects’ time horizon. Due to the SMEs’ specific short-term strategies, most decision-makers emphasise the importance of anticipating disruptive events or breaks in long-term market developments.

Broader Scope of Factors Considered

Objectives and perspective – Businesses show a comparable level of systematisation across all sectors. That said, manufacturing companies tend to see themselves as active parts of the entire value chain. Hence, their observation patterns differ in that more secondary factors are included.

More Systematic in Utilizing Internal Knowledge Sources

Knowledge sources – Here, manufacturing companies also show a more systematic approach to using internal knowledge sources. Some have developed pay and incentive systems for product innovations or innovative technological solutions. In the service and retail sector, where problem-solving skills are used in personal interaction, knowledge is limited to individuals.

Coping with Uncertainty Easier for Manufacturing

Securing Strategic Decisions – Securing is defined as the key problem of foresight-based decision-making. Foresight methods in the SME context aim to reduce uncertainty to manageable levels. Small firms in the service sector argue that strategic work has to be measured by future reality and consider this a criticism of foresight efficiency. Decision-makers from manufacturing enterprises find it easier to accept the fact of an unknown future.

Implementation Varies with Corporate Culture

Implementation of foresight results – Regardless of industry, structures and routines for implementation and internal communication vary according to corporate culture.

Authors: Beate Schulz-Montag        

Kai Jannek                      

Tim Volkmann                    

            Sponsors: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Project management: VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik GmbH

Type: Publicly funded project within the framework of “Innovations- und Technikanalyse”
Organizer: Z_punkt GmbH The Foresight Company
Duration: 08/2008 – 03/2010 Budget: ca. 140,000 € Time Horizon: N/A Date of Brief: Dec. 2010


Download EFP Brief No. 169: Foresight Toolbox for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

Sources and References

EFP Brief No. 166: Developing National Priorities for the Forest-Based Sector Technology Platform

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

In 2005, a national foresight process was conducted in Finland to support the development of the Strategic Research Agenda of the European Forest-Based Sector Technology Platform. The national process was systematically run to identify key national priorities in connection with the European process. This national process was based on the Robust Portfolio Modelling (RPM) screening methodology, which consisted of the Internet-based solicitation and assessment of research themes, identification of promising research themes through RPM and several participatory workshops.

The Formulation of a European Strategic Research Agenda

Since 2003, the Commission has encouraged industrial stakeholders to set up European Technology Platforms, which the European Council, too, has promoted as one of the coordination tools to set up European research and technology development priorities, action plans and timeframes. Among nearly 30 parallel initiatives, the planning of the technology platform for the forest-based sector was started in autumn 2003 by the European Confederation of Woodworking Industries, the Confederation of European Forest Owners and the Confederation of European Paper Industries.

As a result of a Europe-wide consultation of the key stakeholders, the Vision for 2030 document on the key challenges, opportunities and strategic objectives for the sector was published in February 2005. This document served as the basis for the further preparation of the European Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) process. The approved European SRA process consisted of four phases in 2005:

  • The collection of prospective research themes from national support groups, confederations and other European stakeholders by June 15.
  • The synthesis of priorities based on collected research themes by the European value-chain working groups by September 15.
  • The elaboration of the strategic objectives of the SRA and the selection of the most important European research themes by October 31.
  • The compilation of and consultation on the first draft of the SRA by November 30.

Following this plan, the project group organised the development of the final SRA. To endorse this process plan, the corresponding guidelines for the preparation of SRA were compiled and communicated to key stakeholders in Europe. These guidelines reflected several vertical and horizontal coordination challenges:

Vertical Coordination in FTP: While European dimensions were well represented in the management structure of the Forest-Based Sector Technology Platform (FTP) (e.g., through the representatives of multi-national companies, industrial confederations, and the Commission), the recognition of national, regional and local interests called for additional inputs from member states. This was achieved by establishing national support groups that acted as “mirror groups” of the European FTP and also by establishing national value chain working groups. The national support groups consisted of representatives of industrial firms, research organizations and funding agencies with interests in the forest-based sector. They provided national views and inputs to SRA and were in charge of mobilising the national SRA work.

Horizontal policy coordination in FTP: The management of FTP, as many other technology platforms, was requested not only to design and coordinate efficient processes for the establishment of the platform but also to search for linkages to other policy areas and initiatives. The FTP had inherent connections with some four to five other technology platforms, whereby responsibilities for synchronisation were assigned to the Scientific Council and Advisory Committee. Moreover, the Vision for 2030 document highlighted links with other policy areas.

The consideration of national dimensions – especially the involvement of national actors and the coordination between national SRA processes – posed challenges due to the specific conditions of the member states. Here, the national support groups were responsible for mobilising national SRA processes with the help of the SRA guidelines that were made available to them.

The SRA Process in Finland

In Finland, as in the other FTP countries, the national SRA process was coordinated by a national support group that consisted of representatives of industrial firms, research organisations and governmental bodies. This process was started in March 2005 with the objective of collecting about ten strategic priority areas as a key input to the European SRA process. This was to be achieved in a remarkably short time by June 15.

With the aim of developing a structured and systematic SRA process, methodological requirements were discussed between the national support group and the support team (the authors of this brief) at the Helsinki University of Technology.

Starting from the Vision for 2030 document and the SRA guidelines, the plan for the national SRA process was drafted through the collaboration of the national support group and the support team. Shortly thereafter, the support team launched a project website to facilitate the work of five value chain working groups in the following areas: forestry, pulp and paper products, wood products, bio-energy and specialties/new businesses. Each value chain working group was given the opportunity to take part in the Internet-based solicitation and assessment of research themes, the results of which were further analysed with RPM.

Results from the Internet-based consultation process were envisaged as a key input to the value chain workshops where promising themes were to be discussed with the aim of synthesizing the ten most essential ones from the national process to the European SRA process. Apart from this core objective, the national SRA process was expected to assist the national actors in participating in the European context, to offer an opportunity for methodological development, and to provide experience on how national stakeholders could be best engaged in European coordination tools. It was expected that the process would attract quite a bit of interest in Europe, wherefore English was adopted as a working language. Below, we describe the main roles and responsibilities in this process, with an emphasis on process design and the explicit consideration of multiple perspectives.

Coordinators, Respondents and Referees Roles and Responsibilities

In the national process, different kinds of stakeholders were invited based on their expertise and responsibilities. The steering group consisted of the coordinators of the value chain working groups and invited experts to gather together research, industry and policy expertise. The coordinators identified and invited respondents to submit research themes and referees who were responsible for assessing them. The support team at the Helsinki University of Technology contributed to the process design and provided the methodological expertise and the IT infrastructure. This team also produced tentative analyses of solicited and assessed research themes for the value chain workshops.

To support the value chain coordinators in inviting the most suitable respondents and referees, their roles and responsibilities were explicitly defined. Respondents were established researchers or research managers at universities, research institutes and industrial firms with the capacity for producing innovative research themes for each value chain. Specifically, the respondents were requested to study the Vision for 2030 document and to propose research themes through the project website. Referees were highly competent researchers and industrials capable of evaluating research possibilities in view of the Finnish and European forest-based sector. They were responsible for assessing the solicited research themes.

