Designing the exercise
- Setting the objectives
- Determining the coverage (focus and scope)
- Defining the users
- Approach to design decisions
- Setting the time horizon
- Assessing previous and ongoing work
- Project team and organisation of the exercise
- Designing the methodology (methodological framework)
Running the Exercise
Follow-up of the Exercise
Both the regional authorities and the private sector invest significant resources in science and technology in Central Macedonia. It therefore comes as no surprise that there is interest in the future and forthcoming developments in science and technology in the region, and in designing the major strategic elements for these policies (R&D and Innovation). The critical question that needed to be answered when planning strategic elements of these policies was: "where should we invest and why?"
The processes implemented for the development of governmental policies in the area of science and technology have changed dramatically during the last few decades. They have become more complex and are characterised by greater interaction between the "key players" in the decision making process. While scientists used to draw up the plans and outline future developments in science and technology, these decisions are nowadays in the hands of administrative bodies at various levels (the European Commission, Governments, Regional Authorities, Ministries, etc), together with industry associations, knowledge intensive enterprises, and various action groups (NGOs, etc.). Together, these all make up the Innovation System of the region or country.
The region of Central Macedonia is the second largest urban area in Greece (the first one being Attica). There is a high rate of population growth and, although there is relatively high unemployment, living standards are above the national average. As in most urban centres, Attica and Central Macedonia account for most of the country's decision-making centres, its main industries and the most highly skilled and best educated human resources.
The main issue at stake for the region is identifying ways to improve quality of life, the socio-economic conditions, and bring down unemployment. This calls for the development of strategic policy measures to encourage the R&D and innovation activities that will enhance the region's competitiveness.
The Regional authorities in Greece have little power in terms of making policy decisions and strategic planning as this is done centrally by national government. The only instrument that can be used by regional authorities is the Regional Development Plan under the Community Support Frameworks.
This was the main reason why the regional authorities in Central Macedonia decided to organise and run a regional Foresight exercise so as to help them identify the main priorities for promotion under the forthcoming 4th Community Support Framework.
Moreover, the main policy instrument for facing the problems and challenges at regional level mentioned above (identification of ways to improve quality of life and socio-economic conditions, to reduce unemployment, and promote the strategic development of policy measures to bolster the R&D and innovation activities needed to enhance the region's competitiveness) – as in Greece regional authorities have limited responsibilities in terms of strategic planning – is the Regional Development Plan.
The idea of running a technology Foresight exercise in Central Macedonia, for the strategic development and planning of the forthcoming CSFF, was put forward by Professor Nikos Komninos, manager of the URENIO unit of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The basic components of the project were set up in close collaboration with the Regional Authorities and the University of Thessaloniki. This involved preparing a proposal for funding in the framework of Innovative Actions of the European Regional Development Fund which was submitted to the European Commission by the region of Central Macedonia on May 2001, under the title "Excellence in Central Macedonia 2002-2003".
There was a strong commitment to the exercise from the regional authorities in Central Macedonia and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki from the very beginning.
This exercise was initiated in order to pinpoint the most important research and scientific fields expected to play an important role in the development of the region over the next 15 years (up to 2018). These areas were selected by the Research Committee of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the technical consultant by conducting a SWOT analysis of the region. The selected fields were: (i) information technologies and telecommunications, (ii) agro-biotechnologies, (iii) Environment, (iv) Energy, (v) transport, and (vi) materials, nanotechnologies, and industrial technologies. These thematic fields were discussed by specific panels that were formed by means of an open call that was published in the local press, in the framework of the scenarios that were developed in the National Foresight programme and also in the framework of two horizontal issues that were considered of major importance for the future development of the region: 1. Human resources, 2. South Eastern Europe and its economic development.
The conclusions and suggestions that came out from the discussions of the thematic panels were intended to be used as a basis for the amendment of the Regional Development Plan under the 3rd Community Support Framework and the development of the new one (under the 4th Community Support Framework) by the regional authorities in Central Macedonia (given they have no other policy tools for promoting R&D at regional level).
Designing the exercise
The Technology Foresight in Central Macedonia exercise was initiated as an effort to identify the long-term trends for the development of specific thematic fields. The overall aim was to define priorities for the support of the regional innovation system and the amendment of the Regional Development Plan - under the 3rd CSF – and also to develop the Regional Development Plan under the 4th CSF.
In Central Macedonia the implementation of the Foresight exercise was undertaken by the Research Committee of the University of Thessaloniki, which had already been involved in many activities of the regional innovation system. The coordination committee set as its goal "the identification of potential paths towards the development of the regional innovation system in Central Macedonia and the provision of information to all involved parties in order to choose the most promising one".
