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Foresight Becomes a Part of Government Policy

Foresight, a system of future studies in science and technology, is being institutionalized, brings together different levels of ‘scanning’ the future, and is branching out into new sectors. These trends were among those experts identified at the 4th annual international academic conference ‘Foresight and STI Policy’, organized by the HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK), which opened on November 6.

The importance of foresight studies has significantly grown in recent years, conference participants stressed. Foresight is essentially being integrated into government policy, said HSE First Vice Rector and Director of the Institute for Statistical Studies and the Economics of Knowledge Leonid Gokhberg. In January this year, the Prime Minister approved the ‘Russian Federation’s Science and Technological Development to 2030’ foresight document, developed in conjunction with HSE foresight experts. In June, the law ‘On Strategic Planning in the Russian Federation’ was approved. The appearance of these documents represent a serious step toward the institutionalization of foresight studies, Gokhberg said.

The overall strengthening of the role played by foresight studies makes sense: these systems, the researchers believe, serve as the most accurate guide to the future. Foresight forecasts factor in not only the obvious changes, but also ‘weaker signals’ heralding change. This makes detailed scenario-planning possible. It is no accident that foresight studies are expanding into ever-newer areas.

They have been launched in energy, aircraft and shipbuilding, resource use, nuclear industry, medicine and healthcare. Deputy Director of the Institute for Statistical Studies and the Economics of Knowledge’s Foresight Centre, Oleg Karasev, spoke about roadmaps for shipbuilding, and Department Head at the Department for Public-Private Partnership in the Innovation Sector Konstantin Vishnevsky spoke about foresight in the aviation sector.

Foresight methods are also being actively adopted by business corporations open to innovation. Their experience was analyzed by Dr Raphael Popper, Research Fellow at Manchester Institute of Innovation Research of the University of Manchester (UK) and Cornelia Daheim, Head of International Projects, at Z-Punkt foresight company (Germany). For Russian companies, adopting innovations and future technologies is not yet a defining feature of their competitiveness, said Alexander Chulok, Deputy Director of the Institute for Statistical Studies and the Economics of Knowledge’s International Research and Educational Foresight Centre.

The ‘universalization’ of foresight studies is a clear trend – as they expand into new areas. The most recent trend has been a focus on social issues in Russia and internationally. HSE is already close to completing a project forecasting future development in social and humanitarian sciences. There is increased demand for foresight studies related to the latest approaches to education policy, the development of university curricula, Leonid Gokhberg said.

Socio-demographic processes, including developed countries’ aging population, create a real need to forecast the range and volume of services required by senior citizens, Kuniko Urashima, Leader of Green Innovation Unit at the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy, Japan. Everything related to society’s new demands drive foresight research forward, said Alexander Chulok.

Olga Sobolevskaya

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