FutuRIS Operation

Online Foresight Guide


Getting Prepared for Foresight

Designing the exercise

Setting-up the Exercise

Running the Exercise

Implementation and Follow-up


Getting Prepared for Foresight

Being Clear on Reasons for Using Foresight

The French “Association Nationale de la Recherche Technique” was the pilot of the programme, with the support of French public authorities, mainly the “Ministère de la Recherche” and the “Ministère de l’Economie, des Finances et de l’Industrie” and of various actors involved in research and innovation (enterprises, research organisations…).

The main policy rationale to launch this operation in 2003 was that there are increasing doubts concerning the ability of the French research and innovation system to meet the needs of French society in the future.

An explanation for that is related to the changes that have occurred in the political, economic, social, scientific and technological environment during the past fifty years (there is even some suggestion that the FRIS (French Research and Innovation System) is in a crisis.

An aspect of that “archaism” of the FRIS is that it is very fragmented, with a lack of interactions in its different parts, so it is necessary to bridge gaps between people and organisations and to encourage more common understanding between them. Reforming the FRIS and managing it is a difficult task that requires an in-depth review and a long-term perspective, drawn together by the various stakeholders; that’s what FutuRIS aims to provide.

Actually, FutuRIS could be considered as a “societal / socio-economic” foresight project.


Designing the exercise

Setting the Focus and Objectives

FutuRIS aimed to consider the FRIS (French Research and Innovation System) as a whole, with a systemic approach (governance, organisation, interactions between players with various backgrounds in all sectors and fields from research, academia, business and society).

Due to the holistic approach, there were no sectoral themes but cross-cutting ones (e.g. excellence in research, competitiveness, science and society relationships, human resources in research and innovation, the governance of the FRIS…). For most of the themes, the actors come from research institutes (and to a certain extent higher education), private companies (big ones and SMEs), government bodies (ministries and agencies), NGOs…

The programme aimed to be a kind of “resources platform” where all those actors would bring and find intellectual and methodological tools to prepare themselves to the future (and thus to present decisions), and networks that would help to bridge the gaps between them. Beyond that, half-way of the programme, during the year 2004, the Government started to prepare an important law providing framework for the government programme on research and innovation; FutuRIS, among others, but with its specific position (integrative platform), contributed to the process and one can say that this contribution has been so far significantly taken into consideration.

The objectives of the FutuRIS programme were defined as follow:

Determining the Users

Since the objective of the exercise was to induce a debate and challenge ideas among stakeholders, the objective of the exercise and the involvement of the users were bound. The main objectives in terms of users were:

Setting the Time Horizon

The chosen time horizon was a 15-20 years horizon, far enough to possibly achieve organizational changes in research organizations, but not too far away so that people could still feel concerned.

Determining the Coverage

The coverage was the French research and innovation system, envisioned of course within the European and the World research and innovation context.

The idea was not only to make recommendations to the public authorities, because a lot of reports already did it, with little impact.

The target audience was public and private decision makers in the field of research and innovation. They were considered as the main “levers” to reform the system. But FutuRIS was also an open process in terms of information, communication, and participation (intranets for virtual participants, web site, events, media…) for a larger audience.

Assessing Previous and Existing Work

Some other French programmes were assessed before FutuRIS was launched, like Agora 2020 and INRA 2020. However, these programmes were very different in terms of aims, scope…) so there was a need for a more cross-cutting and holistic approach.

The UK Foresight programme was used as a background material for FutuRIS (reading papers, interview of the co-ordinator in London…). Some lessons were learned from this case study: for instance, there is more focus than usually in France on the implementation of recommendations; the implementation phase is part of the work and not only something that should happen once the problems have been identified and the solutions defined.

But it was important too to acknowledge cultural differences behind the lessons.

Mapping Available Resources

FutuRIS programme budget: 3.8 million euros for 3 years.

The ANRT is a non profit organization whose subsidies come for about 50% from firms and 50% from public research organizations and ministries.


Project team (management team): The people belonging to the project team changed during the programme, but all along the process involved about 6 -12 persons, most of them part-time (in average about 5-7 persons in full-time equivalent) :


Setting-up the Exercise

Building Support

Several choices have been made to position FutuRIS in French context:

1) The programme was not launched or managed by the national government, because it was necessary for the scientific, economic and social actors to get more involved in building research and innovation projects and activities together. Nevertheless, public support was important in terms of legitimacy and access to some information and resources. The aim was to involve both public and private players, representing all sides of demand and supply of research and innovation.

2) France should build a strategic capacity (including prospective, global vision of the FRIS, social debate, governance, methodological and technical tools for public choice…) to consider the future and the ways to face it in the best possible conditions.


