S&T Foresight: the Challenge of Exploring New Horizons
On the 30th of January 2014, HSE hosted international workshop on impact assessment of Foresight exercises in the EU and Russia, which was organised by HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK).
The seminar, which was opened by Director of International Department of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science Evgeny Ugrinovich and Head of Science and Technology Section of the EU Delegation to the Russian Federation Richard Burger, marked the end of ERA.Net Rus project (EU Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, FP 7).
The main goal of ERA.Net Rus project was to strengthen Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) links between Russia and the European Research Area (ERA) by enhancing coordination of research programmes in the EU Member States (MS), Associated Countries to FP7 (AC), and Russia. In 2011, two Pilot Joint Calls with programme owners in Russia and EU MS/AC were launched in the framework of ERA.NET-RUS project: 1) a Pilot Joint Call in Innovation Projects and 2) a Pilot Joint Call in Collaborative S&T Projects. Furthermore, based on a large scale Foresight study, a program for sustainable STI cooperation with Russia was developed.
ERA.Net Rus Foresight exercise, which also featured a Delphi survey among leading EU and Russian experts in S&T, was conducted by ISSEK Foresight Centre together with its ERA.Net RUS partners (the Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI, Austria), the Institute of Prospective Technological Studies (JRC-IPTS, Seville), and the International Centre for Innovations in Science, Technology and Education (ICISTE). The study aimed to identify key future trends in STI cooperation between Russia, EU MS/AC, while outlining possible cooperation scenarios in four priority fields - Health, Nanotechnologies, Environment / Climate Change, and Social Sciences / Humanities. For each of these fields, roadmaps were developed.
Specific thematic priorities of EU-Russia STI cooperation were discussed during four roadmapping workshops, two of which (on Social Sciences and Humanities and Health) took place in Brussels and two (on Nanotechnologies and Environment / Climate Change) — at ISSEK in Moscow. The results of workshop discussions were used for developing topics of the Single Joint Call to be implemented in the frame of the ERA.Net Rus follow-up project, ERA.Net Rus Plus. Alexander Sokolov, Director of HSE Foresight Centre, Karel-Herman Hageman, JRC-IPTS Research Fellow, and Manfred Spiesberger, Project Leader at ZSI, presented main results of ERA.Net Rus Foresight exercise and conclusions of the Foresight report and discussed strategies of monitoring its impact beyond the end of the study.
A key criterion for assessing impact of Foresight studies is the extent to which their results are integrated into policy-making. For instance, the results of Russian large-scale Foresight study were reflected in the Russian S&T Foresight 2030 — the document, which was developed with the contributions from HSE experts, was recently approved by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Institutionalizing interaction between key participants of the innovation system is also seen crucial for ensuring impact of Foresight exercises. In Russia, such institutionalization is achieved in the frame of national S&T Foresight System building.
Foresight at the EU level (and its implications for EU policy, particularly for its new Framework Programme on Technology and Innovation Development “Horizon 2020”), as well as at the level of national systems, were in the focus of presentations of researchers from Spain, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Thus, Juha Kaskinen, Director of Finland Futures Research Center at the University of Turku, specifically elaborated on the possibilities and experiences of integrating Foresight into policy making at governmental level. Furthermore, Adrian Curaj, General Director of Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI), gave a talk that provoked a deal of interest, as he explained how his country had implemented a large-scale Foresight study with relatively limited resources.
Participants emphasized that in most cases, Foresight studies are commissioned by governments and ministries (e.g., in Great Britain, main actors in the field include Ministry of Science and Ministry of Health), which sharpens the debate on priority setting: there is a risk to stick to the “safe areas”, where Foresight has already proved successful.
Irina Kuklina, Director of International Centre for Innovations in Science, Technology and Education (ICISTE), emphasized that tying Foresight research to government programmes puts it at risk of becoming an instrument of government rather than a tool to influence policy making. She stressed, ‘We should look ahead, and beyond the limits of current policy’.
Participants of the workshop agreed that it is vital to engage universities, independent think tanks, and the private sector in Foresight research. International experience should be studied deliberately, and results of Foresight exercises should be evaluated against the global context. Particular attention was paid to examining the strategies for monitoring the results and ensuring impact of Foresight studies both in the EU and Russia.
The new setting of the EU-Russia Year of Science 2014 will allow to further enhance S&T cooperation between EU MS/AC and Russia. The follow-up ERA.Net RUS PLUS initiative, launched in November 2013, will create one such possibility: in the frame of the project, a Single Joint Call will be launched that will allow to support transnational and scientifically excellent research projects in the fields of 'S&T' and 'Innovation'.
By Oleg Seregin, HSE Portal’s News ServicePhotographs by Nikita Benzoruk
Juha Kaskinen Foresight in Finland
Manfred Spiesberger, Karel Haegeman and Alexander Sokolov ERA.Net RUS Foresight Report: Identifying priorities for EU-Russia S&T cooperation
Ozcan Saritas The UK Foresight experience
Alexander Chulok S&T Foresight studies in Russia: current status and future goals