Synchronising Russian and Chinese Foresight Studies
Alexander Sokolov, Director of the Foresight Centre and Deputy Director of the HSE ISSEK, visited Shanghai (PRC) in early May to take part in the International Pujiang Innovation Forum. The forum is annually hosted by the PRC Ministry of Science and Technology jointly with the Shanghai Municipal Government to discuss and coordinate decisions in the science, technology, and innovation policy area. This year the participants shared their expectations about the period until 2035.
Alexander Sokolov made a presentation at the first plenary session, speaking about updating the Russian S&T Foresight 2030. In the course of this study (which the Higher School of Economics is conducting since 2017, commissioned by the RF Ministry of Science and Higher Education) the researchers applied the most advanced international practices, including those developed in the BRICS countries.
The report by Hu Zhijian, President of the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development (CASTED), demonstrated how far China has advanced in the futures studies field. The speaker presented the results of the 6th Chinese National Technology Foresight study. According to him, demand for evidence-based policy was growing the world over, as societies were again facing the challenges which have been relevant in the 1930s, such as populism, polarisation of the rich and the poor, etc. But now a new challenge is added to the century-old ones: digital hybridisation. The internet is penetrating the physical reality ever deeper, and the results this hybrid state can produce are totally unpredictable. Major questions for technology foresight are also arising as science and technology enter the 'no man’s land' going beyond national borders.
Innovations play major role in China’s rapid growth; at the new stage of development the country tries to follow the sustainable development principles. The government pursues 'green innovation' policy and encourages research in a wide range of areas including economic, social and environmental ones. The researchers conducting the 6th National Technology Foresight study are trying to assess the current state of key technologies in top-priority areas and identify those which would promote the country’s economic and social development in the next 5–15 years. The Chinese futures scientists are focusing on 17 technology areas: ICT, biology, new materials, industrial production and production of food, aerospace, energy, efficient environmental management, agriculture and development of rural areas, marine research, transport, advanced services, public security, healthcare, urbanisation and urban development, and emerging technologies.
Just the above list of technology areas shows that Russian and Chinese National Foresight studies have a lot in common. An important part of Alexander Sokolov’s presentation was devoted to foresight methodology; in particular, he spoke about approaches to identifying megatrends through big data mining. 'We’ve analysed major trends affecting the future, including climate change and consumption of natural resources, new growth models, demographic and social changes, geopolitical environment and institutional transformations, emergence of new technological paradigms', noted Professor Sokolov. 'In turn, megatrends are broken down into smaller trends. We track their impact on science and technology development and consider various scenarios — how Russia should react to emergence of particular trends'.
The key technology trends identified in the updated foresight study among others include the fourth industrial revolution, development of artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things, cloud technologies, ubiquitous proliferation of social networks, development of new materials, and synthetic biology. 'We are studying the impact of advanced and emerging technologies on the labour market, analyse which professions are likely to have the highest demand in the future and which are going to gradually disappear, and changing demand for skills', noted Alexander Sokolov.
The forum participants showed considerable interest in the results obtained by the HSE ISSEK Foresight Centre team, particularly in the semantic maps built by the smart big data mining system iFORA. They agreed that more thorough systemic foresight of new technology development required ongoing optimisation of research tools. And as Alexander Sokolov was able to witness, the translated version of the HSE ISSEK’s analytical report 'Russian S&T Foresight 2030' published in 2018 had considerable success in China.
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