Some participants assumed several roles in the process. For example, many respondents were invited to participate in the value chain workshops and to contribute to the further analysis of the themes. Furthermore, although the roles and responsibilities were identified formally, the organisation was many-faceted with partly overlapping duties. For instance, the coordinators participated both in management activities and expert workshops while in some value chains there were experts who assumed the responsibilities for respondents and referees alike or even participated in several value chains. This created additional interactions between value chains and process steps enabling the efficient cross-feeding between the value chains.

Iterative Process Design

The Finnish SRA process consisted of seven steps (see Table 1). These were largely fixed early on due to the tight schedule and the need to provide similar methodological support for all value chains. The process design relied heavily on the use of Internet-based group support systems because it would have been impossible to organise a large number of face-to-face meetings within the seven-week period that was allotted to the process. A further reason for this was that Internet-based distributed work can provide efficient and systematic support for stakeholder participation while permitting features such as anonymity and flexibility in terms of time and place. Due to the limitations of the Internet as a platform for social interaction, however, the process was run in conjunction with the workshops.

Table 1: Seven steps in the Finnish SRA process.

Process steps Weeks (W)


Key participants
Step I: Process design and identification of participants W I NSG/steering group and the support team
Step II: Internet-based solicitation of research themes W II/III Value chain coordinators and respondents
Step III: Coordination workshop W III Value chain coordinators and steering group
Step IV: Internet-based assessment of research themes W III/IV Value chain coordinators and referees
Step V: Multi-criteria analysis of research themes W IV/V Support team
Step VI: Value chain workshops for the formulation of relevant research areas W V/VI Value chain coordinators and invited respondents, referees and other experts
Step VII: Steering group workshop for the formulation of Finnish SRA priorities W VII Steering group

Considering Multiple Perspectives

The consideration of multiple perspectives was supported, among other things, by multi-criteria assessments where the referees evaluated research themes with regard to three criteria (novelty, feasibility and industrial relevance). The simultaneous consideration of multiple criteria led to the question of how the relative importance of these criteria should be weighted: for example, research themes that are not very novel may still be industrially relevant and hence interesting.

Because it may be difficult if not impossible to justify ‘exact’ criterion weights, analyses for identifying ‘most interesting themes’ should arguably accommodate different interpretations of which criterion weights are feasible. This realization was the rationale for adopting the robust portfolio modelling (RPM) methodology (Liesiö et al., 2006) in the analysis of research themes. In this methodology, different perspectives can be accommodated not only through the consideration of multiple criteria (as the basis of the participants’ assessment ratings) but also by incorporating different interpretations about the relative importance of the three criteria. The task of identifying most promising themes for workshop discussions was framed as a project portfolio selection problem with incomplete information about the relative importance of assessment criteria. For a detailed exposition of RPM screening methodology and its use in the screening of innovation ideas, we refer to Könnölä et al. (2005).

The visualisations of the results of the analysis were presented at the value chain workshops, where they were taken up in the discussions and used in the clustering of themes and formation of national SRA priorities. The RPM framework contributed to the legitimacy of the results because this systematic methodology was also described transparently on the project website.

Results from RPM screening were used as supporting information only because final syntheses and analyses were carried out in the workshops. This also made it possible to devote attention to overlaps and synergies between the proposed themes (i.e., interactions), which were not explicitly accounted for in the formal RPM analysis.

In the RPM-analysis, the value chain coordinators had a major role in the adoption and shaping of results. In each value chain workshop, approximately half of the submitted research themes were taken up in the discussions that guided the final decisions. In some value chains, themes with high core index and/or high novelty and/or industrial relevance were identified first; after that the final themes were defined by synthesising these themes. In some other chains, the coordinator had already developed a tentative clustering before the workshop so that the final themes were created by assigning the solicited themes to the proposed clusters. This helped in the identification of missing themes and served to highlight what clusters were apparently important apart from the solicited research themes.

Towards Innovative Products and Societal Perspectives

The national foresight process contributed to the development of the European SRA, which defined the following strategic key objectives for the platform:

  1. Development of innovative products for changing markets and customer needs.
  2. Development of intelligent and efficient manufacturing processes, including reduced energy consumption.
  3. Enhancing availability and use of forest biomass for products and energy.
  4. Meeting the multifunctional demands on forest resources and their sustainable management.
  5. The forest sector in a societal perspective.

The Prospects of Applying RPM

This foresight process was embedded in the broader strategy process. This integrated approach supported the strong connection with the decision-making involved in strategy formulation. At a more general level, the deployment of the RPM screening method in the Finnish SRA process can be assessed against the backdrop of emerging foresight needs at the international level. First, several analogous processes in other countries may be amenable to similar methodological support, for instance, within European coordination tools that seek to respond to the challenges of vertical coordination of multi-layered innovation systems. Second, methodologies such as RPM screening can respond to the challenges of horizontal coordination by permitting the participation of different stakeholders, adopting complementary criteria and varying the interpretations by which the relative importance of these criteria is assigned. Third, the Finnish SRA process is relevant to the management of international foresight activities because its design is scalable and can be adapted to the international context.

Authors: Totti Könnölä      

Ahti Salo            

Ville Brummer     

            Sponsors: Finnish National Support Group for the European Technology Platform for the Forest-Based Sector (FTP)
Type: Field/sector specific: forest-based sector R&D
Organizer: Helsinki University of Technology, Prof. Ahti Salo,
Duration: 03 – 06/2005 Budget: N/A Time Horizon: 2030 Date of Brief: Dec. 2009


Download EFP Brief No. 166_Forst-Based Technology Platform

Sources and References


Könnölä, T., Salo, A. & Brummer, V. (forthcoming). Foresight for European Coordination: Developing National Priorities for the Forest-Based Sector Technology Platform, International Journal of Technology Management.

Könnölä, T., Brummer, V. & Salo, A. (2007). Diversity in Foresight: Insights from the Fostering of Innovation Ideas, Technological Forecasting and Social Change 74, 608-626.

  1. Liesiö, P. Mild and A. Salo (2007). Preference Programming for Robust Portfolio Modeling and Project Selection, European Journal of Operational Research, Vol. 181, Issue 3, pp. 1488-1505.

Online sources

‘Developing National Priorities for the Forest-Based Sector Technology Platform’ Project website:

‘Forest-Based Sector Technology Platform’ Project website:

EFP Brief No. 165: Global Technology Revolution China

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The purpose of this study was to identify emerging technology opportunities that the Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA) and the Tian-jin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA) in Tianjin, China could incorporate into their strategic vision and plan for economic development through technological innovation, to analyze the drivers and barriers that they would face, and to provide action plans for implementation.

China’s Next Regional Engine for Economic Growth

The Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA) consists of 2,200 square kilometres along 150 kilometres of coastline in the municipality of Tianjin in northeast China. Tianjin municipal authorities first established this locality in 1994. At that time an arid, undeveloped area, TBNA was given the ambitious task of spurring industrial growth in Tianjin. In little more than a decade, it has become home to 1.4 million people, northern China’s largest container port, and a broad base of industry and manufacturing.

In 2006, China’s State Council named TBNA a “special pilot zone” with a mandate to become the country’s next regional engine for economic growth. Now reporting directly to the State Council, TBNA is expected to invigorate the economy of the northeastern Bohai Rim region in the same manner as Shanghai and Suzhou did in the Yangtze River delta area and Guangzhou and Shenzhen in the Pearl River delta area.

The Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA) is one of three administrative zones in TBNA. It is also TBNA’s industrial and manufacturing base and the centre of TBNA’s financial and commercial activities. TEDA is to play a key part in the economic growth envisioned for TBNA. Established in 1984, TEDA is today a bustling industrial-park complex. It possesses a robust manufacturing base, with pillar industries in electronics, automobiles and parts, food processing and biopharmaceuticals. Many of the world’s Fortune 500 companies, top Chinese firms, and other leading multinationals have strong presences in TEDA.

A Vision of the Future for TBNA and TEDA

The State Council envisions TBNA becoming a centre in north China for leading-edge research and development (R&D) and technology incubation, first-class modern manufacturing, and international shipping and logistics. At the same time, the State Council intends for TBNA to lead efforts to address many of China’s most urgent national problems, such as rising energy demands, a growing scarcity of usable water supplies and gravely escalating urban pollution. Thus, TBNA is to present an alternative to the traditional industrial economy, shaping a model of sustainable development and eco-friendly industry.

Innovation in science and technology (S&T) stands at the core of this vision of economic and environmental development, particularly of cutting-edge R&D. TBNA will need to take definitive steps to pursue this goal, and TEDA will be at the forefront of this effort. Building on its existing manufacturing base, TEDA aims to transition from a successful industrial-park complex into a state-of-the-art science and engineering (S&E) centre for high-impact emerging technologies. Other enterprises with relevant capacity located elsewhere in TBNA will follow suit. The desired end result is innovative R&D that meets international standards and positions TBNA as a global technology leader.

The Role of this RAND Study

Early in the process of developing a strategic plan for this ambitious transformation, senior managers from TBNA and TEDA found a 2006 report by the RAND Corporation, The Global Technology Revolution 2020: Bio/ Nano/ Materials/ Information Trends, Drivers, Barriers, and Social Implications. (Referred to hereafter as GTR 2020. See EFMN Foresight Brief No. 90). This report presents a comprehensive foresight analysis that identifies technology applications (TAs) most plausible by 2020, those countries capable of acquiring them and their likely effects on society.

Having reviewed GTR 2020, TBNA and TEDA managers approached RAND to conduct a foresight study designed specifically for their purposes. They commissioned RAND to do the following:

  • Identify promising emerging TAs for TEDA and other high-tech centres in TBNA to implement as a pivotal part of TBNA’s overall strategic plan for economic growth.
  • Identify the capacity needs to implement these TAs as well as the critical drivers and barriers that might facilitate or hinder implementation.
  • Develop a strategy and action plan for each TA.
  • Provide guidance on how these TAs might fit into an overarching strategic plan for TBNA’s economic development.

Incorporating Local Context and Current Realities

The analysis leading to the selection of TAs and, eventually, the strategies and action plans for them took into account four principal factors:

  • TBNA and TEDA’s missions as mandated by China’s State Council,
  • China’s pressing national needs,
  • drivers and barriers to technological innovation in China as a whole and for TBNA more specifically and
  • relevant capacity currently available to TBNA and TEDA both locally and more broadly in R&D, manufacturing and S&T commercialization.

The starting point was the 12 TAs identified in GTR 2020 as those that China could acquire by 2020. This was combined with a rigorous study of the realities, circumstances and issues in TBNA and in China more broadly, drawing on a diverse array of Chinese- and English-language sources:

  • Chinese- and English-language documents describing the mission, history and current status of TBNA and TEDA,
  • Chinese- and English-language literature on China’s social, environmental and economic needs, and measures that the Chinese government has taken to date to address them,
  • on-site interviews in TBNA, TEDA, the Tianjin Port, the municipality of Tianjin more broadly and the city of Beijing,
  • visits to S&T institutions that could provide capacity outside TBNA and TEDA, such as Tsinghua University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences and
  • a two-day workshop in TEDA with key figures from TEDA scientific institutions, firms and management.

Emerging Technology Opportunities for TBNA and TEDA

Based on analysis of the above sources, the authors narrowed the 12 TAs identified in GTR 2020 down to a final selection of seven. These either come directly from GTR 2020 or are hybrids combining one or more of the original 12.

  1. Cheap solar energy: Solar-energy systems inexpensive enough to be widely available to developing and undeveloped countries as well as disadvantaged populations.
  2. Advanced mobile communications and radio-frequency identification (RFID): Multifunctional platforms for sensing, processing, storing and communicating multiple types of data. RFID involves technologies that can store and wirelessly transmit information over short distances.
  3. Rapid bioassays: Tests to quickly detect the presence or absence of specific biological substances with simultaneous multiple tests possible.
  4. Membranes, fabrics and catalysts for water purification: Novel materials to desalinate, disinfect, decontaminate and help ensure the quality of water with high reliability.
  5. Molecular-scale drug design, development and delivery: The abilities to design, develop and deliver drug therapies at the nanoscale to attack specific tumours or pathogens without harming healthy tissues and cells and to enhance diagnostics.
  6. Electric and hybrid vehicles: Automobiles available to the mass market with power systems that combine internal combustion and other power sources.
  7. Green manufacturing: The development and use of manufacturing processes that minimize waste and environmental pollution and optimize the use and reuse of resources.

Drivers and Barriers to Implementation

Widespread, sustainable implementation of any TA depends on the balance between the drivers that facilitate implementation and the barriers that hinder it. The factors considered that will most influence China’s ability to successfully pursue cutting-edge R&D and technology innovation were:

  • the country’s needs,
  • its national R&D policies,
  • other national policies that could generate demand (or, as appropriate, reduce demand) for certain TAs,
  • intellectual property rights (IPR) protection,
  • finance and banking laws and regulations,
  • local policies, laws and regulations that could directly affect the ability of individuals and organizations to conduct cutting-edge R&D and commercialize innovative technologies,
  • human capital and
  • culture of R&D and innovation.

These same eight factors will most affect TBNA’s ability to develop and implement the selected TAs. Some of these are clearly either a driver or a barrier throughout most of China. But occasionally, local circumstances make them stronger or weaker drivers or barriers in a particular organization or region (or for a specific TA) than they are elsewhere in the country.

Several of these factors are unmistakable barriers in TBNA and hold for all seven TAs. IPR protection, for example, remains a barrier in TBNA, as in China as a whole, to both homegrown innovation and the involvement of foreign capital and talent in new R&D and technology ventures. Finance and banking laws and regulations are also a barrier in TBNA, as they are in China generally, because they discourage investment of venture capital. But, for certain of the seven TAs, sources of venture capital available to TBNA for specific technologies mitigate this barrier to some degree. Lack of a culture of R&D and innovation is a third barrier in TBNA, as it is in China as a whole. It discourages the risk-taking in new ventures that is essential to pursuing and commercializing groundbreaking R&D.

TBNA has one driver that all seven TAs share: human capital. This stems from the strength of TBNA’s current manufacturing base, the corresponding workforce and the concentration of academic institutions in the municipality of Tianjin. However, young Chinese people are tending to shy away from technical and vocational training, and domestic competition for S&E talent is heated. Both of these could be mitigating factors.

Capacity Currently Available to TBNA and TEDA

To fulfil the State Council’s mandate, TBNA and TEDA will need capacity in three areas: (1) R&D, (2) manufacturing and (3) S&T commercialization. Both local capacity—in TBNA, TEDA, and the municipality of Tianjin more broadly—and that from elsewhere in China and internationally will play a part.

