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Posts Tagged ‘European Research Area’

What if the European Union would have acted upon the results of its own research on wild cards, which foresaw a Coronavirus-like scenario 10 years ago?

March 20, 2020 Leave a comment

Over a decade ago the European Union invested around 1 million Euro to fund the iKnow project as one of the so-called Blue Sky forward-looking activities. The project aimed at interconnecting Knowledge on issues and developments potentially shaking or shaping the future of science, technology and innovation (STI) in Europe and the world.

In the early 2000s there was a general consensus that the identification and analysis of Wild Cards and Weak Signals (WI-WE) and their effects on European and global science, technology and innovation (STI) policy often remained out of the policy radar and therefore deserved more attention in foresight and forward-looking activities.

Wild Cards are the kind of issues that can potentially shake our present and future, like the way the current Coronavirus is unfolding. While Weak Signals are ambiguous events, often referred to as seeds of change, providing advance intelligence or hints about potentially important futures, including Wild Cards, challenges and opportunities. Weak Signals lie in the eye of the beholder and are generally influenced by the mental frameworks and subjective interpretations of individuals with limited information about emerging trends, developments or issues in a particular time and context. Their weakness is directly proportional to levels of uncertainty about their interpretations, importance and implications in the short-medium-to-long-term. Thus, Weak Signals are unclear observables warning us about the possibility of future game changing events.

The iKnow project had two interconnected objectives: 1) To develop and pilot conceptual and methodological frameworks to identify and analyse Wild Cards and Weak Signals (WI-WE); and 2) To assess the implications and impact of selected WI-WE on, science, technology and innovation (STI) and key dimensions of the European Research Area (ERA). There are plenty of outcomes resulting from the project, including reports, a pioneering early warning system for the co-creation of strategic intelligence, the first open bank of wild cards and weak signals and more, all publicly available at http://news.iknowfutures.eu/. However, the rest of this blog will address the following question:

What if the European Union would have acted upon the results of its own EU-funded research on wild cards, which foresaw the Coronavirus 10 years ago? 

Back in May 2010, together with some colleagues and health experts from Germany, we organised a workshop  in which we discussed what we then called a Killer Virus, described as a highly infectious and lethal virus (that) appears and spreads out around the world fast due to the high mobility of the world population. The number of casualties is high and rises constantly, leading to massive social problems. The impacts are vast on all areas of life.

The Killer Virus was only one of some 44 wild cards we decided to feature in the iKnow Policy Alerts (2011) report. Interestingly it was the first wild card discussed and fully analysed with surprising wild features, key actors (i.e. early warners, shapers and stakeholders), potential impacts and, most importantly, potential actions for policy, business and research actors. We also provided some weak signals indicating that prospective mutations of such viruses could lead to large numbers of casualties.

An innovative contribution of the iKnow project was the effort devoted to “tame” the wild cards and with the help of weak signals and a systematic methodology to explore implications for science, technology and innovation (STI) policy.

With this in mind, for each of the featured wild cards we emphasised the ‘recommended research‘ that needed to be funded by the European Union. This advise was provided in the form of an imaginary “Call for proposals” following the same style used by the European Commission in its Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. In other words, we clearly specified the 1) Thematic Area (Health); 2) Research Topic (Prevention of pandemics: Awareness reading and surveillance systems); 3) Objective (To increase the probability of virus detection at the earliest possible stage. It is also to prevent behavioural patterns from accelerating the rapid spread of a virus); Expected Impact (To reduce the risk of delays in detecting lethal viruses; To facilitate behavioural interventions to control the effects of a virus; and To help to control and contain the infection within a region or population and before it reaches pandemic scale); and Importance for Europe (Europe is one of the world’s largest traffic junctions and is therefore especially vulnerable to the appearance of a lethal virus. Europeans are highly mobile both for business reasons and tourism. New viruses often originate in tropical regions, which Europeans are increasingly likely to visit).

