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Issue 9, 2nd semester 2005

Foresighting Europe Newsletter

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Shared visions, common research futures

The Expert Group

“We need to think beyond Lisbon, we need to think in the long-term and make decisions which will be in line with a long-term approach. This is not present enough in today's daily discussions” was the message the Science and Research Commissioner, Janez Potočnik gave during his opening speech of the conference “Key Technologies for Europe”, welcoming thus the recommendations of the expert group’s report.

The Expert Group "Key Technologies for Europe" 

Europe is currently facing the critical challenge of revisiting and re-shaping its whole societal model. The new society is conscious of its ageing and health problems, with an economy unadjusted to new realities and an industrial sector changing from labour and capital-intensive to a knowledge-intensive mode. The European economic model is built upon old paradigms and a R&D system which is strong in generating knowledge but unable to transmit effectively its results to the economy. The way forward for Europe probably depends on a “creative system disruption” based on long-term coherent investments in key technologies.

In 2005 the Science and Technology Foresight Unit of the European Commission has supported an Expert Group “Key Technologies for Europe ” whose mission was to look at the future of several key technologies which are all crucial for Europe's future at the horizon 2015/2020. These research and technology fields are: Biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technologies, communication technologies, transport technologies, energy technologies, environmental research, social sciences and humanities, manufacturing and materials technologies, health research, agricultural research, cognitive sciences, safety technologies, complexity research and systemic, research in the services sector.

The potential and the emerging scientific and technological research topics were assessed in the fifteen selected areas. 15 expert reports were produced providing a detailed analysis and forward-looking perspectives for the EU-25 R&D system in each key technology. Existing possibilities to exploit the potential synergies across these technologies were examined and guidance for new research agendas was developed on the joint analysis of all reports.

The expert group’s work focused mainly on:

  • The identification of the socio-economic challenges Europe is facing in each research field;
  • An overview of EU policy responses for each field in the last 5-10 years;
  • A comparison of Europe’s position in research in each field;
  • The strengths and weaknesses of Europe’s sectors and companies and related industries from the specific areas in a global perspective;
  • The policies and programmes of Member States and international organisations in these fields;
  • A forward look approach for the long-term challenges with an overview of recent foresight work highlighting the future challenges for Europe.

The group chaired by Teresa de Lemos[1] has looked at the issues through European perspectives, and has been guided by a framework driven by the possible opportunities and threats of each technology for a European leading position (referring to the Lisbon Agenda). The Group was concerned with providing an input on FP7 and its specific programmes by presenting an overview of key trends of research development in major areas of science and technology.

The final report “Creative system disruption towards a research strategy beyond Lisbon” draws on the fifteen thematic reports and proposes a “Europe’s research strategy beyond Lisbon” that should be translated into an EU R&D Action Plan. The report offers a set of recommendations for introducing permanent processes for developing long-term visions and short-medium-term strategies for research in key technologies by 2009/2010, when the Eighth Framework Programme (FP8) would be under discussion.

Key Messages emerging from the Key technologies final report:

  • Europe needs to define and implement a long-term research strategy, hereby referred to as The Beyond Lisbon Strategy, which is supported by a long-term vision and a transition agenda;
  • Europe needs to project a more optimistic, proactive approach in its research policy
  • Europe needs to complement its current short-term Lisbon Agenda with a more long-term agenda for “creative system disruption”. The linkage and coherence between the Lisbon and Beyond Lisbon strategies needs to be tackled through a transition agenda driven by ongoing foresight activity;
  • The Beyond Lisbon Strategy aims to complement the current drive to improve European competitiveness with strategies for global cooperation where these are appropriate and efficient.
  • The Action Plan for the Beyond Lisbon Strategy should focus EU research on the factors that differentiate the EU from the rest of the world. The Research and Development (R&D) system must be re-configured in order to take a continuing proactive attitude to ‘Bring society to science’ and ‘Take science to the economy’.

[1] Professor of the Higher Technical Institute of Lisbon
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