In terms of R&D capacity, TBNA and TEDA have a growing number of institutions that provide cutting-edge research facilities and a professional cadre of highly trained scientists and engineers. But they face intense competition, both within China and abroad, for human capital of this calibre.

With regard to manufacturing capacity, TBNA and TEDA have a substantial industrial base that has been growing for the nearly 25 years since TEDA’s inception. Investment by an array of Fortune 500 companies, a track record of increasing industrial output and a rising gross domestic product (GDP) indicate the strength of this base. TBNA is also steadily improving the physical infrastructure—utilities, cargo facilities and waste-management processes—that are vital to manufacturing capacity. But a potential shortage of the skilled labourers and technicians needed to work in manufacturing and, again, heightened competition for those on the job market are real challenges.

As for S&T commercialization, TBNA and TEDA operate a well-established network of research parks and technology incubators aimed at supporting emerging high-tech enterprises. Ample financial incentives help spur development and attract human capital. Yet, these enterprises face considerable challenges due to China’s need to better protect IPR and reform finance and banking laws and policies. They also lack strong linkages between R&D institutions and commercial industry to facilitate the transfer of high-tech products to the market.

Strategy for Building TBNA’s Future

Implementation Strategies for the Selected TAs

China already has a well-developed first-generation solar-electricity industry. Consequently, the best opportunity for TBNA and TEDA in cheap solar energy lies not in entering the first-generation market but rather in becoming an R&D and manufacturing centre for second- and third-generation systems, initially for the global export market.

TBNA should aim to become an R&D and manufacturing centre for mobile communication devices and RFID systems. It should focus initially on the domestic Chinese market and then broaden to the global market. In addition, it should build state-of-the-art R&D programs in two component technologies: displays and power sources.

The long-term strategy is for TBNA to become a leading player in the global marketplace for state-of-the-art rapid bioassays. But its initial focus should be on using licensing and partnership agreements to attract leading companies to TBNA and TEDA.

Long-term goals for TBNA are: (1) to become a centre for R&D in nanoscale membranes, filters and catalysts and (2) to become a leader in manufacturing state-of-the-art membranes for purifying water. It is vital for TBNA to foster close relationships between research labs and private companies to facilitate commercialization.

TBNA should aim to become a centre for R&D and manufacturing of drugs developed through bio-nanotechnology. It should focus initially on attracting investment from foreign enterprises and, in tandem, on aggressively building homegrown R&D capacity. Eventually, it should direct R&D activities toward commercializing novel medical treatments and techniques.

Given the strong market potential of electric- and hybrid-vehicle components, TBNA should develop and expand collaborative R&D on subsystems and component technologies. At the same time, it should develop the capacity to manufacture hybrid vehicles and components for hybrid and electric vehicles. It should target the growing global market first and the Chinese market later.

TEDA should become a centre for green manufacturing in China. The initial focus should be on attracting to TBNA those companies at the leading edge of green chemistry and engineering. Over time, TBNA itself should start conducting R&D on new green manufacturing processes and, eventually, implement them in TBNA and TEDA.

An Overarching Strategic Plan

The seven TAs should form a pivotal part of TBNA’s strategic plan for economic growth through technological innovation. All of the TAs are in line with promising global trends; they are well suited to current capacities in TBNA, TEDA and the municipality of Tianjin and build on existing pillar industries; and they support Chinese government priorities.

Part of the overarching strategic plan should be geared toward addressing broad general challenges that currently stand as barriers to all seven TAs. The plan should include measures to help TBNA and TEDA enforce existing laws in the IPR domain. TBNA and TEDA should incorporate into the plan ample opportunities for cross-fertilization between research facilities and industry. Finally, it is vital that TBNA build a culture of R&D and innovation. The plan should contain elements that promote flexibility and risk-taking in TBNA and TEDA’s funded ventures. TBNA could use a three-pronged framework to integrate the specific action plans for the seven TAs into an umbrella strategic plan:

  • Develop state-of-the-art R&D capacity in relevant areas.
  • Update and expand the existing manufacturing base.
  • Build capacity for S&T commercialization.

These three activities would need to be carried out in parallel. Each requires using and expanding existing local capacity and introducing new capacity. Novel advances should stem from and extend the existing capacity base while fresh R&D programs are started and new companies with state-of-the-art capabilities come in to bring overall capacity up to world-class standards. Each will also support the others.

Authors: Richard Silberglitt            

Anny Wong                   

            Sponsors: Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA), Tianjin, China

Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA), Tianjin, China

Type: Technology foresight within the local and regional context
Organizer: RAND, Richard Silberglitt
Duration: 2007-2008 Budget: N.A. Time Horizon: 2020 Date of Brief: Dec 2009


Download EFP Brief No. 165_Global Technology Revolution China

Sources and References

The Global Technology Revolution China, Executive Summary: Emerging Technology Opportunities for the Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA) and the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA), MG-776-TBNA/TEDA, RAND Corporation (2009).

The Global Technology Revolution China, In-Depth Analyses: Emerging Technology Opportunities for the Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA) and the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA) (Chinese Language Version), TR-649/1-TBNA/TEDA, RAND Corporation (2009). Available online at

EFP Brief No. 158: MONA: A European Roadmap for Photonics and Nanotechnologies

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Photonics and nanotechnologies are highly multi-disciplinary fields and two of the principal enabling technologies for the 21st century. They are key technology drivers for industry sectors such as information technologies, communication, biotechnologies, transport, and manufacturing. Photonics/nanophotonics and nanomaterials/nanotechnologies can benefit from each other in terms of new functions, materials, fabrication processes and applications. The MONA Roadmap identifies potential synergies between photonics/nanophotonics and nanomaterials/nanotechnologies. The challenge of mastering nanoelectronics and nanophotonics science and technologies at an industrial scale is of utmost strategic importance for the competitiveness of the European industry in a global context.

EFMN Brief No. 158_MONA

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. 137: The Future of Manufacturing in Europe A Survey of the Literature and a Modelling Approach

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Manufacturing in Europe is facing challenges that may impact on its performance in the near future: the emergence of international competitors, new technologies allowing the emergence of new business models, increased off-shore and relocated activities. The aim of this study was to provide policy-makers with a long-term vision of European manufacturing, its characteristics, its place in the EU economy, in the world and the main challenges it will be facing. Its purpose was to identify, on the basis of current demographic, environmental, technological, economic and social trends, and possible scenarios, the likely bottlenecks, unsustainable trends and major challenges that European manufacturing will have to face over the coming 30 years. From this, implications for various microeconomic policies, notably for industrial policy, were explored, contributing to the mid-term review of industrial policy in 2007 by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry.

