Foresight's six of the best

May 26, 1995

Six "strategic themes" have been identified by the Foresight steering group as offering opportunities and technologies likely to emerge in the next ten to 20 years. These are: materials; genetic engineering; production and processing technology; the need for a cleaner, more sustainable world; communications and computing, and developing a better understanding of the impact of demographic change in creating new markets.

In identifying the themes, the steering group has drawn on the work of the 15 sector panel reports which reported recently on the priorities for areas such as health and life sciences, chemicals and pharmaceuticals and manufacturing.

Within the six broad areas, the group has identified generic priorities including optical technology; energy technology; teleprescence/multimedia and chemical and biological synthesis.

Key recommendations for implementing Foresight in the public sector include:

* Foresight sector panels should be retained and focused on dissemination and implementation

* The Government should produce a progress report by the end of 1995

* Link, the university-industry research programme, should have its remit broadened to assist private-public sector partnerships in programmes related to Foresight. More money should be pumped into Link.

* Research councils should integrate Foresight priorities into their science, engineering and technology and postgraduate training programme Recommendations for Foresight implementation in the public sector include:

* Bodies including trade associations, professional institutions, learned societies and charitable institutions and private sector firms should be involved in taking Foresight forward?

* "Foresight Champions" should be identified who will help panels diffuse Foresight findings within the private sector.

The chief executives of the research councils all welcomed the report and highlighted the role of the councils in its formulation. Sir Dai Rees, chief executive of the Medical Research Council and a member of the steering group, said the MRC is "absolutely committed" to developing the full potential of research, especially in key areas singled out in the report.

Ken Pounds, chief of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Council said that PPARC has a particularly important role to play.

Ron Amman, chief executive of the Economic and Social Research Council, envisages that key areas of input by his council will include developing an understanding of attitudes to and social implication of technological change in the workplace and at home; helping to manage environmental change.

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