More than 70 scientists and researchers from the region collaborated closely for 18 months in the framework of this exercise. They examined the technological developments as a result of the scientific progress, at the same time assessing the effects on citizens' everyday life.
The researchers exchanged information continually and offered answers to the following questions:
- Which are the necessary technologies needed to achieve the best possible results (in terms of economic prosperity and competitiveness) by 2018?
- What are the major changes necessary in the innovation system that will contribute to this objective?
- How is it envisaged that the environment for these activities will change?
When implementing a Foresight exercise it is important to define a specific focus and objectives. The broader the scope the more difficult it is to identify the most important areas for improvement and the means to improve them. By defining the focus, it is easier to define the time horizon of the exercise, the type of participants you want to involve, as well as the methods you need to use. This is mainly because the focus and the objectives of the exercise define the potential impact and the strategies that need to be implemented as well as the most important people (stakeholders) that have to be involved in order to make the necessary policy proposals.
The exercise covered the region of Central Macedonia and the specific socio-economic fields that are of most importance for the region and its future development. The fields were selected through a SWOT analysis that took place in the beginning of the exercise in order to identify the most important areas to be covered and the type of stakeholders to be involved.
After the SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) by the technical consultant (Logotech S.A.) two horizontal issues were defined (1. Human resources and 2. South-eastern Europe and its economic development) together with six thematic issues that were considered critical for regional Foresight in Central Macedonia:
- information technologies and telecommunications
- materials, nanotechnologies, industrial technologies
The main users of this exercise's results were the Regional authorities, the local University, the technology institutes and organisations established in the region (e.g. the Thessaloniki Science and Technology Park, the Business Incubator, etc.), industry and business associations, as well as individual enterprises.
The exercise was organised to identify and subsequently promote the main priorities for planning the future in the region of Central Macedonia. As regional authorities in Greece do not have policy making authorisation other than the Regional Development Plan (RDP), Central Macedonia authorities in collaboration with the local university decided to use Foresight to develop and organise the forthcoming RDP so it would be based on the main research and technological priorities identified.
The regional authorities in Central Macedonia and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki jointly developed the methodological framework and hired an external technical consultant to run specific actions (the SWOT analysis for identification of the main strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for the future development of the regional policy). Furthermore, they organised workshops and information days inviting well known experts to present their work and share their experience so as to raise awareness of Foresight, which was relatively unknown, especially at regional level. Finally, the expert panels were set up by selecting individuals who expressed an interest during the open call that was published in the local press and on the web.
In order to set the time horizon for the exercise, the following facts were taken into consideration:
- The organisation of the Olympic Games
- The effort for decentralisation of the Central Government Agencies and Services
- The enlargement of the EU
- The development of the Eastern European Countries and their expansion into the European market
As these facts were considered to be the most important ones for the years to come and they were expected to dramatically affect the development of the Region within the next 15 years, the time horizon set for this exercise was 2003 - 2018.
The Technology Foresight Exercise in Central Macedonia was essentially the first to take place in Greece at regional level. The main studies/literature reviewed in the framework of the project were innovation strategy studies/policies implemented primarily at regional level (i.e. the IRIS/RISI +, RTP/RIS, the Regional Development Plan under the 3rd CSF, etc).
The Central Macedonia Foresight exercise was implemented by the Research Committee of the University of Thessaloniki, which had already been involved in a number of activities relating to the regional innovation system. As soon as the exercise was undertaken by the Research Committee of the Aristotle University, the first action was to develop the necessary structure for the implementation of the exercise. The Coordination Committee was set up, consisting of a scientific manager and a representative of the Research Committee of the University. The Research Committee of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki provided resources and personnel for the development of a website for the exercise and its applications.
The Coordination Committee set the exercise's objectives. The SWOT analysis regarding the future development of regional policy was carried out by a technical consultant (Logotech S.A.).
The regional authorities in Central Macedonia and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki also organised workshops and information days inviting well known experts to present their work and share their experience so as to raise awareness of Foresight culture, which was relatively unknown, especially at regional level. Finally, the expert panels were set up by selecting individuals who expressed an interest during the open call that was published in the local press and on the web.
The theoretical framework around which the Regional Technology Foresight Exercise was built in Central Macedonia is the learning cycle shown in the following diagram:
The steps taken were:
- The selection of the thematic fields to be studied which were selected by the Research Committee of the University of Thessaloniki and the technical consultant through the SWOT analysis. These thematic fields were: information technologies and telecommunications, agro-biotechnologies, environment, energy, transport, materials, nanotechnologies, industrial technologies.
- The development of the methodological guide for the implementation of the regional Foresight exercise in Central Macedonia
- The selection of the members of the expert panels for the elaboration of the Technology Foresight Exercise in every thematic field. These were people from industry, academia, NGOs, etc. that expressed an interest in participating in the exercise and were experienced in the specific fields.
