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Foresight: Exploring the Future, Shaping the Present

25-29 June 2012 a short course “Foresight: Exploring the Future, Shaping the Present” took place at the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIoIR, University of Manchester, Manchester, Great Britain). The agenda of this training was devoted to exploring frameworks and methodology of Foresight.

25-29 June 2012 a short course “Foresight: Exploring the Future, Shaping the Present” took place at the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIoIR, University of Manchester, Manchester, Great Britain). The agenda of this training was devoted to exploring frameworks and methodology of Foresight.

Three members of HSE international laboratories (Anna Poznyak and Konstantin Vishnevskiy, research fellows of Laboratory for Science and Technology Studies, and Elena Vetchinkina, junior research fellow of Laboratory for Economics of Innovation) took part in the event.  

The course consisted from several units, each of whose was preceded by so-called “provocations” — introductory lections stimulating creative thinking about Foresight. In the first day Ian Miles, professor of the University of Manchester and Head of the Laboratory for Economics of Innovation, provided basic definitions of Foresight, outlined main stages of its development and discussed main distinctions between Foresight and forecasting. Ozcan Saritas, senior research fellow of MIoIR, highlighted main Foresight principles and stages of Foresight projects, provided some historical examples of Foresight development. Research fellow of the University of Manchester and co-head of Centre for Urban & Regional Ecology Joe Ravetz considered main special features of Foresight and provided a set of interesting examples of its using for urban planning and forecasting. In the end of the day Rafael Popper, research fellow of the University of Manchester and CEO of Futures Diamond, gave a clarification of Foresight methodology including detailed consideration of employed methods.

After introductory lectures the trainees divided themselves into several teams to implement learning activities related to applying scenario approach to Foresight studies in medicine, enhancing energy efficiency by technologies reducing CO2 emission, as well as visioning urban futures.

The second day of the training was started from the lecture by Jonathan Aylen, director for external relations, MIoIR. He focused on wild cards. This method is used to identify events having a low chance to occur but an enormous potential impact.

Further to the Tuesday seminars’ programme Jim Skea, the professor of the Centre for Environmental Policy and the member of UK Energy Programme Strategy, highlighted the core peculiarities of scenarios development approaches for the energy sector and illustrated them at some examples. His presentation was devoted to the detection of basic conditions for production and consumption of fuel and power recourses in the bricks of scenario forecasting for both the demand- and supply-sides. He also touched upon the employment of various methods and methodology approaches to the energy scenario planning —  for power-generation and power-consumption — and their results analysis, interpretation and comparison. In particular, J. Skea reported the results of investigations on energy scenarios models building carried out by the wide range of international organizations (exampling the International Energy Agency OECD), research institutes (referring to UK Energy Research Centre) and by the major oil and gas producers (mentioning Exxon Mobil, British Pertoleum and Shell).

Ozcan Saritas gave an insight into the conception, methodology and approaches to the horizon scanning. This approach was introduced as one of Foresight-methods for identification emerging phenomena and their systemic analysis under the influence of the external and internal environment depending on the area under investigation. The horizon scanning implies the exploration of the key development trends, drivers and the identification of wild cards, weak signals and discontinuities — and other issues that might influence the forecasting of the future. Then the lecturer introduced the intermediate results of the research project of the Higher School of Economics «An approach for the identification of technology trends: The case of semantic technologies».

At Wednesday in the mode of «provocation» Joe Ravetz indicated the approaches for the systematic analysis of capabilities and perspectives of development of the conception of urban environment in the XXth century. By the lecturer’s view, the comprehensive Foresight approach to the urban environment and regional development modeling comprises and converges the analysis of urban space and its infrastructure, the system of inputs (resources) required for residents wellbeing, the process organization and management system and the urban system stakeholders analysis. J. Ravetz has shown some methodological and practical opportunities of examined modeling practices to prepare the visualization of the results of Foresight projects in urban and regional development.

Then the course participants have been encouraged to expand and anchor the skills of urban development paradigm in the case study implementation. Three most significant issues for the development of the native city should be highlighted there, with subsequent decomposing of the each by three major components. In the line with this three external and internal factors influenced on their origin should be identified. Finally three drivers to solve them and three interventions to influence them have been distinguished. On the run of this task the course participants were asked to employ the graphical illustrations in order to mark the horizontal and vertical linkages between the analyzed blocks.

Then Peter Sharp, the chief executive of UK Centre for Workforce Intelligence told on the peculiarities of the horizontal scanning method employment for the subject area.

The questions touched upon by P. Sharp were expanded in the presentation of Rafael Popper. At first R. Popper provided some rationales for the conception of horizon scanning. He proceeded to detailed consideration of the methods and instruments used in the framework of horizon scanning procedures for both external environment and internal context and for the results interpretation, then he moved to consideration of successive steps and stages of this process, required inputs and possible effects and outcomes of the process in the view of strategies. R. Popper also characterized Foresight methods used into the horizon scanning procedure. In the manner of the integrated system to reflect the toolkits used under these circumstances the lecturer featured Futures Jigsaw. It was elaborated as the proceeding from the conception on Foresight Diamond and corresponds as the mechanism to convey scoping, mobilizing, anticipating, recommending and transforming components (together composing SMART Futures Jigsaw) for Futures studies.

The next day Ian Miles introduced main principles for one of the most basic foresight instruments – scenario building, that allows to create a vision of possible future. In his prezentation he focused on diversity of different types of scenarios, explained their strengths and weaknesses and introduced on the experience of the UK. Gill Ringland, chief executive and director of SAMI Consulting, continued this theme in her presentation. She told how to build the work of effective scenario planning by the example of projects performed by her company. Denis Loveridge, honorary Visiting Professor of University of Manchester, at the end of this day gave an account of grand challenges’ influence on different economic, social, technological and other processes. He illustrates his presentation with disconnected events that have the seeds of a grand challenge buried in them.

Luke Georghiou, Vice-President for Research and Innovation at the University of Manchester, started the fifth day of training with the discussion about new application spheres for foresight: technology platforms, innovative clusters, joint research programmes. Ozcan Saritas presented main approaches to roadmapping and indicated their place in the general system of foresight tools, in particular, he introduced the principles of integration of roadmaps into scenario planning. Pafael Popper gave the last lecture and told about technology foresight evaluation. He presented results of his work devoted to analysis more than 2000 foresight projects.

At the end of this course students presented the results of their practical work on the Foresight projects under the three thematic groups and discussed the outcome with the lecturers.