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Foresighting the new technology wave

Converging Technologies for a Diverse Europe

Dissemination conference
Brussels, 14 & 15 September 2004 ( - 286 KB)

This conference explored and developed issues for European Research raised by the works of the expert group "Foresighting the New Technology Wave". Contributions and presentations are listed below following the order of the conference.
The conference rapporteur is Dr. T. Bernold, Communication and Policy Consultant, Switzerland; Visiting Research Professor at the School of Public Policy, George Mason University. USA

Opening session

Chair: Mr. T. Lennon. Director, Directorate K, "Social sciences & humanities, foresight", DG Research, European Commission

Issues : There is a need to analyse the emergence of a new research policy theme, the convergence of Nano, Bio, Info and Cogno-technologies, in the US and Canada and to assess the implications of the converging agenda for Europe's scientific enterprise and trajectory of socio-economic development. The opening session allows to set the scene and include a general presentation of the report of the expert group set up by the European Commission (Chaired by Professor Kristine Bruland from the University of Oslo; Norway; Rapporteur: Professor Alfred Nordmann, Darmstadt University, Germany)


Session 1: Understanding Convergence

Chair: Prof. K. Bruland, Professor of Economic History, University of Oslo, Norway

Issues : Three types of converging processes are at stake: between scientific fields, but this convergence seem to couple disciplines like molecular biology and computer modelling rather than unify them; between technological developments but this is not totally new; as we know convergence between computer, telecommunications and media technologies have been discussed for years; between industrial sectors; the more visible applications like sophisticated prosthetics are far from being real markets yet. One major difference with the US and Canadian approaches; and the expert group's vision is that the role of social sciences and humanities is underlined. This session will discuss the convergence process and its limits: What is really converging? NBIC fields as a whole or their applications for engineering complex artefacts and technical systems? What is the evidence?


Session 2: The process of Convergence

Chair: Dr. G. Küppers, Physicist and Social Scientist, Institute for Science & Technology Studies (IWT), University of Bielefeld, Germany

 Issues : Three speakers will make a statement from their perspective on the realities of convergence, Is ICT the focus of convergence, the catalyst to higher order applications, or a means to an end: Is NBIC about developing new efficient systems and services for people, and society as a whole, or just a technology push for a few? Also, current public opinion suggests that there are social and societal barriers to some of the visions outlined - how real are these, how informed are they and how can they be used as a force for good?

  • Prof. J. Encarnação. Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. mult., Dr. E.h., Hon. Prof. mult; Fraunhofer IGD; Unicv. Darmstadt; Chairman, Information Society Technologies Advisory Group The ICT perspective on Convergence
  • J.P. Dupuy, Philosopher, Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, and Stanford University, California Can we shape Converging Technologies, or will they shape us?
  • Discussion - Initiating Discussant: I. Pearson


Session 3: Opportunities for Europe from the New Technology Wave

Chair: Prof E. Fontela. Universidad Autónoma of Madrid; Hon Prof of Economics, University of Geneva, Italy; Visiting Prof University of Seville; Spain. Chairman of the Expert Group on Foresight on Research/Higher Education Relation

 Issues : The novel and specific character of "converging technologies" (CTs) opens up a wide area for technological development. Just as some Converging Technologies are rooted in the nano-scale and others are not, the resulting technical applications do not all share the same defining features. Yet, the mutually enabling technologies or knowledge systems favour particular technological opportunities. These suggest many features of CT applications, regardless of whether they originate within the European context or elsewhere. This session will debate the technological, economic and social implications of CTs: What might be the implications for Europe's position in the world as a science and economic powerhouse? For the quality of life in Europe?


Session 4: New research models

Chair: E. Barbieri-Masini. Sociologist and Futurist, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Social Sciences, Gregorian University, Rome, Italy

 Issues : The continuous debate on the relations between scientific developments and societal aspirations and perceptions is a strong feature of the science system in European countries. Nanotechnology is attracting more and more attention from the public and a number of NGOs are already voicing their worries. The expert group tries to go beyond the traditional controversies opposing pro- and anti-technology groups. The group proposes to experiment with new ways of performing research in those fields where convergence moves fast and prospects are highly uncertain. This session focuses on the research environments that need to be discovered jointly by scientists, policy-makers and other stakeholders in order to manage a smooth "embeddedness" of new (potentially highly disruptive) technological developments in our societies.


Session 5: Converging Technologies and the Current EU research policy framework

Chair: R. Tomellini. head of unit, Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, DG Research, European Commission

 Issues : The 6th EU framework programme funds research partnerships in a number of priority areas. This session will be devoted to a discussion between members of the expert group, research managers of DG Research and other Commission DGs and the audience on what research could be initiated now and how future developments of a CT research agenda be reflected at EU level.

  • Introduced by K. Bruland, with A. Nordmann.. Issues for Research Agendas
  • B. Rhode, head of unit, Ethics and science, DG Research ( - 441 KB)
  • M Paasi, Scientific Officer, Strategy and policy unit, Directorate Social sciences & humanities, foresight, DG Research.
  • P van Hove, (for T Van der Pyl, head of unit), Future and emerging technologies, DG Information Society
  • A. Martin Hobdey, (for W. Cannell, head of unit), Anticipation of scientific and technological needs: fundamental research unit; DG Research ( - 949 KB)


Closing Session: Opening Research policies to Converging Technologies

Chair: Mr. T. Lennon. Director, Directorate K, "Social sciences & humanities, foresight", DG Research, European Commission

Issues : This session focus on the new themes and strategic issues that have resulted from the articulation of the report with policymakers and practitioners over the previous 5 sessions; and place them in the context of the developments of EU research policy for the period 2007-2013.


Strategic Themes and Implications for Policy

T. Bernold ( - 6 MB), Conference Rapporteur, K. Bruland and A. Nordmann

Closing Remarks by T Lennon, Director, Directorate K

Summary report ( - 283 KB)of the conference, by the rapporteur Thomas Bernold


See also Foresighting the new technology wave Expert Group 2004