- The Research Committee of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in collaboration with the technical consultant set specific "boundaries" concerning the work that needed to be done by each expert panel
- Development of a basic text describing the current situation for each thematic field under examination
- The elaboration of the exercise – under the aegis of the Regional Authorities of Central Macedonia and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with the collaboration of a technical consultant and various interested individuals from the region and elsewhere who participated in the expert panels.
- The preparation of the specific essays for thematic field as well as the preparation of the synthesis report – including the methodological framework, the stakeholders involved, the processes followed and the results of the meetings.
- The development of the exercise website where all information about the processes and the results would be included
The technical consultant (Logotech S.A.) was responsible for the SWOT analysis and the identification of the main thematic and horizontal areas to be covered. The SWOT analysis also examined issues such as the role of regional Foresight in Greece (and the wider region of South Eastern Europe), employment, the size and structure of production in the primary, secondary and tertiary sector, the penetration of local enterprises in neighbouring countries, the research potential, the entrepreneurial potential, the investment in R&D and the general strategic priorities in the Region as presented in the Regional Operational Plan for Central Macedonia in order to define the most important fields to be examined.
Based on the results of the SWOT analysis concerning the role of technology in each of the thematic fields, society, environment, economy and policy, a "basic text" was developed with a time horizon of 2004-2018.
Based on the SWOT analysis and the fundamental questions that were identified for each thematic field, the coordinators selected the main axes along which the Delphi statements were developed. The use of the Delphi method was pre-determined by the call under the programme "Excellence in Central Macedonia". Delphi is a knowledge acquisition tool. The statements were proposed by the six thematic panels. The technical consultant evaluated these statements and finalised eight Delphi questionnaires which included 215 statements in all. The questionnaire was online and there were two rounds that were completed within two months time.
Running the exercise
For the selection of the participants and coordinators of the thematic panels there was an open invitation published in the local and national press in order to attract the attention of relevant stakeholders. There were 120 candidatures, mainly from the Aristotle University and the private sector. The main criteria for the selection were:
- Broad knowledge of recent developments in the specific field
- In depth knowledge of a sub-issue of the thematic field
- Wide acceptance of the specific person by peers in the academic, research and industrial fields
- Involvement in competitive R&D projects in the specific thematic field
More than 70 scientists and researchers from the region collaborated closely for the 18 months of this exercise. They examined the technological developments as a result of the scientific progress, assessing at the same time the effects in the citizens' everyday life.
The tangible outcome was basically the synthesis report of the exercise. This was the final report of the project synthesising the conclusions and suggestions of the thematic six thematic panels that were set up for discussing the various scenarios that were developed in the framework of the National Foresight programme for Greece. Furthermore, the synthesis report also included information about the methods and tools that were used for the exercise. There were specific reports for each thematic group:
- Information technologies and telecommunications
- Materials, nanotechnologies, industrial technologies
These reports included information about the current situation in these areas and the prospective developments for the time horizon set (2018) for this exercise. There were also some suggestions in terms of policy measures for the region.
Moreover, the region of Central Macedonia in collaboration with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki published a volume for the presentation of the organisation, the methodologies and the results of the regional Foresight exercise after it was completed. This volume is available (in Greek only) on request to anyone interested in finding out more about the process and the results of the exercise.
The intangible outcomes can be summarised as:
- As there were many stakeholders from the private sector, e.g. NGOs, professional associations, professional chambers, industrialists, consultants, researchers, etc, the interactivity and the synergies that were developed during the meetings/workshops of the expert panels were many and through them the thematic essays developed were of high quality and results
- Networking between regional entrepreneurs and academia/research organisations
Implementation and follow-up
There is a published volume with the presentation of the organisation, the methodologies and the results of the regional Foresight exercise after it was completed. This volume is available (in Greek only) on request to anyone interested in finding out more about the process and the results of the exercise. Other than that, the project website has been operating since the beginning of the exercise and has information available in Greek.
Despite the fact that the exercise did not directly aim to diffuse Foresight practice, an information day was organised as it commenced, in April 2003, in order to present the idea of the exercise, the types of methods that can be implemented and the potential results that may come out to all involved stakeholders as well as to the public. The information day was organised in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and there was an open invitation published in the media (local and national newspapers) for anyone interested in attending.
In this information day many experts in Foresight, both from Greece and the EU were invited as speakers in order to explain the concept of a Foresight exercise, to present specific cases and their results and indicate potential impacts of such an exercise at regional level. As this was the first exercise to be performed at regional level in Greece, this was a valuable introduction to the various Foresight methods and their potential results.
- Central Macedonia Technology Foresight Website (http://foresight.rc.auth.gr/sitepages/MainPage/default.aspx) [in Greek]