Futures under The Microscope
The HSE Annual Conference on Foresight and STI Policy: Cooperation, Coordination, and Challenges,organised by the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge has come to a close. For two days (October 30-31) at the HSE premises at the foot of the Shukhov Radio Tower, signals were analysed that will sooner or later show up in contemporary socio-economic policy and in future news stories.
The conference brought together many prominent and distinguished experts in the global Foresight community, who used their presentations to cover such a broad range of topics that sometimes particpants might have got the feeling that they were actually present at several events at once — on the issues of economics, politics, culture, and history.
"There is no other conference in Russia with such a complex agenda and impressive list of invited experts. Here international organisations that define the standards for Future Studies, including UNIDO, UNESCO and OECD are represented, as well as research centres from those countries that take leading positions in Foresight, from South Korea to Brazil", said first Vice-Rector, HSE ISSEK Director Leonid Gokhberg in his welcome address to the participants.
This high level of discussion was clearly appreciated by the invited experts and guests of the conference, including representatives of those key ministries charged with building up the relevant agendas of the country’s development, as well as large companies that realise their resource potential in specific ways.
Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Russia, Lyudmila Ogorodova, emphasised in her speech at the opening plenary session that "this is a very important time for Russia: we are searching for new sources of economic growth. We need to modernise the traditional sectors of the economy and build new ones, "pushing" the country forward".
The ministry spokeswoman spoke about her participation in the project to develop Russian Long-term Science and Technology (S&T) Foresight towards 2030 and in the evaluation of its results. She said that Foresight is considered to be a basic tool that can be used by decision makers; in particular, it is widely used to update government programs and development policies for major companies. Professor Ogorodova was also enthusiastic about the role of Foresight in developing long-term strategies, because "this process not only produces results, but also unites the team". Among the Foresight results which were then presented in detail in a number of presentations, the Deputy Minister highlighted the creation of a national system of technology Foresight in Russia and the launch of the Interdepartmental Commission, which was established to coordinate the efforts of all centres implementing forward-looking projects at a national level and to regularly discuss their research.
In the course of this work, several teams were formed, including sectoral S&T Foresight centres at six leading universities, and it is now important not to lose track of these groups, but to bring their cooperation to the level of the national system of technology Foresight, Lyudmila Ogorodova said.
The major goals of this conference on Foresight were to present the recently finalised long-term S&T Foresight towards 2030 to a wide range of experts, to sum up the outcomes of the work already done and to discuss new approaches to Foresight. Leonid Gokhberg described in detail the results of the project focusing on issues of their integration into policies and corporate strategies. Director of the HSE Foresight Centre, Alexander Sokolov and Head of the Department of S&T Foresight Alexander Chulok elaborated upon this theme, describing the evolution of the national Foresight project, which is entering a new phase with a longer timeframe, and with wider infrastructure.
Issues of the further life of Foresight results were constantly in focus during the two-day practice-oriented discussion. Participants addressed multiple sides of these issues, with an emphasis on the external outline of managing Foresight projects and on the internal aspects, including the design and tools for the exercise. The most active discussions centred around such topics as: creation of a sustainable innovation ecosystem basing on the results of Foresight studies, consolidation of efforts of different decision-making centres, methodologies of future studies (a combination of quantitative and qualitative tools, Big Data analytics, et al), evaluation of the results — planned objectives, priorities and threats (measuring the impact of Foresight).
The participants paid a great deal of attention to building an efficient dialogue on the future with key stakeholders, efficient communication of different expert communities, and involvement of general public in this process.
Questions were raised concerning the mandate for handling Foresight discourse and developing a common language which can be used to talk about the priorities of social development.
The organisers plan to cover all the topics of the conference in a series of online publications, as well as in a monograph, which is expected to be published by the international publishing house Springer.
Contemporary universities are becoming not only centres for education and research, but also hubs for entrepreneurship. Igor Agamirzian, HSE Vice President, Head of the Department for Management of Innovation, spoke about the development of the HSE’s innovation infrastructure, about attracting students to technological business projects, and about the master’s programme ‘Corporate Research, Development and Innovation Management’.
Following years of study and work in South America and Europe, Rafael Popper joined HSE Moscow as Professor of Foresight and STI Governance in January 2018. In addition to his job at HSE, he is Principal Scientist in Business, Innovation and Foresight at a world leading research and technology organization (RTO) called VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. With a PhD on 21st Century Foresight from the University of Manchester, Popper has built a career on wide-ranging research of issues in foresight and STI policy. In a recent interview with the HSE News Service, he spoke in depth about his research interests, philosophy on teaching, collaboration across HSE and his love of languages, among other topics.
Leonid Gokhberg, HSE First Vice Rector, Director of the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge, spoke on his first steps in academia, working with foreign researchers, on foresight research as well as shared his thoughts on HSE research development.
On November 7, HSE hosted a delegation from the Jülich Research Centre in Germany. Scholars from both countries came together to discuss joint research opportunities, including transformation of energy systems for sustainable development; future studies of energy technologies, including foresight studies; and methodological issues related to big data analysis and modelling.
Policymakers are increasingly turning to foresight techniques for guidance when addressing the wide array of problems and challenges arising in their work. A new book co-edited by Leonid Gokhberg, Dirk Meissner, and Alexander Sokolov from the HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK), attempts to add another dimension – namely, opportunities – that can come from proper application of foresight techniques. Deploying Foresight for Policy and Strategy Makers: Creating Opportunities Through Public Policies and Corporate Strategies in Science, Technology and Innovation (Springer, 2016) features essays by more than a dozen scholars on various aspects of foresight application in today’s policy environment.
How dangerous is the ‘beaten track’ effect in discussions on Russia’s science and technology (S&T) development? Is it enough to master new technologies without changing the institutions for the country to successfully enter global markets? Alexander Chulok, Deputy Director of the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge Foresight Centre, commented on the key topics of a recent online discussion on ‘Russia’s place on the global technology map’, on the Russian science and technology website STRF.ru which attracted a wide range of pundits.
What should Russia’s policy be on Science and Technology? What do Russian and international foresight research results show? How is international cooperation in science developing? These are among the questions which will be discussed at the 5th annual international research conference on Foresight and STI Policy at HSE on 18th - 20th November.
On September 24, 2015, a delegation of the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan (MOST) visited HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK). With the goal to identify perspective areas of cooperation, researchers of HSE and MOST delegates shared their unique fields of expertise and discussed key trends and instruments of Taiwan’s and Russia’s state policy on international cooperation in science, technology, and industrial innovation. During the visit, Dr. Yi-Bing Lin, Taiwan’s Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, gave an interview to the HSE news portal, in which he cited Karl Marx’s theory, while talking about big data and futures studies.
The Higher School of Economics has gone into partnership with Russian Venture Company to develop and promote TechUp2015 — a national rating for fast-developing tech companies.
David Sarpong recently joined the HSE Research Laboratory for Science and Technology Studies as a senior research fellow. In this interview with the HSE News Service, he shares his first impressions of Moscow and HSE, as well as his expectations for the future.