Conference on Science and Technology Foresight 2030: scope for technological breakthroughs
Developers of the Russian S&T Foresight 2030 presented the results of their year-long work at the scientific conference at the Higher School of Economics on 12 November, 2012. The participating experts discussed global trends which affect the future of the economy and society, new markets, products, and promising S&T areas.
The scientific conference “Russian S&T Foresight 2030: Responding Grand Challenges” was a landmark event for its host — the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK) of the HSE. The Higher School of Economics is implementing a large-scale project commissioned by the RF Ministry of Education and Science — a series of futures studies to identify medium- and long-term prospects of the country’s S&T development, which involve dozens of leading research centres and universities. In addition to developing the Foresight and identifying S&T development priorities, the HSE experts coordinate and monitor the work of other project participants, and disseminate the obtained results among the research community.
The S&T Foresight is being constantly refined and enhanced, taking into account an ever-increasing number of factors; the pool of involved experts is quickly growing, while involvement of new stakeholders becomes a crucial factor of practical application of the results. If the main outcome of the first two cycles of the Foresight (in 2007–2008 and 2009–2010) were recommendations on priority areas for S&T development and the list of Critical Technologies of the Russian Federation (approved by the RF President, decree #899 of 7 July, 2011), the objectives of the third cycle include selection of priorities for national S&T development based on analysis of global challenges which are expected to shape the world’s economy in the long term; developing S&T responses to these challenges; and linking S&T solutions to demand on the internal and global markets.
In the opening address, Leonid Gokhberg, first vice-rector of the HSE and director of the ISSEK, stressed that the Grand Challenges problem is going to shape the S&T policy agenda in the next 15-20 years, in developed and developing countries alike. These issues were actively discussed at the recent Foresight conference hosted by the Higher School of Economics jointly with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The participants held lively debates on changes in the S&T policy platform; new scenarios for innovation systems development; and the switch from traditional thematic priorities to a complex analysis of problems engendered by the emergence of grand challenges.
According to Prof. Gokhberg, this issue is especially important to Russia, since the R&D sphere in this country has traditionally followed the inertial development scenario: most of the financial support is channelled into the established areas, while future-oriented steps — development of responses to new challenges based on S&T solutions, and creating a potential for entering newly emerging market niches — are almost never taken.
First vice-rector of the HSE noted that the Foresight results, and the new innovation policy model to be developed on their basis, command keen interest of the federal authorities. In particular, this interest is due to the process of drafting national S&T development programme for the period until 2020. Providing support to markets connected with the new wave of technological development, and the shifting of accent from the traditional markets where most of Russia’s resources are still concentrated – these are the issues most frequently arising in the course of expert discussions related to the development of “Strategy-2020”. Leonid Gokhberg also reminded about the instruction by the RF President Vladimir Putin to develop a “system for technology Foresight to support future needs of the manufacturing sector of the economy, taking into account development of key production technologies” (decree #596 of 7 May, 2012). This system should consolidate efforts by all key players involved in shaping the S&T policy, and bring together the fragmented Foresight studies prepared by various ministries and government agencies, regional authorities, development institutions, companies, technology platforms, innovation clusters, research organisations and universities.
The organisational aspects of creating such a system for long-term Foresight were discussed by Artem Shadrin, director of the Innovation Development Department of the RF Ministry of Economic Development. The ministry representative noted a significant contribution of the HSE to development of futures research infrastructure, and first of all creation of a network of Foresight centres attached to leading research organisations and universities, and urged all interested participants of the conference to use these resources in their futures research. According to the speaker, closer links between projects on strategic planning, Foresight studies and 30 technology platforms (one of whose main objectives is development of research programmes based on long-term development prospects of technologies and markets), would contribute to a more efficient application of the Foresight results, and would promote demand for them.
The main objectives, structure and working arrangements for the third cycle of the S&T Foresight 2030, and the results obtained during the previous year, were described in detail in a joint presentation by Alexander Sokolov, deputy director of the HSE Foresight Centre, and Alexander Chulok, head of S&T Foresight section. The experts mentioned major global trends and relevant emerging S&T development areas where Russia has new windows of opportunity, or, on the contrary, may face unforeseen situations and challenges. The third cycle of the Foresight concentrates on forward-oriented research in subject areas connected with the new wave of technology development, supporting which would contribute to achieving breakthroughs and using the national economy’s competitive advantages in the most efficient way. These areas include nanosystems areas, efficient environment management, ICT, transport and space systems, energy-efficient and energy saving technologies, life sciences.
