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Posts Tagged ‘iKNOW’

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

Recommendations for a European innovation strategy

May 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Keynote speaker in the session on Recommendations for a European innovation strategy at the International Conference on Innovations for the Ecological Turnaround (Berlin, Germany – 10.05.2012)

Dr Popper at Innovations for the Ecological Turnaround (Berlin, Germany – 10.05.2012)

Conference background

Only ecological innovations will move the world towards a green economy. We need innovations to produce, in a more-eco-friendly way, what the planet offers its rapidly increasing population and to use these offerings more intelligently and on more than one occasion. We need technical, process- related, social and political innovations that enable system change.

Only the accelerated use of innovations can – in these times of change, when record greenhouse gas emission levels are being reported and all across the globe a departure from fossil fuels in thoughts and deeds has arrived – successfully limit progressive climate change. Only in this way will we succeed in decoupling CO2 emissions and resource consumption from economic activity in the long run.

How, in the Year of Science 2012 – “Future Project Earth” announced by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, can the course be set in science policy? How do we create truly relevant knowledge? What can be the innovation accelerators for production in various sectors of the Euro- pean economy? Which ones are needed for global agriculture, energy supply, urban development and mobility, and what form should an innovative science, research and economic policy take for it to fuel innovations and release the potential of a creative society?

Against the backdrop of the challenges, this conference will enable a critical appraisal of the status quo and provide compelling insights into new production processes, into technological and social innovations as well as process innovations, into trends and research findings on the horizon as well as information on unresolved, urgent tasks and research projects.

Full conference programme in English available here

Grand Challenges and S&T Foresight

April 4, 2012 Comments off

Dr Popper at HSE (Moscow, 2012)Invited to speak about “Grand Challenges and S&T Foresight” at the section of «Science and Innovation» of the XIII International Academic Conference on “Economic and Social Development”

(Moscow, Russia – 4 April 2012)

The presentation was part of Session One on “Science and Technology Foresight in Russia”. The session was attended by over 200 people and moderated by Dr. Dirk Meissner. Other presentations of the session included: “S&T Foresight and its Place in Russian S&T Policy” by Prof. Leonid Gokhberg; and “S&T Foresight: Methods and Organisation” by  Prof. Alexander Sokolov. The session discussant was Dr Oleg Karasev.

Innovation Radar: How to track down future developments?

February 9, 2012 Comments off

Keynote presentation on Innovation Radar: How to track down future developments? at the “5th German Innovation Summit” (Munich, Germany). The Summit was attended by 350 representatives of the private, public and research sectors – see also Innovation Network portal

Dr Popper (Munich, 2012)

New Instruments in Foresight Studies

October 13, 2011 Comments off

Dr Popper (2011)Presentation on New Instruments in Foresight Studies at the “Research Workshop Foresight and Science, Technology and Innovation Policies: Best Practices” (Higher School of Economics, Russia).

The workshop was attended by some 100 stakeholders representing the research, business and public sectors in Russia. International speakers included Prof. Ian Miles, Prof. Luke Georghiou, Dr. Michael Keenan and Dr. Jennifer Cassingena Harper, among others.

Developing National Innovation Systems: The role of science and technology policies (Dubai, UAE)

March 1, 2011 Comments off
PMI2 Connect Policy Dialogue – The British Council in conjunction with the National Research Foundation, UAE. Under the patronage of His Excellency, Sheikh Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research; United Arab Emirates
27 February – 2 March 2011, Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel, United Arab Emirates
Context
Developing National Innovation Systems

Developing National Innovation Systems

In 2005 the UK Prime Minister renewed his commitment to internationalising UK education and the development of mutually beneficial education partnerships with other countries through a second ‘Prime Minister’s Initiative’ (PMI2).  A key strand of this initiative is the strengthening of strategic collaboration at policy and institutional level.

Building mutual and sustainable research partnerships between Higher Education Institutions in the UK and Gulf States is a priority under the PMI2 Connect funding opportunities.  Following a Policy Dialogue held in Al Ain in February 2010 entitled Building International Research Cultures and Business Outreach, four symposia on areas of mutual research interest (water security, diabetes, carbon capture and alternative energy) are being organised to lay the foundation for UK – Gulf university partnerships in these areas to incorporate knowledge exchange and transfer activities in addition to pure research. This second Policy Dialogue has helped to set the context for these partnerships in terms of national agendas.

The following link shows PDF version of Developing National Innovation Systems (Popper, 2011)

It aims to support the Gulf States further to develop their national innovation systems with particular focus upon science and technology policies by:

  • understanding the strategies of a range of governments, including some which faced similar challenges;
  • considering the strengths and weaknesses of their various approaches and their potential transferability to the Gulf region;
  • encouraging collaboration and knowledge transfer between HEIs and industry in order to drive economic growth;
  • reviewing the potential advantages of regional cooperation; and
  • developing an informal network of senior policy makers and influential practitioners in research and knowledge exchange.