Unfortunately, we can fast-forward 10 years from the completion of the iKnow project and find ourselves in the current Coronavirus pandemic with no effective awareness raising or surveillance systems in place. This is definitely not the first example of highly relevant research and policy advice that policymakers did not act upon. However, the evident inadvertence or lack of foresight from European and other stakeholders capable of doing the ‘right thing’ at the ‘right time’ shows that it is not sufficient that EC Project Officers congratulate Project Coordinators for the successful completion of their projects! There are cases where follow-up actions are crucial, especially when recommendations can help to build resilience and readiness towards grand societal challenges.

Hopefully this blog will help to create the ‘right momentum’ to mobilise a critical mass capable to reach out to policymakers with the power to introduce a much-needed set of “foresight-driven” mechanisms or instruments that will allow us to act upon very explicit and timely reported ‘Policy Alerts’ that can literally shake our societies in Europe and the rest of the world. While projects like iKnow would certainly deserve some kind of ‘aftercare’ funding to continue generating strategic policy advice, our efforts would only translate into further frustrations if politicians driving us to the future continue to be asleep at the wheel.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this personal blog do not represent the views of my past or current employers. These are my own reflections as a foresight practitioner and a true believer that change can also happen if individual or collective authoritative voices reach out to the right people through impactful channels. Social media can become a powerful instrument to “undust” the results of such a large-scale foresight study combining evidence, expertise, interaction and creativity to support decision makers in policy, business and research circles. Despite these views, I am a strong believer in the wide-ranging benefits of European Commission Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation, thus I remain an active player in many projects, some of which are still ongoing.

Killer_Virus_recommended_research_2011

Open Advice for the European Research Area (ERA)

May 18, 2015 Leave a comment

The ERA Open Advice report and related Policy Brief come at a time when we seek a renewed momentum to support Europe’s way out of the crisis and tackle grand challenges through an improved European Research Area (ERA). They offer a great opportunity to step back and raise a critical wake-up call on the very purpose, shape and ambition of ERA. Here we have captured the essence of ERA stakeholders’ views on rethinking ERA priorities and broadening the agenda.

Three key messages and a considerable number of policy issues have emerged: First, the existing ERA priorities are of great importance and should be further pursued. Second, however, there is a concern that the definition of those priorities is too narrow and not flexible enough and thus must be re-visited. Third, and even more important, the debate has led to the identification of new ERA dimensions that have not been captured in the ERA discourse so far, but which deserve more policy attention and integration into the evolving dimensions of the European R&I landscape.

To download the report and policy brief please click on the images below or visit the VERA project website at: http://www.eravisions.eu/documents/deliverables

See also ERA_Strategy_Map

ERA Open Advice

ERA Open Advice

Policy Brief on ERA Open Advice

Policy Brief on ERA Open Advice

 

VERA project final event (January 21-22, 2015)

December 8, 2014 Leave a comment

Location / Venue: FONDATION UNIVERSITAIRE, 11 rue d’Egmont, B-1000 Brussels.

This conference will be the final event of the VERA Forward Visions on the European Research Area project. The conference is targeted at policy makers at the European level concerned with Science, Technology and Innovation Policies (STIP) and at stakeholder groups having followed and participated in VERA activities before. It is open to experts and everybody interested in the subject.

The VERA foresight process focuses on the European Research and Innovation Landscapes and Governance in 2030. It is – inspired by profoundly different future scenarios – an exercise to look for policy issues we need to prioritize today. In that sense, we are trying to build a consensus among STI stakeholders: Looking out for those issues which appeared repeatedly in the different VERA backcasting approaches with stakeholders in VERA focus groups and the VERA symposium (see pictures below!) as well as in a “policy lensing” analysis done by the VERA team.

The conference will offer these insights relevant for all STI policy makers, and it shall feed and inspire structured debates about the future of the European Research Area (ERA) and the political and societal priorities underpinning its (r)evolution.

The detailed agenda of the event will be made available in the forthcoming weeks.

Registration are available here!

