Shared visions, common research futures
On 6th April 2005, the European Commission issued its proposal for the 7th Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration Activities (2007-2013) - for collaborative research in Socio-economic Sciences and the Humanities, see the proposal document Annex I, theme 8, page 31. The Commission’s proposal gives an important role to and opportunities for the social sciences and humanities (SSH), both in terms of budget as well as of the range of actions and types of instruments. One key dimension of collaborative research in SSH is foresight. The Commission proposes to support foresight activities on major science, technology and related socio-economic issues such as the future demographic trends and the globalization of knowledge and evolution of research systems, as well as on future developments in and across major research domains and scientific disciplines.
The first part of this issue is about a Workshop that took place in February this year to brainstorm on the future of foresight activities under FP7. The following questions were discussed: What might be a European system of foresight activities exploring both societal and science & technology issues? 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? 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? 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? What are the research needs in support to foresight processes? What is the state of the knowledge base? etc.
The second part is devoted to regional foresight. In the 5th July 2005 Communication adopted by the Commission and entitled "
Cohesion Policy in Support of Growth and Jobs: Community Strategic Guidelines, 2007-2013
" the role of regional foresight is recognized as very important. The Conference organized in Berlin in June this year by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) was similarly focused on the question of how to apply foresight for innovative regional development taking into account a wider European context. 250 participants, experts and representatives from the Eastern German New Länder as well as from other European regions exchanged information on regional Foresight and innovation.
The third part reports on interesting activities being implemented under the Sixth Framework Programme. First, a study on the implications for EU research policy of developments in the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy is referred to through a report on a scenario workshop held in Brussels at the end of June. Secondly, this issue reports on the activities of a newly created expert group which will reflect on the role of various actors in the ERA (such as universities, researchers, civil society, enterprises, governmental bodies at national and regional levels) in knowledge production. The recommendations of this expert group will be based on various scenarios of the future of knowledge production by these key actors. They should in particular focus on the following question: How will the long-term trends (influenced by the actors' behavior and interaction) that might shape Europe’s knowledge society be taken into account in designing future steps in the European Research Area strategy?
Finally preparations are already well underway for an important Commission-hosted conference on 19 and 20 September which seeks to chart a course forward for the Key Technologies that will help to nourish European economic growth for years to come. The Conference which will be opened by Commissioner Potočnik will debate the results of the work of another expert group set up by DG Research at the end of 2004. The “Key Technologies” Expert Group has approached the future of several key technologies all of which are crucial to Europe’s future.