Building a Team

There has been about the same structure all along the process (from February 2003 to June 2005), excepting as far as the working groups are concerned (different themes and different working modalities).

Steering Committee on November 2004:





Chairman « Académie des Sciences »


Counsellor to the CEO, Crédit Agricole SA

Jean-Pierre BOMPARD

« Secrétaire confédéral », CFDT (Union)

Christian BRECHOT

General Director, INSERM


General Administrator, CEA



Laurence DANON


Jean-François DEHECQ


Jean-Jacques DUBY

Chair., « Observatoire des Sciences et des Techniques »


Commissaire au Plan


Innovation and Technology Director, France Telecom

Jean-Jacques GAGNEPAIN

Technology Director, Ministère de la Recherche




Associate Professor, CNAM


Armies General Inspector


Deputy general Director, OSEO


Chair., INRA

François GUINOT

Chair., « Académie des Technologies»

Pierre HAREN



Director, Institut Cochin


General Director, CNRS


Chair., Futuribles International




Chair., France Biotech




General Director, DGE, « Ministère de l’Industrie »

Yannick VALLEE

First vice-president, CPU



Designing the Methodology and Selecting Methods

First of all, a one-year feasibility study was conducted by ANRT in 2002, with a small project team (the Director of ANRT, two experts - Rémi Barré, associate Professor for the CNAM, and another one coming from industry - and one person full-time to support and coordinate). There have been lots of preparatory discussions and consultations with stakeholders, a series of sectoral workshops, a survey of the existing French literature (reports…) on the French research and innovation system and how to reform it, and a survey of literature on other countries’ foresight experiences.

Then, a three-phase process was chosen:


The themes considered during the three phases were mainly cross-cutting issues (i.e. Excellence of public research, competitiveness of private research and innovation, the relationship between science and society…) and not sectoral ones ( i.e. biotech, transport systems…; the sectoral issues have been considered in a specific way as a cross-cutting theme too, through a inter-sectoral approach, see below).


The themes of phases 2 & 3 have been defined by the Scientific Committee and the project team, according to the specific needs (in terms of further information, discussion, propositions…) identified during the previous phase through the work done and the interactions with other stakeholders, or expressed by some of them (example: the Ministry of Research in order to prepare the framework law for the Government programme on Research and Innovation).

The main methodologies used were: scenario workshops, polling techniques, stakeholder consultation procedures, mixed panels (with experts and other participants), SWOT matrix analysis.


Organising the Exercise

There has been a certain tension in phase 1 between the work of the panels, supposed to build scenarios on the basis of key factors well documented, and the planning of the programme (lack of time for the panels to really do a heavy work); so part of the work was subcontracted to consultants, and the project team made an integrative work in parallel to help the process to converge.

Identifying and Selecting Participants

In the first phase, the more open and participative one, four working groups of persons were chosen by the management team and the chairmen of the 4 groups. The people were selected according to the complementarities and the diversity of their professional experiencesThe idea was that a balance should be found in each group between the main categories targeted (experts / stakeholders; research and higher education/ business/ government/ society) and according to the selected criteria (sex, age, sector, professional profile and position, geographical area of origin…). The participants came from research institutes (and to a certain extent higher education), private companies (big ones and SMEs), government bodies (ministries and agencies), non-for-profit organizations…

Then the persons selected were asked to co nominate somebody they thought interested in/ interesting for FutuRIS (“snowball”). Beyond the 4 working groups, a group of virtual participants was set up, and interactions by collaborative virtual tools were organized with them (to react to papers, to fill questionnaires…).

The fact that the ANRT ran the programme allowed to reach a good balance between firms and public research organizations. But higher education, and especially the universities (specific dual system with the “grandes écoles” in France) whose position in France is quite weak compared to what exists in most countries, was insufficiently represented at the beginning.

Then there was an attempt to correct this. The main weakness for participation is related to the “society” part: the programme intended to focus on the research-innovation-society system, but, for different reasons, the third element has not been taken into consideration at the same level than the two others.

FutuRIS was also an open process in terms of information and communication, and participation as far as possible (intranets for virtual participants, web site, events, media…).


Planning Communications

See “Dissemination” and “Tangible Outputs”


Running the Exercise

Managing Information

Collecting Information

A protest movement (strike, demonstrations) of the French researchers (university and public laboratories) during the beginning of the year 2004 made it important for everybody involved in the operation to collect more information directly from them. So, the collection of information for the operation had to be more a “bottom up” process. All the FutuRIS operation became a public forum to discuss these issues with a neutral and global view.


