The Future of the Long-term Foresight: from a Network of Sectoral Centres to the National Foresight System
The third cycle of the Russian S&T Foresight 2030 is reaching its final stage. On January 22, 2013, the representatives of the leading universities, responsible for creating the network of sectoral Foresight centres for S&T development in six priority areas, participated in the workshop organised by the Higher School of Economics (HSE).
The workshop “The Development of the Sectoral Network of S&T Foresight Centres on the Basis of the Leading Russian Universities: Results and Objectives for the Future” was organised by the HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK), that co-ordinates the Long-term Foresight. The representatives of the leading universities, authorized to create the Foresight sectoral network, met to discuss the results achieved in 2012 and immediate plans as well.
Horizons of development
The HSE First Vice-rector, Director of ISSEK Leonid Gokhberg at the very beginning of his welcome speech invited the participants to keep on their co-operation after the Russian S&T Foresight 2030 third cycle accomplishment. He pointed out that the objective of the new stage of the project will be shaping the united national system of the technology Foresight, with the established sectoral centres network as of its key infrastructure element.
The objective of creating the national system of the technology Foresight was set in President Vladimir Putin’s Decree about the long-term state economic policy, issued on May, 7, 2012. The Government commissioned to implement this policy. Besides, an interagency committee is to be created at the Presidium of the Council for Modernisation of the Economy and Innovative Development. Executives of the Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Industry and Trade and other interested ministries and departments will be the members of the committee. The scientific and methodic support will to be provided by the Higher School of Economics.
According to Leonid Gokhberg, the key elements of the technology Foresight system have already been outlined: “Sectoral centres are in operation, with the highly qualified teams having been gathered at them; networks of experts representing various fields of science and technology are actively involved into the process”. However, as the HSE First Vice-rector emphasized, there certainly exists some reserve for the system’s further development, mainly by including new players into it.
Leonid Gokhberg enumerated the policy documents to be prepared, that would summarize the consolidated results of the Russian S&T Foresight 2030. They include the report to the Government about the formation of the united national system of technology Foresight, reports to the Minister of Education and Science about the Foresight networks and about the prospects of the priority areas development. He also pointed out the expediency of publishing the common analytical report under joint authorship of the six leading universities to demonstrate the results of the two and a half year work, as well as of its broad dissemination among experts. First Vice-rector invited the representatives of universities to show in their closing statements the results concerning the whole complex of the technological priorities in their research areas, without going into details in the matters the universities are engaged directly. Having mentioned the project’s interdisciplinary character he suggested that the universities should intensify their co-operation in the concurrent subject areas. Leonid Gokhberg emphasized that at the Russian S&T Foresight 2030 final stage it is important to provide synchronized and reliable work of all sectoral Foresight centres. It is essential not only for rendering the final report on the project but also for the seamless transition to the new work format within the framework of the national system of technology Foresight.
The head of S&T Foresight section of the HSE Foresight centre Alexander Chulok, too, spoke about the necessity to think over a new configuration of the present Russian S&T Foresight 2030 system based upon the leading universities. He also delivered the main results obtained within the third cycle of the Long-term Foresight.
The Russian S&T Foresight 2030 preliminary results
Alexander Chulok thanked the experts for “the active and efficient work” in 2012. He estimated the results obtained by the sectoral centres at the present stage of the project as quite satisfactory: all the six priority areas have been structured, the permanent monitoring of trends, markets and products in each area has been established, the constantly expanding expert pool has been formed, project participants — partner organisations are being instructed.
By the year 2013 more than 1500 experts had been involved into the work at the Russian S&T Foresight 2030, more than 600 sources (Foresight projects, forecasts, strategies) had been analyzed. As a result, more than 150 trends including challenges and windows of opportunities, had been distinguished, more than 50 subject areas and more than 1000 priorities in key directions of applied research had been formed.
