IN.TRACK – CRETE REGIONAL FORESIGHT EXERCISE


Online Foresight Guide

Designing the exercise

Context of the exercise

The IN.TRACK project was launched by the Directorate General Research of the European Commission in August 2003 at the request of the European Parliament. The Regions of Knowledge Pilot Action promotes the active involvement of local players in designing and shaping regional knowledge development models. 14 pilot projects were selected to take part in the Regions of Knowledge initiative.

IN.TRACK builds on the special characteristics, strengths and constraints of four European island regions (Canary Islands, Madeira, Crete and Sicily) to formulate knowledge-based regional policies, and to provide support to local actors and stakeholders. The project has undertaken technology audits and regional foresight tools to assess the role of knowledge in the four regions.

Reasons for using Foresight

The knowledge economy represents both a new opportunity to be seized by island regions and a threat in terms of the risk of a widening gap between them and the more developed regions in Europe. For this reason, it can be argued that a first challenge that island regions are facing is the development of a coherent strategy to develop and sustain a knowledge-based economy and society building on their regional distinctiveness. IN.TRACK aimed to promote the formulation of knowledge-based regional policies, ensuring the support of local actors and stakeholders.

The development of the Knowledge Economy in itself is a means of achieving various goals and opportunities: improved regional competitiveness, enhanced job prospects and job security, greater social cohesion, better quality of life. Eventually, IN.TRACK will develop a blueprint that will be adopted by the 4 island regions (Canary Islands, Madeira, Crete and Sicily) to seize the opportunities and the goals offered by the fast-changing knowledge-driven world.  

Defining the focus

The project covered four islands - Canary Islands, Sicily, Madeira and Crete – in terms of goals to be achieved for the development of a Knowledge Based Economy.

Setting the objectives

The main objectives pursued by the IN.TRACK exercise were:

  1. To evaluate/assess the central role of knowledge in 4 peripheral less favoured European regions characterised by the fact they islands or archipelagos, through technology audits, strategic gap analysis and regional foresight.
  2. Diagnosis of 4 insular regions’ state-of the art in innovation and technology policies and launch of a professional awareness process enhancing the build-up of “Regions of Knowledge” concept: through 4 participatory consensus-based workshops, one in each target Region, based on the European Scenario Workshop (EASW) methodology, see below and through a cross-regional comparative analysis.
  3. To ensure active participation of key cross-regional socio-economic stakeholders in order to generate a shared vision amongst the 4 targeted regions in terms of peripheral/insular knowledge-based development and policy options; through a participatory consensus-based European workshop based on the EASW methodology involving the 4 regions laying the ground for new regional policies and plans of action focused on the Regions of Knowledge concept.
  4. Development of an inter-regional network, sharing a cooperative model and enhancing the exchange of learning and experiences through the development of shared and cooperative plans of action leading to self-sustaining blueprints, specifically addressing insular Regions’ challenges in building knowledge-based development and innovative policy approaches.

Time horizon

The time horizon set was 2015 (10 years).

Time frame for the exercise

August 2003 – December 2005

Users

The participants and the potential users are pretty much the same for this exercise as the project requested that all relevant stakeholders should be involved in the process of the exercise. These were the local actors in the islands, including regional authorities, local universities, entrepreneurial associations, industrialists, etc.

Running the exercise

Assessing previous and existing work

As this was the first regional foresight exercise ever performed in Crete the resources utilized were mainly national (results of the national foresight programme) and there was a bibliographical review of national and regional studies and reports in terms of R&D and innovation performance indicators.

Methodology

Knowledge economy represents both a new opportunity to be seized by the insular regions and a threat in terms of risk of a widening gap with respect to the more developed regions in Europe. For this reason, it can be argued that a first challenge that insular regions are facing is the development of a coherent strategy for building and sustaining a knowledge-based economy and society building on their regional distinctiveness.