Pictures from the VERA Symposium in Manchester (October 23-24, 2014)

VERA Symposium on Strategies for European Research & Innovation Futures (Manchester, 23-24 October 2014)

October 10, 2014 Leave a comment
Agenda

Agenda

The VERA project – Forward Visions on the European Research Area – is organising a Symposium on Strategies for European Research & Innovation Futures in Manchester that will serve as a conclusion meeting to a participatory foresight process initiated earlier this year, whereby seven stakeholders’ groups (a selected representation of Society, Academy, Industry, Research funders, ERA instruments experts, Policy-makers and International RTDI actors) discussed on the future of the ERA by 2030 drawing on four exploratory scenarios. We are very pleased to invite you to take part in this event, to be held at The Lowry on October 23-24 (click here to download Symposium Agenda).

We have 40+ registered participants and there a few more places available. If you would like to join us, please contact Siobhan.Drugan@manchester.ac.uk by October 17th. For additional information about the programme, feel free to contact the symposium organiser at Rafael.Popper@mbs.ac.uk.

Lowry at Night by Len Grant

Join the VERA Symposium at The Lowry Centre

VERA Focus Group 7 (Brussels, 27/06/2014)

June 27, 2014 Leave a comment

 

This slideshow highlights key moments of the strategic debate focus group (FG) on strategies and recommendations for the future of European Research Area (ERA) with selected International actors. The FG was part of VERA Work Package 5 activities led by the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIoIR) in the framework of the European Commission funded VERA project.

The focus group (FG) with International actors was co-organised with ISI in Germany and IPTS in Spain in order to explore:

  1. Key opportunities and threats of ERA futures for international actors.
  2. Key strategies of international actors vis-à-vis ERA scenarios by 2030.
  3. Key objectives of international actors that should be included in the ERA agenda.
  4. Key strategies of international actors vis-à-vis ERA objectives.
  5. Key recommendations from international actors for ERA-relevant actions today.

This discussion on the possible futures of the European Research Areas and the perspectives and interests of different stakeholders is a crucial input into the debate and policy making process at the European and national level. ERA is a dynamic concept, and it must be thought of as a long term endeavour, considering the implications for and strategies of all stakeholders involved.

VERA Focus Group 6 (Barcelona, 16/05/2014)

May 16, 2014 Leave a comment

 

This slideshow highlights key moments of the strategic debate focus group (FG) on strategies and recommendations for the future of European Research Area (ERA) with selected policymaking actors. The FG was part of VERA Work Package 5 activities led by the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIoIR) in the framework of the European Commission funded VERA project.

The focus group (FG) was co-organised with IPTS in Spain in order to explore:

  1. Key opportunities and threats of ERA futures for policymaking actors.
  2. Key strategies of policymaking actors vis-à-vis ERA scenarios by 2030.
  3. Key objectives of policymaking actors that should be included in the ERA agenda.
  4. Key strategies of policymaking actors vis-à-vis ERA objectives.
  5. Key recommendations from policymaking actors for ERA-relevant actions today.

This discussion on the possible futures of the European Research Areas and the perspectives and interests of different stakeholders is a crucial input into the debate and policy making process at the European and national level. ERA is a dynamic concept, and it must be thought of as a long term endeavour, considering the implications for and strategies of all stakeholders involved.

VERA Focus Group 5 (Barcelona,15/05/2014)

May 15, 2014 Leave a comment

 

This slideshow highlights key moments of the strategic debate focus group (FG) on strategies and recommendations for the future of European Research Area (ERA) with selected actors involved in ERA-related instruments (ERA-NETs, ERA Chairs, JPIs, etc.). The FG was part of VERA Work Package 5 activities led by the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIoIR) in the framework of the European Commission funded VERA project.

The focus group (FG) was co-organised with IPTS in Spain in order to explore:

  1. Key opportunities and threats of ERA futures for ERA-related actors.
  2. Key strategies of ERA-related actors vis-à-vis ERA scenarios by 2030.
  3. Key objectives of ERA-related actors that should be included in the ERA agenda.
  4. Key strategies of ERA-related actors vis-à-vis ERA objectives.
  5. Key recommendations fromERA-related actors for ERA-relevant actions today.

This discussion on the possible futures of the European Research Areas and the perspectives and interests of different stakeholders is a crucial input into the debate and policy making process at the European and national level. ERA is a dynamic concept, and it must be thought of as a long term endeavour, considering the implications for and strategies of all stakeholders involved.