Foresight to the fore

Jan Dietz

Foresight activities are becoming increasingly common in Norwegian research and innovation efforts in particular, as indicated by a report recently commissioned by the Research Council. Foresight is a general term for all methods that can be used to promote strategic thinking on topics related to social trends and their drivers.

More and better

“In recent years many enterprises have been given a powerful reminder of the need to be prepared for the future. The number of foresight projects being carried out here in Norway has risen from around 70 in 2003 to 400 in 2009,” states Jan Dietz, who until recently was Special Adviser at the Research Council with responsibility for the Research Council’s foresight activities.

Jan Dietz “The number of research groups involved in these processes is increasing, as is the degree of professionalism underlying these activities. Courses in foresight have now been established at BI Norwegian School of Management and at the University of Tromsø, and a new course will soon be up and running at the University of Stavanger,” says Dietz.

Foresight and research

“Challenges and dilemmas related to research-intensive areas such as climate change and energy reinforce the need for foresight,” states Dietz. “In areas such as these a foresight project can both provide new knowledge and be a good way of acquiring an overview of the field.”

The Research Council has used foresight methods as a starting point for a number of important initiatives. During the period 2003-2005 foresight projects were carried out in connection with the establishment of the Research Council’s large-scale programs within the fields of aquaculture, energy, biotechnology, material and nanotechnology and ICT.

Regional focus

In a globalized economy individual regions need to take greater responsibility for ensuring the competitiveness of trade and industry. Regional foresight has therefore become an increasingly important area of foresight methodology. In Norway the Research Council has helped to generate interest in regional foresight through the Program for Regional R&D and Innovation (VRI).

“Regional foresight is one of the recommended instruments for regional collaboration and strategy development under the VRI program. Amongst other things, we have seen that this has helped to improve the interaction between trade and industry, the research community and public stakeholders,” states Dietz.

Build further on expertise

The main report from the Research Council’s review of foresight activities describes the development of the foresight field and its current status, identifying potential paths forward. Part 2 describes Norway’s experience with foresight to date. The reports are available in Norwegian only and may be downloaded in pdf format (see box at right) or ordered as paper copies by email: post@forskningsradet.no.

“The challenge now is to compile all the useful information we have gathered and build on the expertise that has been developed here in Norway. At the same time we must glean what we can from our partners in the EU and the other Nordic countries, who have also put a lot of effort into developing their foresight activities.” says Hilde Erlandsen, Director of the Department for Future Technologies.

Source: Research Council of Norway

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