Alexander Chulok described four groups of the Foresight results: 1) global trends and challenges which could serve as a new basis for setting priorities and designing a new S&T policy agenda; 2) subject areas of forward-oriented research, where answers to these global challenges can be found; 3) innovation markets and products which will affect the future of the economy; and 4) a network of experts and forecasting centres, which at this stage comprises over 200 Russian and international research organisations. According to Alexander Chulok, participants of the futures research have repeatedly noted that in the course of this work they’ve received, in essence, a second higher education — having learned the terminology of economists and market researchers. Merging together research- and business-oriented objectives accomplished in the course of this project is one of its extremely important results — together with a large set of recommendations suggested by the experts. And lack of relevant competencies in this context is a major reason causing misbalance in the country’s national innovation system, stressed the speaker.
Alexander Sokolov presented in his talk possible directions and prospects of forward looking activities in Russia. After a brief excurse in history the speaker noted that in the last 6-7 years, futures studies became much more active. They’ve grown from local, fragmented initiatives to cover all spheres of the economy and all levels of S&T policy (regional, industrial, specific development institutions, and key businesses). Due to growing complexity and refinement of futures studies, the issue of their coordination becomes much more relevant — as well as the need to develop an integrated, harmonised strategic planning system which would offer certain leverage to affect design of S&T and innovation policy, both on national and international level.
S&T and innovation aspects must remain the core components of this system. However, at the new round of Foresight the accent should be placed not on specific subject areas, but on problems created by global challenges. Accordingly, centre stage now take interdisciplinary areas, and topics which fall between spheres of responsibility of various government ministries and agencies. According to Alexander Sokolov, this accent on “junction” projects, which necessitates the need to closely link science and technology with innovative products and markets, will determine the format of future S&T Foresight activities.
Dmitri Belousov, head of section at the Centre for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Term Forecasting, also addressed the global challenges problem in his presentation. The results of macroeconomic forecast of socio-economic development trends he presented, described the global economic and geopolitical situation, which sets clearly defined limits for selection of innovation-based development priorities, and dictates the need to precisely define S&T subject areas to be actively supported to achieve substantial breakthroughs. How does fluctuations of the world oil prices affect promotion of national innovation activities? What scenarios for the long-term forecast suggests Barak Obama’s plan to launch a new industrialisation in the USA, the related “boosting up” of the technology spiral and the de facto “standards race”? What effect on the S&T development will have the problem of expensive and less available resources in the situation of increasing budgetary limitations?
Dmitri Belousov also voiced concern about the fact that the national innovation system still develops inertially: “Trying to develop high technologies just so we’d “have them”, or to “catch up with the world level”, we’re sliding into a quite harmful situation of an open-loop innovation system: first we promote R&D in new areas using public money, and then it turns out that the developed products have no demand in the country”. The expert urged that development of S&T Foresight and selection of S&T priorities should be oriented primarily towards the actual needs of the business and industry, towards modernisation of the economy; thinking should be focused not on “catching up with the world level” but on achieving specific results in the real sector and on product markets. According to Dr. Belousov, the most important objective of science management in Russia is identification of investment areas, which would ensure a real breakthrough for the economy and the country as a whole.
The second part of the conference’s plenary session was devoted to just that problem, and to debates on priority areas of the Russian Federation’s S&T policy agenda. Representatives of leading expert organisations presented the most important conclusions concerning forward-oriented research in the six high-priority areas, arrived at by expert panels in the course of regular meetings they had during the year. Using global challenges as their starting point, the speakers outlined the trends which created windows of opportunities or threats for Russia. They also described specific forward-oriented research being conducted in their respective areas, with a potential to produce technological solutions to meet the relevant challenges. The experts evaluated the S&T areas in terms of the level of Russian R&D in relation to the world leaders, and noted the topics where Russia was ahead, on a par with the developed countries, and where it (currently) lacked sufficient competencies.
Andrei Yaroslavtsev from the Kurnakov Institute of General and Inorganic Chemistry of the RAS presented a list of 25 global trends in the Nanosystems Industry area. According to the experts, three of them were the most important for the industry’s development: more active use of sustainable energy sources, dissemination of molecular self-assembly technologies, and promoting demand for novel materials with radically new properties. The experts have also ranked more relevant to Russia problems associated with development of nanotechnologies. These primarily include significant wear and tear of industrial equipment, shortage of skilled personnel in the materials industry, and introduction of laws banning or making more difficult purchasing research equipment and chemical agents.
