Foresight spots key technologies

March 24, 1995

More than 20 widely applicable or "generic" technologies, including business process engineering, optical technology and software engineering, have been identified from the work of the Technology Foresight panels on mapping key areas of research needed to underpin British industry.

The technologies are declared in a "voting paper" for members of the Foresight steering group, chaired by the Government's chief scientific adviser Sir William Stewart, which is responsible for co-ordinating the work of 15 sectoral panels and assessing priorities within and across the sectors. Dated March 1995, the voting paper is understood to be preliminary and has been drawn up to stimulate the development of a common position among members of the steering group in preparation for the implementation of results from the exercise.

Other generic technologies listed include social research, new technology, teleprescence/multimedia products, chemical and biomolecular engineering, bioinformatics and materials. The paper invites steering group members to comment on the "attractiveness" of generic technologies listed on the basis of six statements ranging from "absolutely vital" through "moderately attractive" to "do not know". A horizon of between 15 and 20 years is suggested for guidance.

In addition to the generic technologies voting paper, the steering group is also being invited to comment on the "attractiveness" of nearly 20 "generic infrastructural issues" for the United Kingdom over the next 15-20 years on the basis of the same six statements. The list covers areas such as business awareness in education and training, information technology competence in education and training, incentives for multidisciplinary research, promoting long term finance for R&D and innovation, intellectual property rights, copyright and data protection in new media and world-class transport links. Most of the areas covered in this second voting paper would, if translated into initiatives, require the support of several other Government departments.

As well as providing a means of building a consensus on generic technologies where new developments are likely to make a big social and industrial impact, the Foresight exercise is expected to inform government and industry on decisions related to the funding of R&D.

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