An important peculiarity of the Foresight present cycle is the focus of research on the needs of the national and global markets. Experts have distinguished more than 100 innovative markets and they have also estimated the development prospects for 250 important innovative products and services. The Russian S&T Foresight 2030 results have been validated by the expert community at more than 20 conferences, 30 workshops and 70 expert panels. The results obtained in each of the six areas, have been stated by the representatives of the sectoral centres: Nina Alekseeva (Moscow State University) —“Rational Management of Natural Resources”; Alexander Fandeev (St Petersburg National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics) — “Information and Communication Technologies” (ICT); Pavel Yosifov (Moscow Aviation Technology Institute) — “Transport and Space Systems”; Elena Zhebrak (Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology) — “Nanoscale Systems Industry”; Yuri Firstov (National Research Nuclear University) — “Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving”; Ludmila Ogorodova (Siberian State Medical University) — “Life Sciences”.
The reporters dwelled upon the organisation of the established Foresight networks, the co-operation with the expert pool and with the technological platforms as well. The speakers considered not only theoretical but also practical approaches applied in the sectoral centres work. They also focused upon some matters of procedure dealing with the database creation, technological trends and markets monitoring as well as preparing materials for the Russian S&T Foresight 2030. Representatives of the leading universities spoke about their plans for the year 2013, prospects and difficulties in the work of their organisations.
The workshop participants touched upon a number of important problems that are to be considered in the future for providing the network effective work. As it follows from all the reports, the most frequently occurring problems are the ones with involving experts into Foresight research. The problem of the lack of motivation is often observed not only in persons’ but also in institutions’ attitude. Not all universities that could become competency supporting centres in their areas are ready to join the Russian S&T Foresight 2030 as participants. The sectoral centres in such areas as “Rational Management of Natural Resources”, “Information and Communication Technologies” (ICT) and “Transport and Space Systems” have faced this problem.
Another consequence of experts’ low motivation is their runaround; this problem has also been mentioned by the workshop participants. This unconstructive approach downgrades considerably an expert report and demands additional efforts to “fill in the gaps”. According to the workshop participants, another system problem that contributes to creating unfavorable background for the activity of sectoral centres of S&T Foresight is appearance of a number of expert centres that offer services in issuing forecasts and Foresights without having proper qualification in this field and thus actually discredit serious work. The Director of the HSE Foresight Centre Alexander Sokolov suggested to clarify an expert status as a control measure against experts’ indistinct responsibility. This was acknowledged to be an extremely important objective for the next stages of the Russian S&T Foresight 2030.
Among other important objectives of the new stage of the Long-term Foresight Alexander Sokolov and Alexander Chulok mentioned intensification of the horizontal communications within the expert community, “knowledge interchange” among representatives of different sectoral centres. Such interdisciplinary dialogue can be established, among other things, on the basis of the united portal for all the Russian S&T Foresight 2030 participants.
Elena Zhebrak from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology dwelled upon the experience of her university in creating a “social expert network”. She mentioned the evident usefulness of such network resource in organising experts’ work: “When the work with major documents is concerned it is more practical to make them generally accessible. During a week, for instance, an expert can enter his personal account and leave a comment. In such a way there is no time referencing”. However Elena showed her regret about the fact that although experts created their accounts they have not been very much active in the social network yet.
Ludmila Ogorodova (SibSMU) confirmed that interaction among experts as well as some scholars and research institutions’ motivation for their participation in the Russian S&T Foresight 2030 can be stimulated through the development of Foresight culture. In L. Ogorodova’s opinion, higher educational institutions just should participate in the Foresight “to know what to teach and what qualifications to prepare”. This point of view was shared by the ITMO representative Alexander Fandeev who raised the question of the leading universities participation in the national S&T Foresight as of an obligatory pre-condition of their getting some status, like that of the research university.
The reporters at the workshop “The Development of the Sectoral Network of S&T Foresight Centres on the Basis of the Leading Russian Universities: Results and Objectives for the Future”