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Technology Foresight: How to Make It Efficient

On 11 June, the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge of the HSE (ISSEK) and the RF Ministry of Education and Science hosted a theory-and-practice seminar “Technology Foresight System: Goals, Objectives, Approaches to Organisation”.

On 11 June, the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge of the HSE (ISSEK) and the RF Ministry of Education and Science hosted a theory-and-practice seminar “Technology Foresight System: Goals, Objectives, Approaches to Organisation”.

Leonid Gokhberg
Leonid Gokhberg

A national technology Foresight system, oriented primarily towards the needs of the manufacturing industry, is expected to be set up in Russia before 1 July, 2013. In any case that’s the timeframe established in the presidential decree #596 “On Long-term National Economic Policy” signed on 7 May, 2012. What has already been done about it, how to harmonise technological Foresight and macroeconomic forecast parameters and integrate them into a strategic planning system, were the issues discussed at the seminar.

Leonid Gokhberg, first vice-rector of the Higher School of Economics and director of the ISSEK, reminded that the government drafted a new law on national strategic planning which is supposed to be based on a national technology Foresight system. It’s core component is the Russian Long-Term S&T Foresight until 2030, developed by the HSE with participation of more than two thousand Russian and foreign experts. Alexander Sokolov, deputy director of the ISSEK, spoke about production of this document.

According to him, technological road maps, industrial and regional Foresight projects should also become important elements of the integrated Foresight systems. A problem is integrating into the overall system forecasts commissioned by private companies: in most cases these, for obvious reasons, remain unavailable to general public. The situation with public corporations is somewhat easier – the general parameters of their strategic programmes can be included into the national system.

Still, just putting various Foresight projects together won’t be enough: their methodology must meet certain standards. This is especially important if we’re talking not about ordinary forecasts but about Foresight studies.

Leonid Gokhberg and Alexander Sokolov noted that despite the fact the number of Foresight centres in Russia is growing, definitely not all of them meet relevant international standards, and mostly conduct futures studies. Accordingly, HSE proposes to introduce a system of quality-of-work requirements for Russian Foresight centres.

Dmitri Belousov of the Centre for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Term Forecasting spoke about macroeconomic approach to Foresight system. The Russian economy faces several serious challenges, whose impact is only expected to increase. First of all it’s the “changes of the hydrocarbons’ geography”. Shale gas production in the USA, China’s development of oil fields in the Yellow Sea, the Japanese experiments with gas hydrates — all this limits our oil and gas industries’ export potential. Europe remains the biggest region which depends on Russia, but it also is trying to diversify its energy sources. Also, due to economic recession, European demand for energy resources is not growing.

Alexander Sokolov
Alexander Sokolov

Dmitri Belousov predicted an “energy revolution” in the next twenty years, though according to him, “it’s impossible to say exactly what is going to fire”. Other points of rapid technological growth are connected with medicine and “smart” information technologies (e.g. smart homes and cars). Russia (where economic growth is slowing down) won’t be able to sufficiently increase government expenditures on science. The only way out for the R&D sector is “to find contact points with business”.

But government expenditures on R&D also need a radical increase in efficiency, noted Leonid Gokhberg. According to him, most of these funds are channelled into the traditional sectors which yield a minimum contribution to innovation-based production, while the most promising research and development are frequently ignored. It’s one of the reasons why Russia “missed the biotechnology wave”. Leonid Gokhberg suggested that some of the government funding should be provided on a “pay back” basis.

Pavel Rudnik, deputy director of the Ministry of Economic Development’s Strategic Management (Programmes) and Budgeting Department who also took part in the seminar, speaking about the scope for practical application of Foresight results, among other things noted the programme for development of innovation territorial clusters, and the programme for innovation-based development of companies with public participation. He stressed yet again that the system being developed now should be “attractive and useful” to the real sector businesses and to the manufacturing industry.

By Oleg Seregin, HSE Web portal’s news service