Future of European Manufacturing

Manufacturing in Europe is affected by a changing world. In 2004, ten countries joined the EU followed by Bulgaria and Rumania in 2007. Most of the new member states have a different economic structure and other comparative advantages than the ‘old’ EU-15, in particular in labour-intensive industries. This is also the case for the candidate countries from the Balkans and Turkey. Enlargement hence not only offers opportunities in terms of a larger domestic EU market, but also in terms of specialisation and – associated – economies of scale and scope.
Secondly, a new wave of globalisation unprecedented in terms of scale and speed is unfolding. This process of economic integration – with resources becoming more mobile, economies becoming increasingly interdependent and financial markets becoming increasingly international – has important implications for the future of manufacturing. This also holds for the integration of China and India in the world economy; each is home to about 20 percent of world population. Both countries are leading and highly competitive exporters, India in software and IT-enabled services, and China in skill-intensive manufactures. Especially China has emerged as the powerhouse of the Asian region and has in less than 20 years become the world’s manufacturing and trading platform. Globalisation has also impacted European manufacturing in another way: lower production costs and the potential of new consumer markets have caused European manufacturers to increase the quality and design of their products and
have led to international sourcing of (parts of their) production. Thirdly, consumer demand in Europe itself is changing. As its citizens are becoming wealthier, they demand more services and place higher requirements on manufactured goods. Demographics (ageing) might strengthen this change. Finally, the pace of technological change appears to have sped up in viewof globalisation and increasing international competition. Globalisation, EU integration, shifting demand and progress in science and technology, and innovation – whether disruptive or not – will all have a major impact on how the manufacturing landscape in Europe in terms of location, production, distribution of labour and physical appearance will manifest itself in the near and longer-term future. The purpose of this long-term scenario study was twofold: (1) to provide policy-makers, decision-makers and others with
two long-term scenario-based views on the future of European manufacturing and (2) to explore the scope for EU policies to positively address and influence the future.

Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Foresight Approaches

The scenarios in this study have been developed in three consecutive stages, consisting of (i) a survey of existing futures studies, (ii) the drafting of qualitative scenarios, and (iii) a quantification of the scenarios using WorldScan, a dynamically applied general equilibrium model for the world economy. This approach was designed as a hybrid combining the traditional foresight studies with more quantitative oriented economic-scenario studies.
One important difference between the two groups of studies is the detail with which technological factors are explored in the foresight studies compared to the economic-scenario and modelling studies, which generally treat them as exogenous factors. Furthermore, while the foresight studies, in contrast to the modelling studies, largely employ qualitative scenarios, this study aims at combining the benefits of both approaches:
first synthesising the results from many foresight studies to develop qualitative scenarios, followed by a quantification of the expected implications to check for the consistency of the scenarios as well as assess the expected impacts of policy packages. Furthermore, the communities conducting foresight studies and economic-scenario modelling studies have largely co-evolved with little interaction between them. This has led to foresight studies, focusing on participative processes and qualitative (policy) analyses and recommendations, producing
results that are challenged by approaches focusing on quantitative analyses. This study therefore aimed to bridge the two communities by employing methods used in each of them. As such, the results of the study can also be seen as an experiment on how to conduct such studies in the future, combining methods from different communities.

A Three Part Structure

As outlined above the study consisted of three distinct parts: a literature survey, the development of qualitative scenarios and the quantification of the scenarios using a modelling approach.

Survey of Future Studies

The survey of futures studies served two goals: (1) to help identify the relevant main drivers and trends that form our current perspective and knowledge that can be seen as key to the future of manufacturing in Europe and (2) to explore what other expert groups and think tanks regard as possible manufacturing futures.

The timeframe considered in the literature surveyed ranged from 2015 to 2050. During the course of stage one, 101 foresight reports, scenario studies, academic publications and policy documents were surveyed along five clusters: international, technological, social and environmental trends and drivers as well as new business models. The studies surveyed covered European studies, global studies, North-American studies and South-East Asian studies in order of importance.

FutMan, ManVis and Manufuture – three major EU-wide foresight projects conducted over the past five years – formed the backbone of the survey. The results of these foresight studies were supplemented by other materials ranging from theme or aspect futures studies (e.g. expected income developments; impacts of climate change) to similar foresight studies carried out in other countries, such as the U.S. (e.g. IMTI, 1998; SRI), Japan (Nistep, 2005) and China (NRCSTD, 2005 – for further references see full background report [Zee & Brandes, 2007]).

Qualitative Scenarios

The survey identified at least five sets of major drivers affecting the future of European manufacturing. These drivers are: (1) globalisation and international competition, (2) technological progress, (3) socio-demographic change (in income and wealth, social values, shifting preferences, ageing), (4) energy and resource scarcity, and (5) climate change and the environment. Based on these, two scenarios were developed: Cosy at Home and Adventuring the World. The two scenarios exemplify two explicit but ‘moderate extremes’ based on further integrating markets, on the one hand, and a stalling or reversal of market integration, on the other. In Cosy at Home, inwardlooking, risk-averse, indecisive behaviour dominates the public as well as the private realm. In Adventuring the World outward-looking (resulting in a further opening-up), risk-loving and pro-active behaviour is prime.Cosy at Home  This scenario depicts a European manufacturing sector that faces an overall business and political climate that gradually becomes more inward-looking and passive. Uncertainty and indecisiveness at world level are answered with

a European response of retreat. Politically unstable regions, threats of international terrorism, absence of binding action at global scale to tackle the negative consequences of climate change and the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels, and – related – a lack of real breakthroughs in alternative energy production and promising new technologies (nanotechnology and to a lesser extent biotechnology), give people the feeling of standstill and uneasiness. This in turn translates into a downturn in consumer and producer confidence and more inward-looking and risk-averse behaviour. Trust is something that may be found close by, but certainly not far from home. Rising energy prices and strong increases in monitoring and control of international movements of persons, goods and services result in a cost explosion in international transport and trade, which significantly alters the turn-of-the-century trend towards a further integrated world economy.

Adventuring the World  This scenario depicts a European manufacturing sector that is faced with an overall business and political climate of international cooperation, openness, but also strong competition. European self-confidence strengthens as the political and ideological emptiness that characterised the turn-of-the-century era has been replaced with new inspiring notions of Europe’s role in the world. This includes Europe assuming the position of a front-runner in solving problems of global warming, energy use and ageing as well as major breakthroughs in European social and cultural integration. Renewed decisiveness has triggered momentum at the global level and geo-political instability and threats of international terrorism are gradually disappearing. Considerable progress is made in alternative energy production and promising new technologies (nanotechnologies and biotechnology) have taken hold. A general upswing in consumer and producer confidence combines with new openness, and outward-looking and adventurous entrepreneurial behaviour. Trust relationships thrive. Rising energy prices stimulate new and more cost efficient energy-saving ways of transport of persons and products. Adequate road pricing and energy taxation increasingly supplant traditional labour taxes, making mobility and energy consumption better manageable and curbing harmful consequences.

Quantification of Scenarios

In the third step, the scenarios were quantified using an applied general equilibrium model for three main purposes: (1) the model ensured that the scenarios were consistent, since economic variables allow to describe and relate constraints and the current knowledge about interactions in the economy in a consistent form; (2) the quantification gave a feeling for the relative importance of various developments for the future well-being of society; (3) the model also offered the possibility of assessing the impact of framework policies and their relative importance.
However, large parts of the scenarios could not be quantified, as the general trends observed are expected to impact variables over too long time horizons for workable quantitative assumptions. The complex feedback loops furthermore make it only realistic to illustrate the scenario trends related to economic growth and economic integration, which are at the heart of the WorldScan model. (For details on the quantification of the scenarios and their expected impact on manufacturing please see the ‘final report’).