The results arrived at by expert panels on ICT were presented by Vladimir Vasiliev, rector of the St. Petersburg National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics. According to expert estimates, a rapid extension of the range of services which define people’s “digital way of life” is to be expected. Speaking about the most important ICT application areas, Prof. Vasiliev noted preservation of the humankind’s cultural heritage in electronic formats, and its dissemination via the Internet; development of “smart infrastructures”; creation of virtual offices for joint work by staff of companies, enterprises, etc.
Dean of the Faculty of Geography at Moscow State University Nikolai Kasimov told about development prospects of efficient environment management technologies. He noted that the biggest opportunities global challenges open for Russia can be found in such areas as “ecologisation of the economy” and “green growth”, as well as “increased production of continental shelf oil and gas” and “accelerated development of the Arctic”. However, stressed the expert, opportunities in these areas quite frequently turn into threats, a good example being the “increased production of continental shelf oil” trend. Among other threats to the Russian economy he highlighted “increased sickness and mortality rate due to air pollution” and “increased share of urban population (increased consumption of energy, water, and increased production of waste)”.
Mikhail Blinkin, director of the HSE Institute of Transport Economics and Transport Policy Studies, presented the conclusions by experts on transport and space systems. The speaker stressed that development in this area should be closely linked with strengthening of civil institutes, because their insufficient development is the reason Russia is, to give just one example, 15 times behind the leading countries in terms of road safety. This fact also explains the largest number of the so-called “white spots” in development of competitive technologies in this area.
Lyudmila Ogorodova, deputy of the RF State Duma and chairman of the technology platform “Medicine of the Future”, told about particularly important to Russia development areas of life sciences. She gave a detailed description of futures studies’ structure for the area, analysed promising technologies and potential market demand for them. According to expert estimates, in life sciences (unlike other areas) Russian researchers have reached the top world level at least in two fields: development of implants and new medical materials. These areas can serve as bridgeheads for launching Russian products on the global high-tech product markets, and for the country’s integration into value added chains at a leading position.
After the plenary session, discussion of promising technologies in priority R&D areas was carried on in six working groups. These comprised over 70 experts, from universities (HSE, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Moscow Aviation Technology Institute, Moscow State University), research centres (Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, Russian Space Systems, Inc., Russian Helicopters, Inc., Krylov State Research Centre, Photochemistry Centre of the RAS, Kurchatov Institute, Skolkovo Open University, Joint Institute for High Temperatures of the RAS, St. Petersburg National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics, Quantum State Research Institute, Microgene Scientific Production Association, Lebedev Physics Institute of the RAS, Energy Research Institute of the RAS), leading companies and relevant government ministries, including the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Economic Development, and the Ministry of Energy.
The experts analysed the structure of key markets in each of the priority development areas, estimated their dynamics in the medium and long term, and identified the most promising innovative products in terms of their potential to meet the demand. Some of the working groups suggested new important markets; e.g. the ICT group identified the market linked with personal consumption of the industry’s products. Also, experts of this working group extended ICT product markets in education and management. Several products were identified which needed further research.
Findings of the conference will help to refine the Long-Term S&T Development Forecast until 2030.
The HSE is planning to publish a series of analytical reports, specifically on long-term priority areas for forward-oriented research; application of Foresight in nanotechnology; and analysis of global challenges. A major conference is planned upon completion of the third Foresight cycle in 2013, with participation of leading international experts in strategic planning.
Speakers at the plenary session of the conference
Leonid Gokhberg, first vice-rector of the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE), director of the HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK)
Artem Shadrin, director of Innovation Development Department of the RF Ministry of Economic Development
Alexander Sokolov, deputy director of the HSE ISSEK, director of the HSE Foresight Centre
Alexander Chulok, head of S&T Foresight Section of the HSE ISSEK
Dmitri Belousov, head of section at the Centre for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Term Forecasting
Papers on priority development areas were presented by:
Nanosystems Industry: Andrei Yaroslavtsev, corresponding member of the RAS, head of sector at the N. Kurnakov Institute of General and Inorganic Chemistry of the RAS
ICT: Vladimir Vasiliev, corresponding member of the RAS, rector of St. Petersburg National Research University of Information technologies, Mechanics and Optics
Efficient Environment Management: Nikolai Kasimov, academician of the RAS, dean of the Lomonosov MSU Faculty of Geography
Transport and Space Systems: Mikhail Blinkin, director of the HSE Institute of Transport Economics and Transport Policy Studies
Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving: Sergei Filippov, corresponding member of the RAS, deputy director (research) of the Energy Research Institute of the RASLife Sciences: Lyudmila Ogorodova, corresponding member of the RAMS, deputy of the RF State Duma, chairman of the technology platform “Medicine of the Future”