Technology Foresight and Assessment
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Research Areas     

Technology Forecasting, Foresight and Assessment


Science and technology are rapidly changing the world we live in. Yesterday’s innovation is today’s obsolescence. Old industries decay and new ones appear; traditional work and career patterns shift; business environments as well as social life are altered.

Technology forecasting, foresight and assessment assist decision makers in understanding the intricate relationships among various changes in technology, economics and society. Thereby, the opportunities and risks inherent in these changes may be assessed and their impact evaluated.

Some of today’s most innovative emerging technologies are being monitored, and their potential applications assessed. A few examples from recent years include: nanotechnologies, nano-biotechnology, brain-machine interface, smart materials, quantum technologies, micro aerial vehicles, "Internet of things" as well as new environmental and energy technologies.

Policy Oriented Research

The ever-increasing speed of technology developments and rapid changes in the business environment forces decision makers to reassess their policies. ICTAF has been commissioned by government ministries and large commercial firms to help shape their long-range policies.

ICTAF examines various alternatives for governmental support of scientific research and is instrumental in establishing guidelines for a national science and technology policy. Specialized tools such as expert surveys are used to identify and evaluate the multitude of emerging and future technologies.

Methodologies     

Technology Foresight

The systematic analysis of the long-term future of science, technology and society with a view to identifying emerging trends and technologies that are likely to yield the greatest economic and/or social benefits.

The following is an example of a foresight methodology that has been implemented by ICTAF in several projects:

Technology Forecasting

The continuous monitoring of technological developments aimed at the early identification of promising applications.

Technology Assessment

The evaluation of the impact of technologies on society, with a focus on examining values and risks.

Tools

Delphi Expert Surveys

The Delphi method is a powerful tool for strategic decision-making and for supporting the process of shaping policy. The method is based on an iterative interaction among a group of experts, through repeatedly circulated well-structured questionnaires, until their responses converge to a reasonable consensus. Typically, the experts are asked several questions regarding each technological development, for example: anticipated year of realization, relative importance, constraints on realization, business prospects, impact on the environment, etc.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a method for generating innovative ideas and developing creative assessments of future possibilities and solutions to problems. During the brainstorming session there is no criticism of ideas - the idea is to open up as many possibilities as possible, and break down preconceptions about the limits of the problem. In order to encourage creative thinking, participants in the brainstorming process should come from as wide a range of disciplines with as broad a range of experience as possible.

Knowledge Mapping

Knowledge mapping is a methodology developed at ICTAF for identifying and mapping strategic knowledge centers of excellence in complex organizations, as part of defining and building core competencies. Knowledge mapping is a major tool for any organization interested in assimilating a culture of knowledge management. It is also an important tool in human resources planning and management in any technology driven organization.     

 
Further reading:

 

Partners and Cooperation     

ICTAF enjoys ongoing cooperation with well-known research centers, such as:

  • Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC)
  • The Interdisciplinary Centre for Comparative Research in the Social Sciences (ICCR)
  • Technische Universität Berlin (TUB)
  • VDI Technology Center, Germany
  • Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Germany
  • Department of Technology and Innovation Management (TIM)
  • Aachen University of Technology (RWTH Aachen)
  • Department of Technology and Management, University of Twente
  • TechCast: a virtual think tank tracking the technology revolution
  • Millennium Project: a global participatory futures research think tank
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