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Issue 11, 2nd quarter 2006

Foresighting Europe Newsletter

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Shared visions, common research futures


Knowledge is defined today as a learning and cognitive capacity. There is a fundamental distinction between information and knowledge, information consisting of data which, unlike knowledge, cannot generate new information on its own. Current literature presents several typologies of knowledge, based on its source or format, whether it is "implicit" or "explicit", or on the distinction between knowledge that is "embrained", "encultured" or "embedded". This extension of the concept of knowledge is revealing a number of contemporary phenomena: firstly, the field of actors involved in producing knowledge is expanding; and, secondly, research activities themselves are being redefined. Reconceptualising knowledge could take us even further: it might enable "research" (the generic form of knowledge production) to have new economic and social impacts.

Foresight activities under FP6 were designed to provide a framework for EU-wide networking, mobilising actors at all levels. A multi-disciplinary and future-oriented expert group was set up in 2005 to analyse the trends and possible future changes in the way knowledge is produced by key actors within the European Research Area, as well as identifying their role in knowledge production. The main policy message delivered by the group, known as "The future of the key actors in the ERA", is that "Europe must move beyond industrial-ERA challenges to embrace those of knowledge society". The experts involved proposed specific actions to open, expand and integrate the ERA. In addition, they proposed initiatives for further investigation into the future of research.

The "European Science and Technology Foresight Knowledge Sharing Platform" was set up in order to help with the organisation of the "Foresight Community", through knowledge-sharing activities and events. This issue of the "Foresighting Europe" Newsletter gives an overview of the main outcomes of three specific studies implemented within the framework of the Platform. The studies focus on three prospective key issues for EU research and innovation: the first feeds into European RTD policy in the area of international RTDI cooperation; the second looks at emerging S&T priorities in public research policies; and the third details practical guidelines for transport and sustainable development.

The study "Emerging science and technology priorities in public research policies in the EU, the US and Japan" identifies the scientific and technological developments and research areas in which Europe could take the lead in the coming years. The overview includes an analysis of why new developments in science and technology - and their economic and societal impact - could be seen as a priority for future EU research and innovation policies.

The broader international relations agenda has recently seen greater recognition of the role of S&T cooperation in development. "Scenarios for future scientific and technological developments in developing countries" - known as SCOPE 2015 - was commissioned in order to provide advice to the EU on RTD policies in relations with developing countries. The study considers a variety of visions (or scenarios) of what international RTDI cooperation might look like in 2015.

Europe's Lisbon goals - in which economic dynamism and competitiveness progress alongside sustainability, employment and social cohesion - require policymakers to take a long-term view. Within the EU Member States, long-term planning can only be effective if the broader European context is taken into account. The study "Using Foresight to improve the science-policy relationship" shows that Foresight, as a tool for long-term public policy planning, is now just as relevant at the European level as it has previously been at the regional and national levels. The study builds on the design of a Foresight on European RTD policy in the area of transport, which integrates the goals of sustainable development.