Brussels, 16 Jun 2006
The management of global risks, energy, environment, and human and social factors are just some of the priority areas for Finnish research to tackle in the future, according to the results of a recently completed foresight project.
'FinnSight 2015', is an initiative by the Academy of Finland and the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes), launched in 2005 to coincide with the Finnish government's development of its public research system. 120 experts, mainly from research and business, took part in the project to examine changes in the working environment, and specify challenges in the development of research and innovation activities. Experts identified some 80 priority areas that Finland should focus on in the future, in order to reach scientific technological breakthroughs and new innovations.
Finland overhauled its research capabilities once before, in the early 1990s under the leadership of then Prime Minister Esko Aho. The reforms were so successful that Finland enjoys one of the strongest economies not just in Europe but in the World. Mr Aho has since led the expert-group report into European innovation, a blueprint for using innovation to drive a strong economy - exactly the model he used in Finland. Finland will also assume the presidency of the EU on July 1, and they are expected to have a strong research and innovation-led agenda.
'The future is not created by foresighting, but by concrete action. However, foresighting is important in supporting to set and define our goals, to identify new emerging opportunities and to provide warnings about undesirable trends,' said Raimo Väyrynen, President of the Academy of Finland. 'Foresighting is not guesswork, but it is based on sound science. At the same time it provides guidance for the direction of basic research and its funding.'
Global risk management tops the list of priorities, which the experts said will assume ever more importance in the future. In particular, the report highlighted the need for better control and anticipation, in order to contain risks related to the economy, environment, energy, infrastructure and health. Steps are also needed to strengthen the application of global knowledge and cultural know-how in research and innovation activities.
The experts also highlighted the critical global importance of energy and environment issues and called for greater investment in the development and use of new forms of energy generation, in the sustainable management of the environment and in environmental technology innovations.
Proper consideration of human and social factors would, the experts noted, be also necessary to strengthen the country's competitiveness. This included providing civic education, basic knowledge of science and technology, training in the use of communication technologies, life-long learning opportunities, as well as social and cultural skills training.
Experts also underlined the need to foster a 'critical mass' to bring about scientific and technological breakthroughs. To achieve this, they called on business and researchers to adopt a strong multidisciplinary approach and to integrate expertise from different fields.
The results of the project will help with the strategic work of both the Academy of Finland and Tekes, as well as the definition of Finland's strategic centres of excellence in science, technology and innovation.