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Issue 8, 2nd quarter 2005

Foresighting Europe Newsletter

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Shared visions, common research futures

Berlin Conference - June 2005

Berlin Conference on “Border Regions - Regional Foresight and Innovation Development in Eastern Germany, 20 and 21 June 2005.

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) hosted a 250 participant international conference with experts and representatives from Eastern German New Länder as well as other European regions on regional Foresight and innovation. The conference’s theme was to apply foresight for innovative regional development and to embed the regions into the wider Europe. DG RTD’s Directorate K was instrumental in setting up this conference.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research currently analyses the potential of "Regional Foresight" as a planning instrument with regard to the specific challenges in the new German Länder. The objective is to increase the efficiency of innovation and to enable effective innovation management by "Regional Foresight". The conference was introduced on both days by Understate Secretaries.

According to the “Parlamentarische Staatssekretär im Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung” Ulrich Kasparick, foresight should be applied to strengthen socio-economic political goals. He welcomed the European experience and pleaded for exchanges of experience between the different regions and for them to learn from the best practice taking place.

He said that the “Innovations initiative Region" funded a total of 1.500 research, development and training projects. The BMBF plans to allocate funds totalling around 90 million euros in 2005. A total budget of over 500 million euros has been set aside for the period 1999-2007. The intention is to insert into the “Aufbau Ost” visions and lay the foundation of a regional development strategy with the objective to foster growth and employment.

He regarded "Regional Foresight" as a growing trend in the field of future studies introducing new methods into strategic and political planning at regional level. Regional analysis is combined with participatory methods to assess relevant information and to develop a clear vision of a region's future. This vision works as a reference point for all future planning decisions. "Regional Foresight" is not about replacing established planning procedures, but rather about opening up new dimensions of decision making, monitoring and dialogue - and providing a productive link to existing strategies. This opinion was shared by State Under Secretary Thilo Braune from the Transport Ministry

DG Research’s Director Theodius Lennon gave a key note speech on new developments in European research policy in ERA and in FP7 as well as on relations to regional affairs. He mentioned the regional foresight activities in his directorate as well as on research at the regional level with a new programme for “Regions of Knowledge” that has two main objectives:

  • To strengthen regions’ capacity for investing in research and carrying out research activities;
  • Maximising regions’ potential for a successful involvement of operators in the regions in European research projects.

For several years the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission has been supporting measures aimed at strengthening regional research and innovation policies. For example Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was part of the “Blueprints” European Foresight activity.

The conference especially focused on case studies done in the border regions of the new German Länder. The term "Border regions" can be taken literally - regions at the Eastern border of Germany - but it also has a figurative meaning: regions, where economic divides cause specific barriers to further development, e. g. a metropolitan area and its surrounding areas. Foresight activities were presented by New Länder regions like Upper Lusatia, Havelland-Fläming, and Thuringia as well as from European "Foresight" initiatives like that in Wallonia, BE and  in Sunderland, UK.

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