Processing Information

The first phase demonstrated that it was very difficult to build a collective work within such a diverse group of people in such a short time. So, in phases 2 and 3, the expert groups were smaller and so easier to “steer”.


Managing the Process

Managing Time

The FutuRIS operation started in 2003 (after a feasibility study of one year conducted by ANRT in 2002) and was finalized during 2005 summer. It was a long programme (two and a half years) but as far as foresight is considered as an open, participative and interactive process, quite a large scale of time is necessary to allow appropriation, debate, mutual learning and progressive convergence.


FutuRIS was organized into 3 phases:


Managing Relationships

There are several kinds of relationships to manage: internal (between people managing the operation) / external (involved players) relationships; relationships in order to co-produce the papers, the knowledge, the ideas (analysis, scenarios…) / in order to negotiate, establish partnerships… (political dimension) / disseminate, inform, communicate…

In managing the political relationships,for instance, there were four key persons:


Keeping Everyone Informed and Up-to-date

See “Dissemination” and “Tangible Outputs”


Day-to-day Monitoring

The “management team” was responsible for the day-to-day monitoring. In particular, each “working group” had a permanent secretary to produce the drafts documents and organize the day-to-day work.

Moreover, the steering committee had every 3 months a meeting on monitoring and evaluating the operation.


Inside the management team and working groups and to the “clients”, there were lots of interactions (discussion of drafts, diffusion of documents, meetings…) during the whole process.

As the operation was organized into 3 phases, each “transition” was used as an evaluation period. Actually, the following phases were never certain, even in terms of budget. Only this evaluation period allowed the launching of the following phase. So, this methodology allowed, not a day-to-day monitoring, but quite a constant monitoring and evaluation work. So, the projects and the outputs were clearly defined at the beginning of each phase.


Expected Outputs

Tangible Outputs

Phase 1:


Phase 2:


Phase 3:

1) Doctors’ employments

2) Developping innovative companies;

3) Sectoral studies


Intangible Outputs

A better comprehension of challenges, a shared analysis of strengths/weaknesses of the research and innovation system and of threats and opportunities for it; a shared vision of possible and “wishable” futures were the main intangible outputs.

Leaders of research institutions recognized that the exercise was useful to them by changing or enlarging their vision of the research and innovation system.

The intangible outputs will be maximized if they become as tangible as possible: the persons involved expected that intangible outputs lead to tangible effects, concrete changes and actions. So it is necessary to try to take into consideration the follow up and the implementation of a certain number of intangible results.


Implementation and Follow-up

Implementing Foresight Recommendations

Dissemination, Participants and Other Stakeholders

The first dissemination tools were used to create a live debate around the operation outputs:


A second important axis was to follow the public debates about the 2004 legislative reform of French public research system. Several meetings were held in ministries, academies, public research organisms, and a hearing in French Senate.


Finally, several documents were published:


Sponsors and the Project Team

Finally the 2004 French public research reform included recommendations made by the Futuris exercise, not only in the law but also in setting up research agencies and a high level council for the national research.

The follow up has to be considered as a project in itself by the project team. It has been a real and big part of the foresight project, with specific aims, means (human, financial…), tasks, monitoring and evaluation…



During the whole operation, there was a continuous evaluation and monitoring process, mainly because each transition among the three phases was used as an evaluation period of the previous phase and then as a period for clear definition of the project and the outputs.

An evaluation of FutuRIS is currently launched, in particular because there are certainly a lot of very interesting methodological lessons stemming from FutuRIS. The ongoing evaluation process will help discuss these issues a bit further, inside and outside the programme.

An international “evaluation committee” was created in June 2005. Members:

Beyond the evaluation of the FutuRIS operation, the aim is to suggest further initiatives in order to develop an appropriate steering of the French research and innovation system.

Results of this evaluation phase are awaited before the end of the year 2005.


Following-up on Foresight

Positioning in the Policy Cycle

The positioning in the policy cycle is important because it partly determines the fact that the foresight will be useful or not. The best way to do it is probably to have an anticipated vision of the fact that the issue will soon be on the political agenda, and to start working on it a bit before so that the foresight can be considered as a useful resource when political actors will need it. In the case of FutuRIS, events, the researcher’s protest, accelerated the political agenda but also put pressure on the process. A lesson learned is that a good political appropriation goes through key persons with appropriate networks.

Diffusing Foresight Practice

The foresight practice, in the sense of a participatory process to build shared visions of the possible futures, was mainly diffused to the 4 working groups of the first phase to build scenarios during the FutuRIS process. In each group a consultant helped to coach the group through the scenario method. The use of foresight helped to show the range of action for the decision makers and the participants.

Also the presentations of the output of the project was also a mean to debate the desirable vision of the future thus to discus foresight.