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Issue 8, 2nd quarter 2005

Foresighting Europe Newsletter

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Shared visions, common research futures

Brainstorming on the future of Foresight

A Brainstorming Workshop was organized at the end of February this year to discuss the shape of future EU level Foresight activities under FP7.

Purpose

The purpose of the Brainstorming Workshop was to capitalize on the recent years’ experience in foresight activities in Europe and to discuss possible developments of EU foresight in the near future. It provided inputs and ideas for the future of foresight at all levels of the EU. Also, in addition the workshop discussed ideas on the role and scope of Foresight activities in FP7.

The reflections took into account the fact that Foresight in Europe still has following characteristics:

  • In some Member States Foresight activities are non-existent or relatively weak;
  • Foresight work is done in national settings, and players pursue contacts at EU level mostly on an ad-hoc basis;
  • European policies and issues are not systematically taken into account in national and regional Foresight studies.

In the future the challenge will be to determine how Foresight activities carried out at national and regional levels can better relate to one another and be more coherent with EU level activities. The more possible synergies should be exploited, and there should be the more cost-efficiency and shared knowledge gains should be envisaged.

Foresight activities at EU level should contribute to modern governance by

  • involving stakeholders in structured debates about the future of Europe,
  • supporting the implementation of common EU policies, the "Lisbon Strategy", and
  • contributing to the creation of the European Research Area.

Structure

On the basis of the experience in European foresight co-operation, the workshop’s main components were: inputs from the Foresight Mid-Term Assessment and four brainstorming sessions. These sessions were guided by the following questions:

Session 1: What might a European system of foresight activities exploring both societal and science & technology issues look like? How might such a system provide contributions to the identification of research priorities at EU level? What would be its articulation in respect to recently concluded / on-going national / sectoral foresight initiatives?

Session 2: What can we learn from recent “systemic foresight” initiatives, such as FutuRIS in France, focusing on research actors and systems? What could be the relevant issues to be explored at EU level?

Session 3: What are the needs in terms of mutual learning between Member States and between regions? What can we learn from recent EU funded collaborative projects such as FOREN, FOMOFO, eFORESEE or FORETECH?

Session 4: What are the research needs in support to foresight processes? What is the state of the knowledge base? What can be done with all the Handbooks, Tool boxes and Guides available? Isn’t it the right time to think about fundamental research issues (representation and understanding of the future, use of social sciences in participative processes, how to foster theoretically robust “out of the box” thinking, etc)?

A Final Round Table discussion concluded by addressing the roles of different foresight actors (national - government and parliamentary, regional, and expert) in an emerging European foresight area.

Conclusions

One could paraphrase the concluding remarks as follows:

The scope of EU foresight activities should be wider than in FP5/FP6 and tackle key socio-economic challenges for the future of the EU and its Member States. EU level activities should monitor the developments in national and regional foresight initiatives and build on them. It should also address issues that are EU relevant requiring foresight at EU level.

EU foresight activities should combine thematic and systemic approaches (Research on innovative methods should be supported as well).

They should continue to foster mutual learning activities on the basis of the experience accumulated in FP5/FP6 projects and in particular to favour exchanges between these projects and networks. Concrete targets should be set for these mutual learning activities.

Foresight activities should be continuous in order to be able to provide elements of knowledge when there are specific moments for policy design that call for it (they should avoid the risk of being out of sync with the policy cycle).

They should provide strategic forward-looking knowledge to policy-makers. They should be close to policy-making but distinct from it: they provide policy options. Decisions must be in the hands of policy-makers. Top policy-makers should be involved as “clients” and “promoters” of the activities.

EU level foresight activities should aim at bringing the global picture into European debates.

EU foresight activities should aim at influencing EU policies at two levels:

  • Injecting novelty within ‘existing’ structures (e.g. specific programmes under the Research Framework Programme)
  • Introducing new blocks of activities

EU foresight activities should aim at broadening the participation (in them) of various groups of stakeholders beyond experts and policy-makers/policy-shapers.

Read the experts’ presentations and the detailed record of the discussions.

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