Impact of Framework Policies on Scenarios

The quantification of scenarios sketched the macroeconomic developments, showing the possible impact of globalisation, technological change, ageing and structural change towards a service economy on economic growth and trade. Europe is expected to become less important as a place for manufacturing production in both scenarios as manufacturing shifts to Asia. The question whether these trends could be affected by policies was assessed in the third step. Rather than thinking about targeting and subsidizing specific industries, framework policies that could affect the environment where industrial production takes place in Europe were modelled for potential impact on the scenarios. The framework policies analysed were: (1) upgrading skills, (2) more effective regulation and less administrative burdens for firms, (3) R&D and innovation policies, (4) a strong competitive single market, (5) environmental policies, (6) supporting energy policies and (7) global trade policy. The macro-economic outcomes for the EU as a whole in 2025 for both scenarios were analysed under the different framework policies. The differences between the two scenarios are minor. In Adventuring the World, GDP increases slightly more than in Cosy at Home, mainly because of the large impact of R&D and internal market policies. Exports increase faster in Cosy at Home, largely due to a composition effect of a higher share of total exports destined for other European countries. An increase in intra-EU exports due to new single market policies thus has a larger effect on total exports. R&D and innovation policies have the largest impact representing about 40% of the total GDP effect based on the lower bound returns in the literature. The reduction in administrative burden adds about 1.5% to GDP, internal market policies about 2% and skills even less. However, over time, when the whole labour force has been educated, the effects of upgrading skills will be larger. From Gelauff and Lejour (2006) we know that GDP effects will be three times as high in 2040 compared to 2025. However, compared to other framework policies, the economic effects even in 2040 will be unsubstantial.

A Future for Manufacturing

The analysis has shown that the share of manufacturing in employment and value added has decreased in Europe for decades reflecting structural changes in the global economy. However, manufacturing will remain important for trade and productivity increases, outpacing by far the service sector.

Global manufacturing is expected to grow, fuelled by Asian economic development. Nevertheless, there is a future for manufacturing in Europe. In 2025, Europe’s share in global manufacturing production and trade is estimated to be about 20%, much higher than its share in global population. Manufacturing is also estimated to contribute more than 15% to European value added in 2025 and to remain the most important driver for exports. A further strengthening of the internal market and adequate R&D and innovation policies can have a substantial impact on these shares. Both can be influenced by EU policy-making, but the framework policies cannot reverse the trends in shares of value added and employment. Within the manufacturing sector various developments will take place. The study discriminated between ten aggregate manufacturing sectors: ‘food products’, ‘textiles and wearing apparel’, ‘wood and other manufacturing’, ‘pulp, paper and publishing’, ‘chemicals, rubber and plastics’, ‘basic metals’,
‘non-metallic minerals’, ‘electronic equipment’, ‘transport equipment’ and ‘other machinery and equipment’. Based on
historical productivity growth paths of these sectors, their trade openness, R&D intensity, energy efficiency and skill intensity, it is highly likely that these (sub)sectors will develop differently over time. This also applies to subsectors within the ten sectors identified. Most sectors can distinguish between basic and specialized manufacturing activities, with basic manufacturing on average being more affected by international
competitiveness than specialized manufacturing.

Openness a Key Determinant

A number of interesting conclusions about the future of manufacturing in Europe were drawn. The increase in trade and,more generally, globalisation appears to be one of the most important drivers, making the sectors that are already most open to international trade also the ones mostly affected in the future. They include textiles and wearing apparel, wood and other manufacturing, chemicals, rubber and plastics, electronic equipment, transport equipment and other machinery and equipment. Overall, the sectors food products and pulp, paper and publishing will be less influenced. These are more domestically oriented sectors, less R&D intensive and face less technological
progress. Europe has no comparative advantages in textiles and wearing apparel, electronic equipment and basic
metals. This disadvantage will become further manifest in the oncoming twenty years. In particular, this applies to electronic equipment, which – while in the past representing a relatively large sector – will decline even further. Textiles and wearing apparel is an already small sector in terms of value added and employment, which means that an even less prosperous future for this sector will also have less overall impact. Chemicals, rubber and plastics, transport equipment and other transport and equipment will be the most important manufacturing sectors in Europe,
despite a deteriorating comparative advantage in the other machinery and equipment sector. These sectors are important for European exports and will account for about a quarter of global production and trade in these sectors over the coming decades. Of the framework policies analysed in this study, improving skills, reducing the administrative burden and increasing energy efficiency, have the least impact on manufacturing. R&D and
innovation policies and strengthening the internal market, on the other hand, have the strongest and most positive impact on manufacturing. They are also the most ambitious in terms of policy formulation and implementation, and potentially very effective in supporting manufacturing because of their R&D intensity and open-to-trade nature. In the coming decades, Europe’s decreasing share in global manufacturing production and trade will flatten. The EU framework policies support this slowing of the relative decline of manufacturing activities in Europe, which may even come to a near standstill in sectors such as chemicals, rubber and plastics, and combined machinery and equipment.

Authors: Felix Brandes (TNO-IPG)
Sponsors: European Commission – DG Enterprise & Industry
Type: European futures study on manufacturing
Organizer: CPB, the Netherlands (Arjan Lejour) & TNO-IPG (Frans van der Zee)
Duration: 01/2007-05/2007
Budget: 130,000€
Time Horizon: 2037
Date of Brief: March 2008

Download: EFMN Brief No. 137_ Manufacturing in Europe

Sources and Links

The key results of the study were published as part of Chapter 5 of the European Competitiveness Report 2007. More details and the full scenarios are published in the background reports and final report and can be accessed via the website of the European Commission and the CPB the Netherlands. _en.htm

Brandes, F., A. Lejour, G. Verweij & F. van der Zee (2007)
“The Future of Manufacturing in Europe”, Final Report, 31st May 2007, available at:

CEC (2007) “Chapter 5: The Future of Manufacturing in Europe – a survey of the literature and a modelling approach”
in European Competitiveness Report 2007, 31st October 2007,SEC (2007)1444, available at:

Lejour, A. & G. Verweij (2008) “Two quantitative scenarios
for the future of manufacturing in Europe”, CPB Netherlands
Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, available at

Zee, F.A van der & F. Brandes (2007) “Manufacturing Futures
for Europe: A survey of the literature”, TNO the Netherlands,
available at:

EFP Brief No. 134: Future Challenge for Europe: Providing Security and Safety to Citizens

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

As stated in the recent EC Communication on ‘Reforming the budget, changing Europe’ (SEC (2007) 1188), the European Union has a key role to play in ‘providing security and safety to citizens’. Especially in the aftermath of 11th Sept. 2001 security related issues are becoming an increasingly important facet of global society and have an increasing impact on economy and science. The issues are manifold and include protecting citizens and state from organized crime, preventing terrorist acts, and responding to natural and manmade disasters. Civil security issues are becoming more and more important to governments and national economies across the globe, and the EU is no exception. The EC sees security research as an important policy objective, which started in 2001 with a Preparatory Action on Security Research (PASR) and is now the tenth theme of the FP7 Cooperation programme. Security and safety technologies are seen to have applications in many sectors including transport, civil protection, energy, environment, health and financial systems.