The IN.TRACK project:

IN.TRACK will adopt a three level strategy as shown in the figure below:

 

 

Follow-up

Expected outcomes

Expected tangible outcomes

Expected intangible outcomes

Implementing foresight recommendations

Action plan for Crete 2005: the action plan for Crete 2015 is summarised to the following: in order to achieve the desired vision for Crete 2015 it is necessary to introduce a continuous improvement and expansion programme of the infrastructure of the island, which will help the efforts for agriculture and tourism sectors’ development and differentiation. Additionally, new areas of research and educational programmes should be designed and developed to cover emerging and convergent fields and spin-off activities in the direction of the ‘new economy’ should be enhanced. All these activities, however, should be associated to the demand for a high quality of life of the local society and the results should be diffused immediately to the general public through dissemination programmes and an open and aware society would eventually be formed.

Evaluation

The EASW in Crete was very successful and the participants were impressed by the methodology. They considered this methodology quite powerful and innovative. All of them expressed their interest in participating in such events again in the future and were eager to be informed of the results. The EASW method opened a window of optimism between the actors as they found that the problems are common and that if they work together it is possible for them to be resolved.

However, some of the ideas that finally came through the process were the usual ones and did not reach the level of originality that was being aimed for.

Furthermore, such events as the first link between different actors of the region will eventually create the more advanced ideas to be realised.

Positioning in the policy cycle

After the thematic group session the groups presented the action ideas to the rest of the participants. Continuously, the whole body of the workshop voted for the prioritization of these actions. The result of this voting brought forward five actions:

Infrastructure

The actions according to the improvement and expansion of infrastructures have several directions such as hard infrastructure creation of roads, airports, waste management, etc.

Development of the agricultural sector

The agricultural sector, although declining in importance in the region's GDP over the last decade, is still one of the major sectors of activities in the island. In the last few years some of the producers have moved to higher segments of the market, i.e. to organic production and differentiation of products, but there are still many things to happen in order to be part of a knowledge based economy. The suggestions of the thematic groups for the necessary actions include training the people who are involved in this sector, design of new niche areas of production and exploitation of the unique characteristics of the Cretan products have, in order to enter the international markets.

Development of tourism sector

Tourism is a sector that shows continuous growth during the last decade. The businesses that are involved in the sector show maturity and invest on quality services and higher margin market segments. However, there are many things that need to be done in order for this sector to be integrated in the knowledge based economy. The proposed actions include studies of the market and the creation of new and alternative products and services, promotion of tourism in Crete, independently from the national efforts of promotion, the certification of quality of services in all tourism businesses, the major improvement of ICT in the sector, and the creation of a quality and continuous improvement culture to all the participants in the tourism sector.

Research and Education

This action requires the support of existing and the creation of new areas of research and education. Crete is a region where several research institutes and universities have been set up over the last 20 years. However, the results of these activities do not seem to be integrated into the region’s economy. This may be the result of a general attitude of the people, who after graduating from the local universities, do not tend to stay on the island, they do not lean to the creation of entrepreneurial ideas and to taking risks. Additionally, this may happen of the directions of research that focus on basic research, the measurable results of which may appear after many years.

Open and aware society

All the above actions are necessary for the creation of a knowledge based economy. However they cover only one dimension of the framework of a knowledge economy. The second dimension has to do with the participation and awareness of the public in order to enjoy the benefits from these activities in their way of life. The purpose of all these activities is the wealth of the citizens, thus if the results do not get diffused then they will not be successful in a long term.

Diffusing foresight practice

One of the challenges for this exercise was to bring the different stakeholders of Crete together so as to discuss for the knowledge economy and the future of the island. This meeting, aiming to create a common vision for Crete 2015, sought to break the barriers of short term thinking turning it to long term thinking and planning. The main barriers that block this thinking have been identified to be: the trap of how to medium technology; the barrier of the degree of participation and responsibility and the barrier of dealing with everyday problems.

The three role groups that were created at the workshop came up with several proposals, for their view for the future. These visions however, do not break completely the barriers of thinking. Furthermore, some of the proposals are similar (e.g. the infrastructure improvement and expansion, the quality of products and services, etc.), showing that all the actors of the system identify that several needs of the region have not been satisfied yet. Thus, the produced visions are characterized, by the project team as intermediate ones that are necessary to be achieved and consolidated in order for Crete to make the leap to knowledge based economy and society.

The project website is available for further information and for diffusing the project results: http://www.intrack.org/