REconciling sCience, Innovation and Precaution through the Engagement of Stakeholders
What are our visions for the future? How do we want to live, and what possibilities does technology offer us? Foresight studies deal with tomorrow’s possibilities in order to create a multi-layered, livable present.
Basis for parliamentary work
A taxi without a driver, a pizza delivered to us by drone, meat out of the laboratory – these are but some of countless future scenarios popping up in the public disourse. If politicians want to know what socio-technical developments are currently really relevant, they need special expertise. In many countries, including Austria, Parliament draws on foresight knowledge for this purpose: since 2017, the ITA has supported the Austrian Parliament in identifying the most important new developments: On the basis of a broad horizon scanning process, MEPs are systematically informed in bi-annual monitoring reports.
The ITA’s foresight studies ask questions such as: Is the technology already functional or only in the development stage? How important will the technology be for Austria in the next ten years? Industry research usually only focuses on "technological readiness", i.e. when a certain technology is "ready for the market". Foresight deliberately chooses a broader approach here.
The many voices of innovation
When it comes to the future, not only science and politics, but also the people should have their say in order to formulate social needs more clearly. To capture and use the knowledge of citizens, we have developed new scientific methods: In the CIVISTI project, for example, the aim was to develop visions for a life in Europe in 2050. The values and everyday knowledge of lay people are linked with the knowledge of experts in order to define topics relevant to the future.
Most recently, the EU project CIMULACT thousands of citizens in 30 European countries came together in workshops to produce and evaluate visions and scenarios for the future. These scenarios where then handed over to experts, who used them as the basis for new research topics as input for future EU programmes. Among the suggestions where topics such as "individualised medicine", "equal access to the health system" or "sustainable transport solutions in passenger and freight transport".
At the ITA, we believe that participation approaches such as this are crucial for defining the conditions for a safe, environmentally friendly and socially acceptable future.