Analysing EFMN Documents: TextAnalyst

A selection of 160 foresight and futures studies was taken from the EFMN database. These were studies with different backgrounds, scopes, themes, horizons and on different scales. The semantic data-mining tool ‘TextAnalyst’ was employed to analyse the texts. First, out of the 160 studies, a small number of relevant studies was selected that had titles strongly related to the researched topic. TextAnalyst analysed these texts and found the most relevant keywords and semantic relations between the most important words. These terms were compiled into a keyword list for the researched topic. This list of keywords was used to analyse all 160 selected studies. The TextAnalyst
yielded all sentences containing any of the keywords, with an additional hyperlink in the text file allowing to view
the context in which the sentence occurred. The TextAnalyst also gave a semantic relation between the searched keywords and other words. The related terms thus identified were added to the list of keywords. The summary of sentences that contained one or more words from the list of keywords was manually read in the original context and if the sentence or the section where the sentence occurred was regarded as providing new or additional information, this section was copied into a text file. In order to avoid any extreme out-of-context copying of sentences, statements that were part of a scenario description were not added to the file. After this analysis of the 160 studies, a text file was created containing sections of the original studies with information related to the selected topic
and the reference to the original document. The dictionary for the analysis presented here consisted of the
following terms: anticipation, crisis, defence, defence, emergency, enemy, intelligence, military, NBC, NRBC, prevention, protection, risk, safety, secure, security, surveillance, terrorism, terrorist, threat and weapon. This analysis is exclusively based on the review of 36 foresights and future-oriented studies completed between 2000 and 2007 – most of them in 2004-2005. While most studies were carried out at a national level in Europe, the pool of sources also included seven studies conducted at the EU-level, eight Japanese national studies, the
global study AC-UNU Millennium project, the supranational study on information and communication technology (ICT) in the Nordic countries, and one Finnish study of regional scope.

Limitations of the Analysis

Attention should be paid to the fact that, while all 36 studies address certain safety and security issues, they are not all equally detailed. In particular, whereas some foresights (e.g. the UK Foresight) provide an in-depth analysis of the state-of-theart of technology, as well as a detailed forward look, the significance of some one-sentence statements, as they are typically made in Delphi studies such as the 8th Japanese National Foresight, may be more limited. Such statements have been considered very carefully so as not to bias the analysis. From the above, it follows that the following analysis – based on a restricted number of foresights – neither intends to be exhaustive nor to provide an overview of security and safety-related issues weighted according to their importance for future EU policies. However, it might provide some interesting insights about future safety and security threats – as predicted in foresights – as well as how future technological, societal or economic developments and policies might help to combat them. Since some of the analysed foresights are quite old, this means that some of the proposed actions could already have been implemented.

Safety & Security:  A Crosscutting Issue

Safety and security issues are generally related to all kinds of natural and human-induced (intentional and non-intentional) disasters or risks, which can affect individuals, societies or nations. Important technological and political tasks in the context of the protection of citizens and vital infrastructures have addressed a broad spectrum of issues such as future threats and vulnerabilities of critical infrastructures in key sectors (e.g. information systems, financial systems, industrial plants, public buildings, transport systems and infrastructures, communication networks, energy infrastructures, food distribution systems, etc) or the impact of terrorism and organized crime on the development of civil societies.

From the selected studies two major areas were identified bearing future risks for society: civil security and IT security. The area of civil security can be divided into subsections as follows:

  • terrorism and crime prevention,
  • ensuring the safety and security of critical infrastructures,
  • food and chemicals safety, and
  • threats from climate change and natural disasters.

Civil Security

Terrorism and Crime Prevention

Terrorism is expected to become a growing threat to all parts of society in the future mainly for two reasons. Firstly, due to the NRBC (nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical) weapons, the proliferation of ballistic, tactical and cruise missiles, and, on another level, the proliferation of small arms, the use of technological objects (e.g. civilian aircraft) as weapons and the transfer of technical know-how have multiplied risk factors for our societies. Also terrorist activities are becoming networked and are increasingly seeking points of entry into international business and, through corruption, into public administration.

The threat from terrorism must be counteracted by increased international cooperation on all levels and increased spending for security.

Another aspect raised by the study by the Finnish Committee for the Future is that because of continued synergy among, and miniaturization of, everything from chemistry sets and pharmaceutical manufacturing to genetic and nanotech engineering terrorist attacks will be much simpler to conduct in the future. Eventually an individual (single individual being massively destructive, SIMAD), acting alone, will be able to create and deploy a weapon of mass destruction.

In the broader context of terrorism, general crime prevention is an important aspect. The Japanese studies suggest that the security provided by governments will deteriorate in the future; thus people must provide for their own protection. Means like physical access control and burglary alarm systems for private homes are seen to be possible substitutes. The British study ‘Strategic Futures Thinking’ concludes that new technologies, such as DNA profiling, will prove increasingly vital in criminal trials as will more sophisticated detection, surveillance and monitoring devices in the wider field of crime prevention.

Safety and Security of Critical Infrastructures

Energy and transport infrastructures (so-called ‘critical infrastructures’) are crucial to economy and society. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that their safety and security is addressed in different foresights – at a national and supranational level. The Finnish foresight ‘Finnsight 2015’, for instance, stresses the fact that modern societies have increasingly become vulnerable in the sense that any malfunctioning or failure of critical infrastructures may paralyse the whole society. The foresights identify several threats to critical infrastructures:

  • Critical infrastructures increasingly rely on ICT applications and they more and more depend on the reliability of broad and complex ICT networks. Protecting critical infrastructures is therefore closely related to protecting the ICT networks they are based on. In this regard, ICT liability has to be ensured; it will also be particularly important to prevent criminal intrusion and the misuse of networked-based infrastructures.
  • Of course, on a global scale, terrorism is expected to remain one of the main threats in the future. Several foresights such as the Fistera study and the UK Foresight therematching them with the personal identification provided at the point of embarkation). Indeed, the terrorism threat is expected to give further momentum to the development of specific markets such as imaging technologies (allowing for instance the detection of suicide bombers in case remote identification and containment become reality).
  • Transport safety for citizens also implies reducing the risk of accidents. Thanks to the diffusion and increasing affordability of ICT, use of intelligent transport systems based on telematics as well as video-surveillance systems are expected to become more widespread to improve transport safety, for instance, by reacting in case fatigue, recreational drug use or medication impair the performance of the driver of a car or the pilot of a plane. Intelligent transport systems may also help maximise transport and logistics efficiency leading to benefits in terms of increased productivity and economic growth.

Food and Chemical Safety

Quite surprisingly, and despite their relevance for everyday life and everyone’s health, issues related to food safety is rarely addressed by the foresights screened. Some, however, do highlight that ensuring food safety requires assessing the long-term impact of harmful chemicals (e.g. heavy metals) on human beings, crops, as well as livestock. Food safety is therefore closely related to preventing damage to the environment due to chemicals in general. Standardized and socially approved tools for the risk assessment of chemicals should hence be developed. In this regard, chemical analysis is expected to be facilitated in the future through the use of miniature chemical analysis systems. Regarding functional foods, the monitoring of the long-term consequences of their use is underscored as essential. The EU may have a role to play in assessing health claims and the safety of new functional food products entering the market. Providing transparent information on health issues, safe threshold limits for specific functional food products, as well as on storage requirements will also contribute to promoting food safety for the consumer.

Threats from Climate Change  and Natural Disasters

Some studies emphasize the risk from climate change and natural disasters. Particularly in Japan the risk from natural disasters such as volcano eruptions, avalanches and earthquakes is addressed. The development of new predictive systems is proposed. Systems to observe disasters such as communications satellites, GPS, unmanned aircraft, and so on should be implemented in order to better understand situations after disasters have occurred and to be able to respond more swiftly.

