Horizon Scanning-Metafore Towards a Shared Future-Base for the European Research Area
Europe is one of the global leaders in strategic foresight. From a continent that was mired in its own troubled and conflict‐ridden past, Europe has been gradually emerging over the past few decades as a region that wants to jointly and confidently embrace its future. The European Union is widely acknowledged as playing a key role in this transformation. Its very existence is forcing its member states and their citizens to explore new forms of governance in order to remain globally competitive in a future world that keeps changing at vertiginous speeds. Its high‐level initiatives such as ‘Europe 2020’ intend to push the European policy agenda towards ambitious objectives in areas such as employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy. But nowhere is the forward‐leaning nature of the EU more visible than in the research area, where the European Union has been funding long‐term transnational framework programmes in many of the most promising fields of scientific discovery. The size and scope of many of these programmes are truly unique – even in comparison to analogous ones in the United States, Japan or (increasingly) China.
Foresight is an important ingredient in this overall research agenda. Across its different research priorities, the EU may very well fund more foresight work than any other actor in the world. And yet many of these efforts remain largely uncoordinated. Most research projects that address ‘the future’ tend to start from scratch and to do their own foresight work in their own fields with their own methods. This paper will examine whether it might be possible to develop a shared European future‐base by describing some experiences that were accumulated by a small European policy think tank from The Netherlands – the The Hague Center for Strategic Studies – that is primarily working in the field of strategic studies. HCSS has been performing foresight work for various (national and multinational) public and private customers for about a decade now, and has also started building a more systematic ‘future‐base’ containing insights from a broad variety of global foresight studies.
This paper will start by introducing the idea and the rationale behind such a ‘future‐base’, will then describe the method used by HCSS and present some examples from foresight studies published in 2012 in the field of security. It will conclude with a brief analogous analysis of a number of EU FP7‐funded studies in order to show how EU research priorities could be compared to some of the findings from a future‐base like exercise.
ORBIS is powered by ESPAS, the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System, a unique inter-institutional project aimed at strengthening the EU's efforts in the crucial area of forward planning. ESPAS brings together the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Secretariat General of the Council of the European Union and the European External Action Service to strengthen the Union's collective administrative capacity to identify and analyse the key trends and challenges, and the resulting policy choices, which are likely to confront Europe and the wider world in the decades ahead.