Nearly all studies addressing climate change raise the issue of flooding – often in connection with the expected rise of the sea level. For instance the UK Foresight study claims that climate change will have a high impact under every scenario due to two threats. Firstly, the coasts are expected to be especially at risk: relative sea-level rise could increase the risk of coastal flooding by four to ten times. Secondly, precipitation is expected to increase flood risks across the country by two to four times. Flooding in towns and cities will be one of the greatest challenges in the future. Building in areas at risk from flooding should be avoided or, if inevitable, space should be provided to accommodate flooding in river and coastal areas. In this context, the development of effective modelling capabilities to predict flooding and manage flood routes in intra-urban areas should be pursued.

The study by the Finnish Committee for the Future also expects that change in precipitation will result in water tables falling on all continents. Droughts in areas where 40% of the population depends on watersheds controlled by two or more countries call for new water management strategies that can mitigate the effects of migration, conflicts, etc.  The threat of storm surges in coastal areas will increase due to rising sea levels combined with changes in the number, location, and strength of storms.

Although flooding is seen as one of the main challenges of the future, at the same time, it is also acknowledged that predictions in this area are steeped in uncertainty, as in the case of climate change or demographic and socio-economic trends. Thus, one has to develop robust water management strategies that will yield satisfactory living conditions for a wide range of possible scenarios.

IT Security

IT security in general is seen as a major topic of the future. Society depends on vulnerable, complex information technology systems, which need to be protected.

One major issue is the protection of privacy in the sense of protection against loss of control over one’s personal data. Already nowadays, Wikis and mostly blogs may contain data and information about an individual that could easily be disclosed to unauthorised others, given the low levels of security and privacy protection implemented so far. This risk will be enhanced in the future because of the widespread use of ambient intelligence (AmI) with its heterogeneity (in contrast to closed, codesigned systems), its complexity of hardware and software (introducing the dependability challenge), its distribution of knowledge and resources (co-operation and interconnection), as well as the foreseen mobility needs (which introduces more vulnerability than in a static world). Radio frequency identification (RFID) implants in people can also cause a threat to privacy, since they permit easy and instantaneous identification and authentication of individuals. On the other hand, they can increase security, for example, by enabling parents to easily track down their children in case of abduction.

The major challenge is to balance privacy and security needs. There are various ways to protect privacy in the future. Legislation to protect data of a personal nature is one of them. Another is by implementing new security measures. The level of privacy and security will be defined more by the location from where data are accessed than by the place where they are actually physically stored.

Another fast-growing area will be the provision of trust and guarantee services in the payments markets. A suggested new measure is establishing a clearinghouse where banks can anonymously share information about security breaches. Also, telecommunication companies are increasingly offering payment services. The introduction of m-payment systems will require new risk management systems and co-operation between different providers. It also calls for improved protection of confidential data provided by customers. Although wireless networks already provide a more secure network than the ones offered in fixed-line markets, there is need for further measures. Among those suggested are enhanced use of digital signatures (a kind of unique electronic stamp), authentication and encryption. One study suggests replacing binary network security (access or not) by more complex security mechanisms thereby granting differential access to different actors.

Three Prevailing Issues

Taking the limits of the applied methodology into account, the analysis of 36 foresights and future-oriented studies, which were completed between 2000 and 2007, yielded three major security and safety issues: terrorism, IT security and natural disaster protection in the context of the global climate change. Concerning terrorism, studies seem to perceive growing future threats to all parts of society mainly because of modern societies’ increasing dependence on computer networks and critical infrastructures and also because of the growing proliferation of NRBC agents, ballistic missiles and small arms. In the broader context of terrorism general crime prevention is also an important aspect.
IT security in general is seen as a major concern of the future. Important issues in this field are related to the protection of privacy in terms of protecting against the loss of control over personal data and to the containment of future risks connected with the widespread use of ambient intelligence (AmI), RFID chips or wireless networks. The studies addressing natural disaster protection predict rising global threats of climate change causing flooding, storms and other weather anomalies in the future. Such studies also expect that the change in precipitation will result in water tables falling on all continents, which calls for new water management strategies capable of mitigating the effects of migration, conflicts, etc.

Authors: Anette Braun (,   Nils Elsner (, Andreas Hoffknecht (,  Sabine Korte (, Sylvie Rijkers-Defrasne (, Olav Teichert ( – Future Technologies Division at VDI TZ
Type: Overview
Date of Brief: February 2008


Sources and References

  • ‘Reforming the budget, changing Europe – A public consultation paper in view of the 2008/2009 budget review’, Commission of the European Communities, SEC(2007)1188 final, Brussels, 12.9.2007.
  • ‘Meeting the challenge: the European security research agenda’, report of the European Security Research Advisory Board, September 2006.
  • 8th Japanese Foresight – Agriculture, forestry, fisheries and foods (2005)
  • 8th Japanese Foresight – Electronics (2005)
  • 8th Japanese Foresight – Environment (2005)
  • 8th Japanese Foresight – Frontier (2005)
  • 8th Japanese Foresight – Information and Communications (2005)
  • 8th Japanese Foresight – Manufacturing (2005)
  • 8th Japanese Foresight – Social Technology (2005)
  • AC-UNU Millenium Project – Antiterrorism Scenarios (2005)
  • Austrian BMVIT Safety and Security Research 2011 – EFMN Brief 33 (2005)
  • Dutch NRLO – Functional Foods Position and Future Perspectives (2001)
  • EC Ambient Intelligence in Everyday Life (AmI@Life) (2003)
  • EC High Level Expert Group (HLEG) – Foresighting the New Technology Wave

– Converging Technologies – Shaping the Future of European Societies (2004)

  • EC IPTS – D1gital Territ0ries (2007)
  • EC IPTS – The Future of M-payments (2001)
  • EC IPTS-ESTO – Future Bottlenecks in the Information Society (2001)
  • EC IPTS-ESTO Roadmapping Project – Healthcare Technologies Roadmapping – The Effective Delivery of Healthcare (2003)
  • Finnish Committee for the Future – Democracy and Futures (2006)
  • Finnish ESF – Uusimaa 2035 Scenario Project (2004)
  • Finnish TEKES – FinnSight 2015 (whole exercise) (2006)
  • FISTERA – Key European Technology Trajectories – 2nd Report (2004)
  • French FutuRIS (2004)
  • French Ministry of Defence – PP30 – Prospective Plan of the French Defense Policy in 30 Years (2004)
  • Turning the Water Wheel Inside Out. Foresight Study on Hydrological Science in The Netherlands (2005)
  • UK DEFRA – Climate Change Scenarios for the United Kingdom (2002)
  • Greek National Technological Foresight (Whole Exercise) (2005)
  • Ireland Marine Foresight (2005)
  • Japanese Optoelectronic Industry and Technology Development Association – Optical Technology Roadmap (2003)
  • Nordic Innovation Centre – ICT Foresight – Nordic foresight and visions on ICT in healthcare, security, the experience economy and production systems (2005-2007)
  • Strategic Futures Thinking – meta-analysis on published material on drivers and trends (2001)
  • UK National Foresight – Cyber Trust and Crime Prevention (2004)
  • UK National Foresight – Exploiting the Electromagnetic Spectrum (2004)
  • UK National Foresight – Flood and Coastal Defence (2004)
  • UK National Technology Foresight Programme – Foresight IT 2000 (2000)
  • UK National Technology Foresight Programme – Foresight Financial Services (2000)
  • UK National Technology Foresight Programme – Crime Prevention Panel



Download: EFMN Brief No. 134_Safety_and_Security

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